Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

ERNST VON DOHNANYI (1877-1960) Suite in f sharp minor (1909) [28.42] Variations on a Nursery Theme * (1913) [24.31] The Veil of Pierrette suite (1909)  Howard Shelley (piano) * BBCPO/Mathias Bamert CHANDOS CHAN 9733 [69.52]




After hearing this superbly varied celebration of the artistry of Ernst (or Ernö) von Dohnanyi I am enthusiastic about exploring further. I am intrigued by the possibilities offered by his two violin concertos (perhaps to be coupled in Hyperion's romantic violin concerto series). And the two symphonies - the latter already available from Chandos (CHAN 9647+9455)

This is music of sheer delight and the BBCPO and Bamert must take a deep bow. The suite mixes the playful Brahms (St Anthony Variations and Academic Festival) with super velour work for the wind instruments. The drama of Brahms 1 also gerts a look in as does the innocent exaltation of Nutcracker. Listen to the mellifluous flute at 6.13 and the pre-echoes of Franz Schmidt's Hussar Song Variations in the scherzo. In III a sinuous slave girl dance winds exotically in and out. The final rondo is a Brahmsian helter-skelter scurry.

The well-known variations are witty and again mercurially varied. The influences include the torment of Brahms 1, flickering and floating waltzes, a boosy bassoon and piano duet (9), a Viennese Sugar Plum Fairy arranged for miniature hurdy-gurdy, grandeur and amusement. The moods melt and sweep along and Howard Shelley is as alert as we would expect from such a masterly player whose artistry has never been restricted to the box-office standards.

The Pierrette music is again bursting with variety. Gloom and charm bruise shoulders. The affluent ballrooms of Vienna rub along with a distinctly Mahlerian (although also merry) funeral march. The young Sibelius is also there - not such a strange thing bearing in mind that a number of Sibelius's early triumphs were in Germany. The wedding waltz finale's grand strings may well have been influenced by Elgar's Introduction and Allegro of four years previously However this is just a scene-setter for an over-top luxury waltz - all done with breathless élan.

The sound quality is typically superb and well up to the usual house standards. Arachnophobics may like to approach this disc with care. Odilon Redon's smiling but hungrily leering spider decorates both the disc and the cover! Recommended.


Rob Barnett

See also Ian Lace's review


Rob Barnett

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