Donal McHugh

Another Place - Piano Recital

26 Aug 2020 Article

Live-Stream Youtube link

Another Place Poster

Recital will take place on Friday 4th September 2020 at 5pm (Irish Standard Time). Attendance by online link only.

These two imaginative sonatas show two very different times in Vienna's musical history. Berg’s sonata was composed in the beginning of the twentieth century and Schubert’s in the early nineteenth. Schubert is often known as being connected with the first Viennese school while Berg was a pioneer of the second. But what both works do share is a feeling of being transported to another place. Berg creates a dark, almost otherworldly albeit beautiful place while Schubert with the tranquil opening bars almost seems to stop time. The place he creates contains much light and warmth but also shade and drama.

Join me as I perform these two wonderful sonatas in the Curtis Auditorium at the CIT Cork School of Music, Ireland. This is my third and final Masters recital.

Here is the link to the live stream


Alban Berg

Sonata op. 1

i) Mäßig bewegt


Sonata in G major op. 78, D894

i) Molto moderato e cantabile

ii) Andante

iii) Minuet and Trio – Allegro moderato

iv) Allegretto

Berg, Sonata op.1

This single movement sonata is filled with colour and beauty but also an unsettling and dark quality. Everything is stretched to its limit – the melodic intervals, the harmony (which is often atonal), and the pulse. The falling chromatic line which is so prevalent seems to depict something decaying and the melodic ideas which so often come in threes almost seem to shout out as they build in the climaxes. Balancing this are velvety warm passages and some really tranquil moments.

Berg originally intended to compose a multi movement sonata. Having composed one movement he struggled to find inspiration for the others and it’s rumoured that Schoenberg told him that this indicated he had said all there was to say. On hearing the piece this certainly seems to ring true. In fact even the first few bars make such a statement that they could almost stand alone. Although the work does have a clear sonata form (Exposition, Development, Recapitulation) it also evolves and is built very clearly out of the ideas in these first few bars. The ending bars have such a feeling of finality about them that the resulting silence does seem quite unbreakable.

Schubert Sonata in G major D894

Some of Schubert’s works seem inspired by the natural beauty of places he knew or visited – for example a long summer stay near the mountain village of Bad Gastein in 1825 seems to clearly come through in his sonata in D major D850 and other works around this time. The sonata in G major D894 was composed the following year and the serenity expressed may well be influenced by this beautiful place. However, the tranquil peaceful qualities shown in this work as well the darker colours seem to go further than just a natural physical landscape. He once wrote: “O imagination! thou greatest treasure of man, thou inexhaustible wellspring from which artists as well as savants drink! O remain with us still, by however few thou are acknowledged and revered …”. Schubert had much difficulty with his physical health in the the later years of his life and at times the only escape he had was his imagination. This sonata is filled with imagination and his music portrays honestly and unashamedly all the light and shade which colour life experience.

In the first publishing of this work the publishers decided to title the opening movement Fantasie. While Schubert did not necessarily intend this there is a freedom in this movements structure which gives the music the quality of a story unfolding. It is exciting to follow the thread through all the twists and turns.

The influence of dance is clear. In the first movement a waltz-like tune appears a number of times as if out of a dream. The second movement’s main theme feels similar to a Baroque dance, the third has a lovely lilt to the rhythm and the fourth movement bounces along full of charm and humour.

Being famous for his lieder songs, it’s no surprise that this also colours his piano music. The lyrical passages particularly in the second and fourth movement are at times like songs without words. There are also colourful atmospheres and sudden changes of mood or character throughout the work.

Donal McHugh is currently studying a Masters in performance at the Cork School of Music with tutors Michael Joyce and Michael McHale. He graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2014 (BMus Hons in performance) having studied under Norman Beedie and Graeme McNaught and then spent four years freelancing as a musician in Glasgow – performing, teaching and accompanying. As well as regular classical recitals (both solo and chamber music) he also gained a reputation playing with the many jazz big bands in the city. Donal has taken part in seminars on Grieg’s music a number of times in Bergen, Norway (most recently Autumn 2017). This included the opportunity to perform on Grieg’s own piano in Troldhaugen. In 2016 he led the piano course in Summer Music on the Shannon which also included numerous performances and he was part of Enterprise Music Scotland’s Creative Exchange in 2015. Highlights of 2019 were performing in the final of the Nordell Cup (Feis Ceoil Sonata competition), in Glasgow’s West End Festival in June and in a sellout concert at the Burren College of Art in August along with singer Kate Daly. Also a keen composer, Donal has written works for solo piano and for voice and piano.



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Another Place - Piano Recital
26 Aug 2020