Author Topic: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)  (Read 21005 times)

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Scarpia

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Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« on: November 26, 2010, 11:25:50 AM »
The early works of this composer are often remarked to show strong influence of Brahms.  His later works become more modern and personal.  Most of his efforts seem to have gone to performance, so the list of compositions he has left for us is not enormous, but I find all of his works to be of high quality.  These include two symphonies, piano concerti, violin concerti, a cello concerto and some interesting chamber music.  Recently listened to a wonderful serenade for string trio, and two Quintets for piano and strings (Schubert Ensemble, on Hyperion).   I didn't find a tread dedicated to this composer, so I thought I would put my comments here, instead of the WAYLT thread.

The first piano quintet sounds like it could have been written by a young Brahms, the first movement in particular begins with a sweeping theme with wistful, dissonant harmony.  The second piano quintet, written 20 years later, is more compact, and overtly expressive, but in a more modern way.  The string trio seems to carry forward the tradition of Mozart, whose serenade for string trio, like Dohnanyi's, is more substantial that the light instrumentation and character would suggest.  It is all music which uses tradition tonality in an inventive way.

« Last Edit: November 26, 2010, 11:28:07 AM by Scarpia »

Offline The new erato

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2010, 11:28:49 AM »
In the "listening to" thread I've repeatedly recommended the wonderful 3 disc series of the complete chamber music on Praga.

Scarpia

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2010, 09:42:28 AM »
I've had my eye on those releases for a while, a complication being that they are not widely distributed in the US, which means I must organize myself to investigate the overseas sellers.

Listened to the second quintet again.  A really special work.  The first quintet made an immediate impression because it channeled Brahms so clearly it seemed immediately familiar.  Listening to the second quartet again, it reveals itself as the more interesting work.  Several things struck me, including the second movement (an intermezzo) which effortless shifts moods between sentimentality, playfulness, and vigour.  The finals is also a marvel.  It opens with an academic-sounding fugato for strings which halts and yields to a choral-style passage on the piano.  From there on there is a succession of moods, using the same basic thematic material but ranging from playful and melodic, to anxious and strained, to a luminous catharsis, and a soft closing.

I must hear more music from this composer.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2010, 09:44:54 AM by Scarpia »

Offline springrite

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2010, 09:52:22 AM »
I've had my eye on those releases for a while, a complication being that they are not widely distributed in the US.

One of the PRAGA discs is available at BRO:

Dohnanyi, Piano Quintet #1, Op.1; Piano Quintet #2, Op.33; Cello Sonata, Op.8. (Michal Kanka, cello. Jaromir Klepac, piano. Kocian String Quartet. Total time: 80'. SACD: Hybrid Super-Audio disc) $8.99
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Scarpia

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2010, 09:55:42 AM »
One of the PRAGA discs is available at BRO:

Dohnanyi, Piano Quintet #1, Op.1; Piano Quintet #2, Op.33; Cello Sonata, Op.8. (Michal Kanka, cello. Jaromir Klepac, piano. Kocian String Quartet. Total time: 80'. SACD: Hybrid Super-Audio disc) $8.99

Yes, I saw that.  Trouble is, that encourages me to pad the order to make the shipping charge more palatable, which is the sort of incentive that puts you into the position of Greece and Ireland.   :'(  I don't think Merkel will agree to bail me out. 

Offline The new erato

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2010, 09:58:07 AM »
Yes, I saw that.  Trouble is, that encourages me to pad the order to make the shipping charge more palatable, which is the sort of incentive that puts you into the position of Greece and Ireland.   :'(  I don't think Merkel will agree to bail me out.
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Brahmsian

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2010, 09:58:30 AM »
I must hear more music from this composer.

Same here!  I've only heard the Serenade for String Trio (absolutely love it), and the Violin Concerto, which I also really enjoyed.  Must hear those quintets.

Offline lescamil

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2010, 10:29:27 AM »
Of course, the two piano concertos and the Variations on a Nursery Theme are worth checking out. Dohnányi, being a pianist, really knew how to write for his instrument. The first concerto is a really nice relic of Brahmsian/Wagnerian romanticism with some really nice melodic development. The second concerto could not be more of a contrast, with its Bartókian angularity and bouncy finale. The Variations are a hilarious classic that surely would have had his crowd rolling in their seats in the 1910s.
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Scarpia

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2010, 10:40:27 AM »
The Variations are a hilarious classic that surely would have had his crowd rolling in their seats in the 1910s.

Perhaps, but I heard that piece for the first time perhaps 10 years ago and it left me with no desire to hear anything else by Dohnanyi.  (A Katchen recording turned up as a filler on a disc with other music.)   The chamber music has proven to be a revelation.  In my mind, he is similar to Enescu, who also produced a small body of works which are of high quality, if not stunning originality.

The fact that he didn't write too much makes him an attractive project.  In contrast to Weinberg, for instance, who also resides on the boundary between competent composer and "genius" but who wrote symphonies, quartets, concerti, literally by the dozen, which requires you to sort through a lot of uninspired stuff the find the few gems.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2010, 11:10:50 AM by Scarpia »

Offline Luke

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2010, 12:33:05 PM »
Perhaps, but I heard that piece for the first time perhaps 10 years ago and it left me with no desire to hear anything else by Dohnanyi.  (A Katchen recording turned up as a filler on a disc with other music.)   The chamber music has proven to be a revelation.  In my mind, he is similar to Enescu, who also produced a small body of works which are of high quality, if not stunning originality.

Enescu? Not original? I find that a hard statement to credit, given that there are no other composers with music remotely like that of the mature Enescu (2nd, 3rd Symphonies, 3rd Orchestral Suite, Vox Maris, 3rd Violin Sonata, most of the chamber music....). Anyway, back to the topic....

