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Ernö DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960)
American Rhapsody Op.47 (1953 [14.39]
Harp concertino Op.45 (1952) [15.24]
Romanza (from Serenade in C Op.10 arr. Sitkovetski) (1902) [4.32]
Violin Concerto No. 2 Op. 43 (1949-50) [29.40]Wedding Waltz Op.18 No.4 from The Veil of Pierrette (1908-09) [6.36]
Janice Graham (violin) Lucy Wakeford (harp) English Sinfonia/John Farrer
R ecorded in the Watford Colosseum on 3-5 October 2000 ASV SANCTUARY CD DCA 1107 [71.23]

If you enjoy romantic music and over an hour of lush melodies, then this is for you. Dohnányi was a highly versatile musician, an excellent pianist, fine conductor and, it must be said, a successful composer with colourful orchestration and a fund of melodic invention at the heart of his music. As if that were not enough, he was a respected teacher with fellow-Hungarians Annie Fischer, Georg Solti and Geza Anda numbered among his pupils. Best remembered for his Variations on a Nursery Rhyme for piano and orchestra, there are plenty of other works worthy of exposure and record companies such as Chandos and ASV are to be thanked for their contributions. The Suite in F# minor was such a work I discovered on Chandos and programmed immediately to the evident pleasure of orchestra and audience alike. On the strength of hearing his American Rhapsody which begins this highly enjoyable and varied disc, I am tempted to conduct it. It is an affectionate tribute to the country which gave him refuge, and like Dvorák before him, Dohnányi honours the New World with numerous quotes from ‘On top of Old Smokey’ to the British ‘Sir Roger de Coverley’ which had found a home in the Appalachian Mountains. The Harp Concertino (a lovely account by Lucy Wakeford) is a concise one-movement work, French impressionist in character and with textures redolent of Debussy and Ravel. The most Hungarian work in terms of folk melody and an escape from the Teutonic Brahms-Liszt influences to which Dohnányi was so unashamedly prone, is the far earlier Romanza, taken from his Serenade for string trio where it formed the second movement.

The Violin Concerto, forming the pivotal centre of this disc, may well count as the last in the grand Romantic vein using, as Brahms did in his second piano concerto, the traditional symphonic structure of four movements. There are many highlights in this fabulous performance by that fine violinist Janice Graham, who meets all its technical demands with seeming ease and plays from the heart at its most golden moments, of which there are plenty. This is a sensuously passionate concerto in the style of Korngold, full of appealing melody, its scherzo a jocular, catchy interlude placed before the moving Adagio whose melodies Rachmaninov would surely have been proud to write.

Performances throughout are excellent. The English Sinfonia is a fine orchestra filling the cavernous space of Watford’s Colosseum with glorious sound under the committed baton of John Farrer, who clearly loves this music, the charming Johann Straussian Wedding Waltz making a stylish final filler. This was a great pleasure from start to finish.

Christopher Fifield


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