Dohnanyi: Konzertstuck for Cello and Orchestra (CD review)

Also, Sonata for Cello and Piano; Ruralia Hungarica. Maria Kliegel, cello; Jeno Jando, piano; Michael Halasz, Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia. Naxos 8.554468.

Hungarian pianist, conductor, and composer Erno Dohnanyi (or Ernst von Dohnanyi, 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 Dohnanyi 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.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa