Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ernő Dohnányi; Leoš Janáček - Violin Sonatas (Hagai Shaham)


Composer: Ernő Dohnányi; Leoš Janáček
  • (01-03) Dohnányi - Violin Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 21
  • (04-06) Dohnányi - Ruralia hungarica, Op. 32c
  • (07) Dohnányi - Romanza (No. 3 from Orchestral Suite No. 1, Op. 19) (arr. Jascha Heifetz)
  • (08-11) Janáček - Violin Sonata, JW VII/7
  • (12) Janáček - Dumka, JW VII/4: Con moto
  • (13) Janáček - Romance, JW VII/3
  • (14) Janáček - Allego (discarded from JW VII/7)
  • (15) Janáček - Lístek odvanutý (No. 2 from 'On the overgrown path', JW VIII/17) (arr. Jan Štedron)

Hagai Shaham, violin
Arnon Erez, piano
Date: 2010
Label: Hyperion



A fine recital contrasting the conservative with the radical

Janácek and Dohnányi present an interesting contrast, both growing up within the Germanic Romantic milieu while conscious of a separate national identity. Janácek, however, departed in an increasingly radical way from the tradition, whereas Dohnányi’s outlook remained conservative, adapting rather than discarding his heritage. His 1912 Sonata often suggests Brahms but with a more modern sense of unease and restlessness. Shaham and Erez give an excellent performance, Shaham’s seductive tone and elegant phrasing being well matched by Erez’s sensitive touch. The Ruralia hungarica pieces show the composer’s more nationalistic side but are still fairly traditional in their approach to folk material. Shaham is in his element here – the brilliant final piece carefree and dashing in style, the preceding, improvisatory Andante rubato alla zingaresca graceful and stylish. Some listeners, however, may prefer Philippe Graffin’s more intense, dramatic way with this piece (Onyx, 2/09).

The Janácek items range over 40 years, from the quite formal Romance to the mature Sonata. Of particular interest is the Allegro – the discarded original finale of the Sonata, which uses material subsequently incorporated into the Sonata’s third movement. Again, these are all appealing, finely judged performances, but I do feel in the Sonata that this immensely polished, civilised playing fails to express some of the raw emotion. In the finale especially, Réka Szilvay’s interjections at the start are more ferocious, as the composer demands (Alba, 2/07), and she and Christoph Berner arrive at the maestoso climax with greater conviction than Shaham and Erez. However, this is still a very fine recital.

-- Duncan Druce, Gramophone

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Ernő Dohnányi (July 27, 1877 – February 9, 1960) was a Hungarian conductor, composer and pianist. He used a German form of his name, Ernst von Dohnányi, on most of his published compositions. Dohnányi's compositional style was personal, but very conservative. His music largely subscribes to the Neoromantic idiom. Some characterize his style as traditional mainstream Euro-Germanic in the Brahmsian manner (structurally rather than the way the music actually sounds) rather than specifically Hungarian, while others hear very little of Brahms in his music.


Leoš Janáček (3 July 1854 – 12 August 1928) was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and other Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style. Much of Janáček's work displays great originality and individuality. Janáček belongs to a wave of twentieth-century composers who sought greater realism and greater connection with everyday life, combined with a more all-encompassing use of musical resources. Janáček is considered one of the most important Czech composers, along with Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana.


Hagai Shaham (born July 8, 1966) is an Israeli violin virtuoso. He began studying the violin at the age of six and was the last student of the late Professor Ilona Feher. As a soloist he has performed with many of the world's major orchestras. He also performs as a recitalist and appears in chamber music performances. Shaham has recorded music of Achron, Bloch, Brahms, Hubay, Grieg, Mozart, and more for labels such as Biddulph, Hyperion, Avie, Naxos, Talent. He is also a violin teacher, and a professor at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music.


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