Classical Reissue Reviews

DOHNANYI plays DOHNANYI = Sonata in C-sharp Minor for Violin and Piano; Four Rhapsodies; Piano Concerto No. 2 – Albert Spalding, violin/ Erno von Dohnanyi, p./ Royal Philharmonic Orch./ Sir Adrian Boult – Pristine Audio

The long-defunct Remington label delivered some rare Erno von Dohnanyi inscriptions, along with the vintage EMI recording of the Piano Concerto No. 2 , faithfully restored by Pristine Audio.

Published on April 12, 2013

DOHNANYI plays DOHNANYI = Sonata in C-sharp Minor for Violin and Piano; Four Rhapsodies; Piano Concerto No. 2 – Albert Spalding, violin/ Erno von Dohnanyi, p./ Royal Philharmonic Orch./ Sir Adrian Boult – Pristine Audio

DOHNANYI plays DOHNANYI = Sonata in C-sharp Minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 21; Four Rhapsodies, Op. 11; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Minor, Op. 42 – Albert Spalding, violin/ Erno von Dohnanyi, piano/ Royal Philharmonic Orch./ Sir Adrian Boult – Pristine Audio PASC 381, 69:57 [avail. in various formats at www.pristineclasical.com] ****:

The artistry of pianist-composer Erno von Dohnanyi (1877-1960) took many of its points from Johannes Brahms, along with various aspects of the Hungarian virtuoso and folk traditions. With his frequent partner Albert Spalding (1888-1953), Dohnanyi performs his C-sharp Minor Violin Sonata, though Spalding’s often wiry tone does not make the piece particularly seductive. I recall having been more moved by a Hungaraton inscription with Ruggiero Ricci. Of its three movements, the second marked Allegro ma con tererezza, captures our fancy most originally.  The originally dry acoustic has been supplemented by ambient stereo effects, and the result is a tasteful if staidly correct reading of this temperamentally mercurial violin work.

The Four Rhapsodies, Op. 11 (c. 1903) comprise a cycle of compositions, with the No. 2 in F-sharp Minor’s being quoted in the middle section of No. 3 in C Major. The No. 4, with its dire tolling of the Dies Irae in the outer sections, appears to have been spliced together with motifs from the first three rhapsodies. No. 1 in G Minor pounces on us in big-boned phrases from a not particularly attractive keyboard sound from the Remington label, 1951.  The style of music: rough, choppy, and modal, rather synthesizes aspects of Liszt and Bartok, but the meditative alternative section is Brahms with personal decoration. The thick textures prove ungainly and harsh, albeit tempestuous. The F-sharp Minor recalls Liszt, but the melodic curve has Chopin’s imprimatur as well. Grand rhetorical phrases and gaudy flourishes pour forth then subside into an echo of Liszt’s “watery” music. The C Major No. 3 pulsates with Spanish rhythms and could be construed as Albeniz, except the playful aspects borrow from French models and bombastic Liszt. Even in his middle seventies Dohnanyi’s technique proves formidable  in No. 4 in E-flat Minor, though by no means perfect. Restoration engineer Mark Obert-Thorn has done much to improve Don Gabor’s quirky Remington product, though a dry acoustic prevails. A chorale emerges of softer mien than the gloomy, fortissimo reminders of mortality from the Requiem Mass. That this solemn piece may have given Rachmaninov consolation seems quite probable.

The B Minor Piano Concerto (c. 1946) retains much of the Romantic ethos Donhanyi embodied in spite of musical developments in expressionism that had evolved around him. The opening Allegro yields to a moving Poco meno mosso theme with piano, strings and tympani that crosses the Brahms D Minor Concerto with aspects of Reger. Recorded in September 1956 in stereo for EMI, the collaboration with Sir Adrian Boult and Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic has a virtuosity and assurance that quite grip us in an epic journey. A martial atmosphere prevails, tempered by huge swathes of arpeggios, often reminiscent of musing Rachmaninov and derivative Liszt. The second movement, Adagio poco rubato, sits in a gypsy-style G Minor. The nocturnal atmosphere floats unruffled, the strings trilling airily and the woodwinds gurgling.  The note G speeds up in the orchestra part to lead us, attacca, to the busy and colorful last movement, Allegro vivace. Eventually, once we pass some academically rhetorical counterpoint, Dohnanyi’s cyclic penchant makes itself felt, the opening motto from the first movement’s having returned over a pedal E.

Considering the EMI source of the B Minor Piano Concerto, we can hope Mark Obert-Thorn will turn with equal authority to the Nursery Theme Variations, Op. 25 that Dohnanyi recorded with Boult at the same time. I for one wouldn’t mind seeing the Edward Kilenyi/Roth Quartet version of the Dohnanyi Op. 1 Quintet appear with the same loving care Obert-Thorn and Andrew Rose have lavished on the brittle Remington products.

—Gary Lemco




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