It is a delight to open the 2023 Ribble Valley International Piano Week with return of Peter Donohoe, joined by Martin Roscoe in a nowadays rare evening of music for two pianos. The duo will begin their programme with Mozart’s Sonata in D major, K. 448 which is an example of Mozart at his most galant. Within the framework of its finely crafted classical structure is music of pure joy – graceful, songful, elegant, and virtuosic. Not surprisingly, he made a masterwork his first (and only) time working in the form!
Saint-Saëns’ output of solo piano music spanned almost 70 years, mainly salon pieces such as waltzes and caprices; he never wrote a piano sonata. His Variations on a Theme of Beethoven uses the minuet from the Piano Sonata in E flat Op.31, known as the ‘Hunt’. It was first performed at a concert of the Société Nationale de Musique, which Saint-Saëns had helped to found in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, with the aim of promoting contemporary French music.
Debussy wrote only two of his own works for two pianos: Lindaraja is considered a warm-up to his masterpiece in this form, En blanc et noir (In black and white). Debussy commented on the work that the movements “derive their color and feeling merely from the sonority of the piano,” insisting the work was not a comment on the first World War, but since virtually all of his correspondence from this period indicates a near obsession with the subject, it’s hard to image the music is just about the piano. We hear distant bugle calls, quiet military drum rhythms, long spaces of silence, quotes from the Lutheran chorale Ein feste Burg (A mighty fortress) before the final movement delves into the rich possibilities of the piano with a black-and-white purity of musical expression.
Along with the famous Piano Concert No.2, Op.18, Rachmaninoff’s Suite No.2 for two pianos marked the return recovery of the composer’s musical activities following a three year silence caused by the public failure of his Symphony No.1. Whether the story of Rachmaninoff’s romance of his psychiatrist’s daughter is true or not, there is plenty of passion and tenderness to be found in the Suite, not least as the third movement that is titled ‘Romance’. One of the most popular works in piano duo repertoire, it is a truly exhilarating piece of music that will undoubtedly leave with you blown away.
Pre-concert talk with Peter Donohoe and Martin Roscoe at 6.30pm
Mozart: Sonata in D major for 2 pianos, K. 448
Saint-Saëns: Variations on a theme of Beethoven, Op.35
Debussy: En blanc et noir
Rachmaninov: Suite No.2 for Two Pianos, Op. 17
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