Ernö Dohnányi

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ClassicsToday.com review

Ernö Dohnányi, composer, pianist, and conductor, was an important transitional figure between the music of the 19th and 20th centuries. A central figure in Hungarian musical life for many decades, Dohnányi resigned his post as director of the Academy of Music in Budapest as a protest against the anti-Jewish legislations of 1941. He ultimately migrated to the USA, where he became professor of music at Florida State University and continued to teach until his death. As a composer, Dohnányi remained unshakably committed to the musical universe of Brahms, whom he had met as a young man. Dohnányi enriched his essentially conservative stylistic predilection with wit, elegance, structural sophistication and a profound understanding of the soul of musical instruments. Dohnányi wrote his “Harp Concertino” in Tallahassee in 1952. Its lush post-Romantic idiom is tinged with more than a few touches of French music of the past. The “Six Pieces for Piano” were written just after Dohnányi left Hungary, never to return. Elegant virtuosity, spicy harmonies, and intimate lyricism remain hallmarks of these rarely heard works. The virtuosic “Sextet in C Major”, composed in Budapest, is Dohnányi’s final chamber composition (not counting two short works for flute written shortly before his death). Throughout the work, a tritone ‘leitmotiv’ clashes with themes of an overtly lyrical nature. Playful, and jazzy rhythms are frequently incorporated into this wildly dramatic and inspired composition.

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Concertino for Harp and Chamber Orchestra, Op. 45 (1952)

Sara Cutler, harp

The American Symphony Orchestra

Leon Botstein, conductor



Six Piano Pieces, Op. 41 (1945)

Todd Crow, piano



Sextet in C Major, Op. 37 (1935)

Erica Kiesewetter, violin

Karen Dreyfus, viola

Eugene Moye, cello

Laura Flax, clarinet

Jeffrey Lang, horn

Diane Walsh, piano

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