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Symphonies 1, 2, 3

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Ernö DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960)
Ruralia Hungarica, Op.32a (1924): No. 1 [2:07]; No.3 [6:24]; No.4 [2:53]; No.5 [1:50]; No.7 [1:57]
Three Pieces Op.23 (1914) [11:01]
Etudes de Concert, Op.28 (1916): No.4 in B flat minor [5:38]; No.5 in E major [3:37]; No.6 in F minor (Capriccio) [2:32]
Rhapsody in F sharp minor, Op.11 No.2 [6:30]
The Gypsy Baron (Der Zigeunerbaron): Treasure Waltz (Schatzwalzer) arr. piano Ernö Dohnányi [6:33]
Ernö Dohnányi (piano)
rec. January 1960, Everest Studios, Bayside, NYC
EVEREST SDBR3061 [51:58]

These were some of the last recordings made by Ernö Dohnányi, and the album was issued as a Memorial volume by Everest, faithfully reproduced in the CD booklet which also features the sleeve-note from the LP. A few weeks after recording this selection of his music, he was back in the studios in Bayside, New York, recording Beethoven sonatas for the company, when he suffered a major heart attack. An attack of influenza carried him away.
He was 82 and it would be inhuman to expect his technique to have emerged unscathed. Even the earlier Remington discs, lately transferred in their entirety on Pristine, show incipient failings, and a falling off from his executant standards of the 1920s and 30s. That, too, is inevitable. Passagework is often gabbled and approximate, and there are plentiful mis-hits and instances of rhythmic inaccuracies. There again, the spirit of the music is mostly intact, its verve and colourful, communicative adventure, too. Ruralia Hungarica, one of his best-known pieces is represented by five of its seven movements. Interestingly my stereo LP sequenced them 1, 4, 5, 3, and 7 but this CD re-establishes the correct order. I assume that the composer performed them in that out-of-sequence way for a reason, or it could have been an Everest decision. He still summons up the requisite wit for the Allegro grazioso, though elsewhere it’s all a bit hit and often miss.
The Three Pieces, Op.23 retain their romanticised spirit, though his performance of the Valse impromptu, whilst ambitious, is sketchy. He surmounts the Capriccio through sheer bravado. He responds to the demands of the Fourth Etude de Concert by driving through it hastily, dropping plentiful notes, and the Rhapsody – passionate and approximate – is a study in heroic pianism, where a willing executant drives his imperfect mechanism through the teeming thickets of his composition. There is a great deal of vigour but somewhat less finesse in his arrangement of the Treasure Waltz or Schatzwalzer from The Gypsy Baron.
Everest recorded this in two-channel, not three, and the sound is rather dullish, lacking in studio bloom. The relatively low-cut level of the LP has been increased in this transfer so that one isn’t so tempted to turn up the volume. The performances are obviously limited and compromised, though collectors of the composer’s music will need to hear them.
Jonathan Woolf