Ernö von Dohnányi, who lived from 1877 to 1960, was a composer-pianist in the classic Central European mold. His work fell out of fashion during modernist rule but has bounced back to a degree, and his family continues to influence the course of American music. British pianist Martin Roscoe has embarked on a series of recordings covering his complete solo piano music. Such series, especially in individual albums covering a composer's early music (such as this one), can easily seem too much, but the music here runs from enjoyable to revelatory. Each item dates from Dohnányi's student years or shortly after, and all of it is influenced by Brahms. Yet even in the Four Piano Pieces, Op. 2, there is an individual voice. The Variations and Fugue on a Theme by EG, Op. 4 (the EG refers to the work's dedicatee, Emma Gruber), is perhaps the most academic exercise, but the undoubted highlight is the set of Humoresques in the form of a suite, Op. 17, composed in 1907. The work uses a cheerful mixture of antique forms from pavane to fugue, and it draws on the embryonic neo-classicism to be found in Brahms' music. But it has a lyrical impulse that is entirely Dohnányi's own, and the lovely Pastorale (track 10) is worth the price of admission. The final Valses nobles are also intriguing; based on Schubert's waltzes (D. 969), they are neither transcriptions nor variations but somewhere in between, adding fairly elaborate new counterpoints to Schubert's pieces but retaining the original notes. With superior acoustics from Potton Hall in Britain's Suffolk region, this is an enjoyable introduction to a little-known composer.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Four Piano Pieces, Op. 2|
|Variations and Fugue on a theme of EG, Op. 4|
|Humoresques in the form of a suite, Op. 17|