John J. Puccio
, November 2010
Hungarian pianist, conductor, and composer Ernő Dohnányi (or Ernst von Dohnányi, 1877–1960) was another of those twentieth-century throwbacks to the Romantic Age who continued to produce lush, melodic opuses long after they had gone out of style. Probably his most-famous work is Variations on a Nursery Tune, 1914, and we hear that piece on record from time to time. Still, his style of music seems to be returning to fashion these days, so maybe we’ll see a big Dohnányi comeback sometime soon.
In any case, the major work represented on this Naxos disc is his Konzertstuck for Cello and Orchestra, 1904, a pleasant, songful, rhapsodic piece that lingers long enough in memory for momentary enjoyment and then recedes into oblivion. It’s about thirty minutes of relaxing, contemplative escapism. Following it is a more energetic piece, the Sonata for Cello and Piano, 1899, again about a half hour’s duration but divided into four contrasting moods, the finale a set of attractive variations. The program concludes with a short tone picture called “Ruralia Hungarica,” 1924, the title of which is pretty much self explanatory.
The sound the Naxos engineers provide is typical of the label: Warm, sweet, and ultra smooth. The cello is placed a bit too forward for my taste, yet it is a little too soft for absolute realism. Nevertheless, it fits the tenor of the music. For the price, as always, the disc represents good value and good exploration for the inquisitive listener.