Water was the theme of this recital and Peter Donohoe demonstrated how much musical variety can arise from plain old H2O. The water in Debussy’s Image No.1, Reflet dans l’Eau, flowed smoothly, graciously and with an aristocratic air while in Ravel’s Jeux d’Eauit was sparkling and effervescent with a twinkle in its aqueous eye.
In Donohoe’s entertaining informal pre-recital talk he pointed out not only that Ravel’s piece had been influence by Liszt’s Les Jeux d’eaux a la Villa d’Este, but that Liszt’s work was far from being simply a musical vignette. In the score Liszt added a quote from the Gospel of St John about the water of eternal life. Donohoe’s playing expertly conveyed the shift from tone-painting to religious mysticism. Liszt’s Au Bord d’un Source, in contrast, was invigoratingly fresh and bracing. The connection to Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit is limited to the first part of the musical triptych, a portrait of the seductive Ondine, although in Donohoe’s hands she emerged as a rather muscular and beefy water nymph. The swinging corpse and tolling bell in Le gibet almost palpable and in the fiendish – and fiendishly difficult – Scarbo, conjured up a suitably sinister goblin.
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