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Monday, March 6, 2017

Ernő Dohnányi - Symphony No. 2; Symphonic Minutes (Matthias Bamert)


Composer: Ernő Dohnányi
  1. Symphonic Minutes, Op. 36: I. Capriccio. Vivacissimo possibile
  2. Symphonic Minutes, Op. 36: II. Rapsodia. Andante
  3. Symphonic Minutes, Op. 36: III. Scherzo. Allegro Vivace
  4. Symphonic Minutes, Op. 36: IV. Tema con Variazione. Andante poco moto
  5. Symphonic Minutes, Op. 36: V. Rondo. Presto
  6. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: I. Allegro con brio, ma energico e appassionato
  7. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: II. Adagio pastorale, molto con sentimento
  8. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: III. Burla. Allegro
  9. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: IV. Introduzione. Andante -
  10. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: IV. Tema. Adagio -
  11. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: IV. Variazione I. Più mosso (Andante) -
  12. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: IV. Variazione II. Più mosso, animato, risoluto -
  13. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: IV. Variazione III. Meno mosso (quasi il tempo del tema) -
  14. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: IV. Variazione IV. Più mosso, tempestuoso (Circa doppio movimento) -
  15. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: IV. Variazione V. Adagio (mezzo movimento) -
  16. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: IV. Fuga. Adagio ma non troppo -
  17. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 40: IV. Coda. Andante maestoso. Alla marcia

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Matthias Bamert, conductor
Date: 1995
Label: Chandos



Leopold Stokowski’s one-time assistant re-creates ‘his master’s voice’ when, on track 10 of this musically valuable and beautifully recorded disc, he moulds a resplendent, string-band arrangement of Bach’s Komm susser Tod, Komm, sel’ge Ruh!. This imposing episode steals the air near the beginning of a long theme-and-variations finale to Ernst von Dohnanyi’s 50-minute Second Symphony, a most engaging piece redolent of Brahms, Bruckner and especially Reger – the latter in terms of Bachian resonances, some richly expressive modulations and the highly eventful six-minute fugue that crowns the finale. The symphony was conceived in the midst of war, Dohnanyi having been forced to disband the Budapest Philharmonic and flee abroad. It was premiered in London in 1948 (Norman Del Mar conducted the Chelsea Symphony Orchestra), whereas the revised version was given its first performance some nine years later by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra under Antal Dorati.

Cast in four movements, Dohnanyi’s Second opens to a jagged, unison theme before a lyrical, somewhat Lisztian second set (2'12'') gives way to an agitated development (brass and side-drum suggest distant battles) and various failed attempts to regain its former serenity. The Adagio has a Brucknerian feeling of spaciousness, although Brahms informs both the texture of the string writing and a rustic duet for clarinets over a tremolando for strings (4'07'') that recalls the great Clarinet Quintet. The raucous Burla scherzo features glissando trombones, meaningfully banal themes and a tonal profile that’s not dissimilar to the more cynical statements of Bartok and, more surprisingly perhaps, Shostakovich. Anyone sold on Strauss, Korngold or the various fin de siecle symphonists currently in vogue (Schmidt or Zemlinsky for example) will likely take this work very much to heart, especially as Bamert’s performance – a world premiere recording – is so warmly convincing.

Dohnanyi’s far lighter Symphonic Minutes (1933) was previously recorded on 78s by, among others, Sir Henry Wood (now available on Beulah, 1/94) and Oswald Kabasta. The first is a brightly lit, Straussian “Capriccio”, the second an aromatic “Rapsodia” reminiscent of early Bartok, the third an off-beat, keenly inflected Scherzo incorporating chorale-style themes, the fourth an atmospheric theme and variations (Dohnanyi’s use of the celesta casts noticeable side-glances at both Strauss and Korngold) and the last a sort of latter-day “Dance of the Comedians”. Again, the performance is excellent and the recording mostly first-rate, save that very occasionally the strings lack presence (for example when they declaim the principal theme of the “Rapsodia”, at 2'16'' into track 2). A most enjoyable disc, with excellent notes by Matthew Rye. One hopes that it might signal something of a Dohnanyi revival.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****


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.


Matthias Bamert (born July 5, 1942 in Ersigen, Canton of Bern) is a Swiss composer and conductor. Bamert studied music in Darmstadt and in Paris, with Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Bamert's conducting career began in North America as an apprentice to George Szell and later as Assistant Conductor to Leopold Stokowski, and Resident Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra under Lorin Maazel. He made over 60 recordings, most of them for Chandos.


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