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Vespasiano

Ernst von Dohnányi

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The Hungarian conductor, composer and pianist, Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960), is perhaps best remembered in the United States today as the grandfather of the still active conductor Christoph von Dohnányi (the principal conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra for many years).

The von Dohnányi family story is a fascinating one . . . Ernst's eldest son, Hans, who was Christoph's father, was one of the leading figures of the German anti-Nazi resistance. He was executed by the Nazis in 1945 for his participation in the July 20 (1943) plot to assassinate Hitler. Ernst himself, who chose to remain in Hungary during the war, used his considerable influence and his fortune to assist Jewish musicians in escaping. Ernst departed Hungary after the Communists assumed power there in the years following World War II.

Ernst was a fine composer of the Romantic school whose work is sadly almost all but forgotten today. Although much of his style bears a resemblance to that of Johannes Brahms, there is a strong element of independence that makes it quite distinctive in its own right. This is particularly true of those works written during and after Word War I.

Von Dohnányi composed two piano concerti separated by nearly 50 years. The first of these, in E-Minor, was completed in 1898.

Ernst von Dohnányi: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-Minor (Op. 5, 1898)

And here is a link to a performance of von Dohnányi's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Minor completed in 1947. Although this work is rooted in the Romantic tradition, it reflects many of the musical trends of the 20th Century. In that, it is much like Rachmaninoff's Third and Fourth concerti (although with Rachmaninoff's immediately recognizable, soaring melodic gifts) and, as is the case with those works, I find the writing in this concerto, particularly for the piano itself, to be extraordinary!

Ernst von Dohnányi: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Minor (Op. 42, 1947)

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Thank you, Vespasiano! I have just listened to the Second (which you have mismarked as No. 1) in B-minor; There is great beauty in part two of the first movement, but the bland second movement leaves one totally unprepared for the fantastic and exciting interplay of orchestra and piano in the third movement! Wow! Thanks again.

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Thank you, Vespasiano! I have just listened to the Second (which you have mismarked as No. 1) in B-minor; There is great beauty in part two of the first movement, but the bland second movement leaves one totally unprepared for the fantastic and exciting interplay of orchestra and piano in the third movement! Wow! Thanks again.

Oh good heavens . . . yes: I don't think von Dohnányi composed two First Concerti.

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