Concerto for piano and symphony (Peter Donohoe, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo)

How many works by Croatian composers have you come across recently – or ever? My only encounter has always been with Jakov Gotovac (1895-1982) kolo or “Round Dance” from his comic opera Ero the Joker. It came on an EMI LP (which at one point changed hands for a fortune in Europe, the US and Japan), coupled with Variations from the Third Orchestral Suite by Tchaikovsky and Kodály Harry Janos Suiteperformed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (of all orchestras) conducted by Rudolf Kempe, of all!

Well, my Balkan musical horizons have recently been broadened by the discovery of two works by Dora Pejačević (1885-1923). Pejačević was a true polymath. Born into the Croatian aristocracy – her father was a count and her mother a Hungarian countess in her own right – herself was often referred to as a countess, she displayed prodigious musical skills both as a performer and composer, as well as a ‘as a student of poetry, literature, reading everyone from Shakespeare to Kant in their own language and painting, combined with a strong sense of social justice and political activism and struggled to escape from the aristocratic milieu sweltering place she was born into, becoming a nurse during the First World War. His musical ambitions flew away. She didn’t want to be satisfied with being just a talented dilettante, a sort of Slave Cécile Chaminade. Tragically, she died in childbirth in 1923.

This CD of the Minor Symphony in F sharp (1917 revised 1920) and the Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 33 (1913) was a revelation. The 42-minute Symphony is full of the qualities of late romantic symphonic argument (Pejačević found his voice very early on) without the bloated, clichéd rhetoric and feeling that it’s nothing more than dressy orchestration with nowhere to go. where to go. She was also a bold orchestrator with four trumpets, six horns, three trombones, bass tuba, cymbals and chimes included in the score. She creates a compelling tapestry of accomplished orchestration without just jumping from one “good idea” to the next. The only music by another composer that she reminded me of with the rather sinister march from the very beginning made me think of Mahler. There is not a weak bar in the Andante Where Scherzo and the storm-tossed finale settles into an end of transcendent radiance.

The Piano Concerto is not quite of such a standard but cut from a similar cloth and certainly indicates that the composer must have been a formidable virtuoso. Sound and performance are excellent. Absolutely fascinating and highly recommended.

Available on Apple Music

Composer: Dora Pejacevic
Works: Piano Concerto, Symphony in F sharp minor
Performers: Peter DonohoeBBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo

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