The pianist Ekaterina Litvintseva won critical praise for her solo album on Piano Classics (PCL10226) of piano music by Dora Pejačević: ‘You owe it to yourself to make the acquaintance of Dora Pejačević if you haven’t done so already.’ (Fanfare, May 2022)
With her colleagues in Trio RoVerde, she now turns to the Croatian composer’s chamber music. The Cello Sonata dates from 1913, the same year as Pejačević wrote the first piano concerto by any Croatian composer. Like Brahms’s First Cello Sonata and Elgar’s Cello Concerto, it is cast in a moody E minor, with a yearning character are established from the outset by a long-limbed cantabile melody for the cellist. Pejačević proceeds to develop a passionate dialogue between cello and piano through an assured handling of sonata form.
The following sequence of miniatures for violin and piano evokes the world of the salon in their titles, but the Schumannesque warmth of the Romanze Op.22, from 1907, is replaced by a style at once more wistful and refined by the time of the Elegie, which she wrote in the same pivotal year (1913) as the Cello Sonata. From seven years later, the Meditation Op.51 makes no retreat into solipsism but paints a three-minute sketch of a new and uncertain world.
From 1910, the C major Piano Trio returns us to safer ground. Pejačević demonstrates a notable sensitivity in writing for a tricky combination of instruments: strong melodic writing for the string instruments counterbalances the weight of the piano part, which is in any case deftly pointed and touched by the composer’s experience as a performer. If Pejačević’s chamber music has not taken its place in the standard repertoire of late-Romanticism, it is our loss, and one that an increasing number of performances and recordings such as this one are belatedly redressing.
- Born in Budapest in 1885 as Maria Theodora, Dora Pejačević grew up as a member of the Croatian aristocracy, the daughter of a Hungarian-Croatian Count and a Hungarian Baroness. Dora’s musical gifts were recognized and encouraged at an early age by her mother, who was herself a trained pianist and singer. When the family moved from the family estate of Našice (now in Croatia) to Zagreb in 1903, she began to study music more seriously, still in a private capacity, with professors at the Croatian Music Institute. By that point she had already composed several works under the influence of Romantic composers such as Mendelssohn, Schumann and Grieg. Later she studied in Dresden and Munich and received lessons in instrumentation, composition (from Percy Sherwood) and violin (from Henri Petri in Munich). She was largely self-taught, however.
- Though firmly rooted in the Romantic tradition, with hints from French Impressionism, Pejačević found her own compositional voice, a major figure in Croatian cultural life and a shining beacon for all female musician-composers. She died in Munich in 1923.
- This new recording presents the substantial Piano Trio, the highly attractive and dramatic Cello Sonata and 5 Pieces for Violin & Piano.
- Played by Ekaterina Litvintseva (piano), Lusiné Harutyunyan (violin) and Caroline Sypniewski (cello), three successful soloists on their own, joining forces into this powerful, passionate and lyrical performance of Pejacevic’ chamber music. They previously recorded for Brilliant Classics the Trio Élégiaque by Rachmaninoff