May-June 2009


Dvorak(arr.Dvorak) Piano Trio n.4, Dumky.

Dohnanyi (arr.Buys) Piano Quintet in C -

Duo Pianistico Palmas -

DISCANTICA 172 (62.25)


Although transcriptions for piano four hands were prevalent in the 19th century as a valid method of disseminating music, the thought of listening to a whole disc of transcriptions was both puzzling and intriguing. In a world where hearing repertoire in its original form, whether on disc or at concerts, is hardly a problem, the obvious question is, what is the point? Naxos, it is true, has issued a series of similar transcriptions that, from my retail experience at least, hardly set the world alight. There is no doubting the fact that this is an enjoyable way to spend an hour. The Duo Pianistico Palmas (the brother and sister duo of Cristina and Luca Palmas) is highly talented and unfailingly musical. The recording, made in 2007 in Chiesa di S Apollinaire, Lonigo, is expert. The “Dumky” comes in Dvorák’s own transcription. There are moments of real delicacy here (try the closing moments of the first movement, for example, or the latter stages of the second), and the duo makes the most of the extroversion that concludes the first movement. Contrasts are vital to this piece, and the Duo Pianistico Plamas ensures that we are in no doubt of this. Textures are often stunningly well judged, as are tempos and agogics. There is a stack of recordings of the original, of course. The Beaux Arts Trio recorded a version of it in 2004 (Warner 21492)— I was lucky enough to hear the group live in this piece at the Wigmore Hall in January of that year, and it was one of the most memorable chamber performances I have come across of anything; for a more authentically Czech experience, the Suk Piano Trio on Supraphon has yet to be surpassed. Dohnányi’s Piano Quintet, op. 1, is an early work, composed in 1895 (when the composer was a mere 17 years old). Brahms, no less, was an admirer of this work. The transcriber on this occasion is the Dutch composer Jan Brandts Buys. Buys specialized in transcriptions for piano four hands. The present transcription was published in 1902. The liner notes make tantalizing mention of a transcription of Dohnányi’s Suite for Orchestra, op. 19. The first movement of the Quintet emerges as a tightly controlled structural marvel. This performance, certainly, always knows where it is going and revels in projecting the internal energy of the music. The mysteriously shifting Scherzo emerges well. If, in the slow movement, the omission of the lush sounds of the strings becomes obvious, the beautifully flowing finale is perhaps a little more forgiving in this respect. The grandeur of the closing pages emerges almost intact, too. Again, there are excellent versions when it comes to the original. This time the Schubert Ensemble of London on Hyperion and Schiff with the Takács Quartet on Decca head the list. On its own terms, though, the Duo Pianistico Palmas has issued an altogether creditable disc that will surely provide much enjoyment.


Colin Clarke