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2010, 12:28:26 PM »
I like the Symphony No 2 (Chandos), especially its moving quotation from Bach. Dohnanyi's son was executed for being implicated in the plot to blow up Hitler in 1944.
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Offline Brian

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2011, 01:38:06 AM »
Just listened to the Sextet again and am, as always, completely floored by its big-hearted tunes and outrageously clever writing. A few of the episodes in the finale get me to very nearly laugh out loud. All I know of Dohnányi is the Sextet and the Serenade for string trio - what other works should I look into to hear him at his most idiosyncratic and, if at all possible, at his wittiest?

Offline Florestan

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2011, 02:41:56 AM »
Try the piano concertos.
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cilgwyn

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2011, 03:18:45 AM »
Regarding Dohnanyi's son. Is this the assassination attempt where the bomb was placed behind a pillar? I just happened to turn over to the 'yesterday channel' (freeview). Apparently there were at least 40-41 attempts on Hitler's life (such a popular bloke!). In this instance Hitler just happened to deliver a shorter than usual speech. I didn't see the end of the programme & I suppose some horrible fate befell the poor bloke who made the bomb.
Nice to see a Dohnanyi thread. A very underrated composer. I remember being in the late lamented 'Swales music centre' in Haverfordwest & they had the famous variations on the record player with Entremont playing. I had never heard it before & we asked what it was. In the event I bought the Lp & I've loved it ever since,although I'm not sure the Entremont was one of the best versions. Nevertheless,I enjoyed it at the time & it was my first encounter. I don't have the Entremont anymore but I'm sure it was more fun than my Chandos recording (not that there's anything wrong with it!)

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2011, 02:19:03 PM »
Try the piano concertos.

Those are as witty as a stranded whale ;) Lovely stuff, though.
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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2011, 02:30:18 PM »
Those are as witty as a stranded whale ;) Lovely stuff, though.

Love the Stranded Whale description which seems very appropriate for most of his orchestral stuff, though they are good works nontheless. But the chamber music is something else. I find most of his orchestral works too heavy and needs someone to thin them out. But the chamber music and the solo in his concerti are wonderful stuff.  Much better.
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Offline lescamil

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2011, 03:42:42 PM »
Those are as witty as a stranded whale ;) Lovely stuff, though.

You're kidding, right? The second piano concerto has some great witty moments in it, particularly the underhandedly cheeky third movement. The first concerto is total Brahms, though. Both are very great to listen to and have some juicy piano writing that would be very fun to play, no doubt. These two concertos are some of my all time favorite piano concertos.
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Offline Lethevich

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2011, 03:51:46 PM »
Non - the enormous first in particular I found leaden, although it looks like I should give the second another try.
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cilgwyn

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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2011, 09:31:31 AM »
The symphonies are good fun if you want an ott blockbuster. But after one play each they seem to mysteriously stay in the box! Some exciting if flashy orchestration but  curiously unmemorable. Gliere and Korngold did that kind of thing so much better! On second thoughts 'underrated' WAS going a little too far. A rush of blood to the head or 'rose tinted ear oles' perhaps? The Variations are worth a spin now & again,but I have to say my adolescent enthusiasm has long since ebbed away. Yes,the music is very clever and witty,but somehow superficial. His chamber music sounds af it might be more interesting.

NB: Back tracking like this over my initial enthusiasm DOES make me feel a bit like Glenda Slag,but I rather think
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Re: Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2011, 05:53:07 PM »
I've had my eye on those releases for a while, a complication being that they are not widely distributed in the US, which means I must organize myself to investigate the overseas sellers.

Listened to the second quintet again.  A really special work.  The first quintet made an immediate impression because it channeled Brahms so clearly it seemed immediately familiar.  Listening to the second quartet again, it reveals itself as the more interesting work.  Several things struck me, including the second movement (an intermezzo) which effortless shifts moods between sentimentality, playfulness, and vigour.  The finals is also a marvel.  It opens with an academic-sounding fugato for strings which halts and yields to a choral-style passage on the piano.  From there on there is a succession of moods, using the same basic thematic material but ranging from playful and melodic, to anxious and strained, to a luminous catharsis, and a soft closing.

I must hear more music from this composer.

I wasn't going to comment on this Thread, because my only exposure to EvonD is that fairly cheap recording of the PQ Op.1 and the string trio Serenade, and, frankly, it's just the kind of Romantic/Brahmsian, and latterly neoMozartean music, that I really just don't care for.

So, I was going to try that Hyperion disc, and I skipped through the first mvmts. of those pieces, and then went straight to the PQ No.2. I had some idea that Dohnanyi, and Enescu, and Respighi, and such like, had an early phase, with a Later, more Modern phase, and so I thought at least that PQ No.2 would be... something.

First of all, I was expecting it to be from the 50s, a la Enescu, but, we're talking 1914, and, it's a singular work in his WorksList. And so, it begins...

And those low notes harken for good things to come,... and then, when that 'Opening' happens, from there, every note is Beautiful. The Intermezzo 2nd mvmt. is very strangely profane,... it definitely takes a few listens to get this,... and then the last mvmt., as you say (and some online reviews), really really puts things together in such a superbly mystical (yet clear and fresh sounding) way at the end.

I love how it didn't really hit you until the second post. This piece is seducing like that,... the SinkingIn Effect. I unhesitatingly claim this as Dohnanyi's Masterpiece! :-* :-* :-* A Perfect Alternative to Bartok, just as Profound.

I was holding on to hope that I would StrikeGold at this source, and Lo!

Now, does Suk have anything comparable?