Hungarian Dances no. 2,3,5,7,8,11,20,21
“Dolly” Suite op. 56
Sleeping Beauty op. 66, arrangement by
Piano duo Anna & Ines Walachowski
The Walachowski piano duo plays arrangements
and original works for piano duo on their second
CD for OehmsClassics. The former include Sergey
Rachmaninov’s arrangement of Peter Tchaikovsky’s
ballet music “Sleeping Beauty”. However, Tchaikovsky
was by no means satisfied with the first version of the
transcription by the just 18-year-old Rachmaninov,
with the result that he asked Alexander Siloti to
complete it and also made amendments to it himself.
In contrast, Brahms’ Hungarian Dances are indeed
original works which the composer did not arrange
for orchestra and for solo piano until later. The CD
includes a rarity: the six Contredanses by Stanislav
Moniuszko, the founder of the Polish National Opera.
Moniuszko was born in 1819 in Ubiel, Belarus, and
died in Warsaw in 1872.
A creative workshop
The piano duo genre: Brahms, Fauré,
Eduard Hanslick considered music for piano
four hands to be “the most intimate,
most comfortable and – within its limits – the
most complete form of domestic music-making”.
In addition, arrangements for this combination
provided the “best possible knowledge of
orchestra literature that could be had in one’s
own living room”. These two thoughts by the
famous Viennese reviewer reflect the primary
motivation and leitmotif in the development
of music for piano four-hands – whether
played on one or on two pianos. As a rule,
works for two pianos four-hands have larger
formal dimensions than those written for one
piano four-hands. Two instruments naturally
open up many more opportunities for expression
and performance, not only because
of the expanded range and sonority made
possible by two pianos.
At the same time, both types of piano
duo have the same experimental potential
that Hanslick mentions. As a matter of fact,
the piano duo became a significant creative
“workshop” for many composers, especially
for Hanslick’s friend Johannes Brahms. The
arrangements of his third and fourth symphonies
for four hands are profound proof of
the relationship between piano and orchestral
versions. Brahms originally planned his Piano
Concerto No. 1 as a sonata for two pianos, and
the original version of the Hungarian Dances
was written for two pianos four-hands.
The 21 dances were published in two parts.
Dances 1–10 were released in 1869; dances
11–21 followed in 1880. At the time of their
composition, character pieces with a folk music
character were exceptionally popular. The
first edition of the Hungarian Dances contains
the note “Arranged by Johannes Brahms”, certainly
due to the fact that Brahms based the
dances on folk-like melodies. These, however,
tend rather to be allusions that trigger associations
rather than direct quotes. Brahms did
not use original folksongs of the Hungarian
Roma; only later did Zoltán Kodály and Béla
Bartók tap authentic Hungarian folklore for
use in classical music.
The orchestral versions as well as the
arrangements for solo piano followed in
1872/73. Brahms’ friend and famous violinist
Joseph Joachim also created a complete version
of the Hungarian Dances for violin and
piano. Last but not least, it was Brahms who
took Hanslick’s above-mentioned remarks
to heart and reduced many of his large orchestral
scores for piano four hands. In his
younger years, he had created opera arrangements
under the pseudonym of G.W. Marks:
works which became an essential part of the
piano duo genre. The suite from Tchaikovsky’s
Sleeping Beauty found here on this CD
is one such arrangement.
The premiere of this ballet took place in
mid-January 1890 at the Mariinsky Theater
in St. Petersburg; it follows the well-known
fairy tale by Charles Perrault. Tchaikovsky
wrote his own orchestral suite based on the
ballet as well; this was later arranged by Sergei
Rachmaninoff for piano duo. The latter work
came about in 1890 at the recommendation
of major pianist Alexander Ilyitch Siloti (one
of Rachmaninoff’s cousins) for Tchaikovsky’s
publisher Peter Jürgenson. This was Rachmaninoff’s
first commissioned work – and it
almost earned him serious trouble.
When Tchaikovsky studied the finished
score in June 1890, he found fault with its
technically correct but – in his opinion –
scholarly and pedestrian outcome. Siloti then
personally took over completion of the transcription.
In contrast, the “Dolly”-Suite op.
56 by Gabriel Fauré – just as the Hungarian
Dances by Brahms – is an original composition.
Fauré composed the work in 1893/96 for
Hélène Bardac, who was known as “Dolly”
due to her small size. She was the daughter of
Emma Bardac, a friend of Fauré’s who would
later become Claude Debussy’s wife.
The introductory Berceuse was also published
separately and harks back to Fauré’s
early work Chanson dans le jardin from 1863.
References to his Violin Sonata in A Major
can also be heard in the third piece. On
the other hand, it was the publisher who
added the “kitty cat” subtitles Mi-a-ou and
Kitty-Valse to the second and fourth pieces.
In 1906, Henri Rabaud wrote an orchestral
version of the “Dolly”-Suite; Louis Laloy followed
in 1913 with a ballet and Roy Howat
wrote an arrangement for solo piano.
Finally, the six Contredanses by Stanislaw
Moniuszko are very special rarities. Born in
1819 in Ubiel, Byelorussia, Moniuszko died
in 1872 in Warsaw and is considered to be
the founder of Polish national opera. He and
Frédéric Chopin are the primary representatives
of the Polish romantic period. Moniuszko’s
Manual of Harmony appeared in 1871;
his opera Halka became especially popular.
Many of Moniuszko’s operas and cantatas
were banned at the time or changes made to
their texts due to the fact that Warsaw was
then under the jurisdiction of the Russian
czars. This is also a reason why Moniuszko
was stylized as a pioneer of socialism after
1945. Today, his works are only little known
in the west despite the fact that they make a
valuable contribution to the literature. The
Contredanses prove this.
Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler