DOHNÁNYI: Hiszekegy (I Believe)[notes] Recorded 18th June, 1928 in Queen's Hall, London
Matrix no.: CR 2088-1A
First issued on HMV AN 149
DOHNÁNYI: Ruralia Hungarica, Op. 32B, No. 5 – Molto vivace[notes] Recorded 18th June, 1928 in Queen's Hall, London
Matrix no.: BR 2093-1
First issued on HMV AM 1284
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra
Ernö Dohnányi, conductor and *pianist
DOHNÁNYI: Ruralia Hungarica, Op. 32B No. 2 – Presto ma non tanto [notes] Recorded 23rd February, 1931 in Kingsway Hall, London
Matrix no.: 2B 474-2
First issued on HMV D 2056
London Symphony Orchestra Ernö Dohnányi, conductor
DOHNÁNYI: Variations on a Nursery Tune, Op. 25 [notes / score] Recorded 21st and 23rd February, 1931 in Kingsway Hall, London
Matrix nos.: 2B 469-1, 470-1, 471-3, 472 and 473-2
First issued on HMV D 2054 through 2056
Ernö Dohnányi, piano
London Symphony Orchestra Lawrance Collingwood, conductor
Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
Notes on the recordings:
The present program brings together examples of Ernö Dohnányi’s abilities as pianist, conductor and composer. Most of the recordings were made during a three-day period in June, 1928 when Dohnányi was on tour in London with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he had been music director since 1919.
The first two recording sessions were done for Columbia in one of their smaller London studios, possibly the Portman Rooms. The day after these sessions ended, Dohnányi and the orchestra moved to the more expansive acoustic of Queen’s Hall for an HMV session. It is interesting to compare the Columbia version of the Berlioz march, with its unforgiving dead studio acoustic to the HMV version, even with the latter’s handicap of having been released from a dubbed matrix. (HMV recorded three other sides at this time, all of Hungarian nationalist hymns, one of them being a 10-inch version of the same Dohnányi Hiszekegy presented here.)
Three years later, Dohnányi returned to London to record his Variations. Even though the sessions were held in a large venue (Kingsway Hall), the composer was again unlucky in that the matrices were over-recorded and distort during loud passages. He was to remake this recording in stereo in 1956, but this earlier version has its charms, not least in the humor which HMV producer/conductor Lawrance Collingwood finds in the orchestral accompaniment.
The sources for the transfers were American Columbia “Viva-Tonal” pressings for the Mozart; laminated English Columbias for the Liszt and Berlioz; black-label American Victor “Orthophonic” pressings for the Queen’s Hall items; and Victor “Z” and Gold pressings for the 1931 sessions.
After a few lessons with Eugen d'Albert, Dohnányi made his debut in Berlin, 1897, and was at once recognized as an artist of high attainments. Similar success in Vienna followed, and thereafter he made the tour of Europe with the greatest success. He made his London debut at a Richter concert in the Queen's Hall, where he gave a memorable performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4.
Using his position as a conductor, Dohnányi pioneered Bartók's more accessible music to boost its popularity.
During the following season, he visited the United States. There, he established his reputation playing, again, the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 for his American debut with the St. Louis Symphony.
Unlike most other famous pianists of the time, Dohnányi did not limit himself to solo recitals and concerto solos, but also played chamber music.
In 1902, one of his two sons, Hans von Dohnányi, was born to Ernő and his wife Elisabeth, who was also a pianist. Hans later distinguished himself as a leader of the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany, and was a friend and collaborator of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Hans in turn became the father of the well-known orchestral conductor, Christoph von Dohnányi.
In the 1920 season, he played the complete piano works of Beethoven. During the 1920s, he also recorded several of his works on the AMPICO reproducing piano.
In 1934 he was again appointed director of the Budapest Academy, a post he held until 1941, when he resigned from the post "as a protest against the anti-Jewish legislations [of that year]". That year he also had to disband the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra.
After World War II, which had claimed the lives of both of his sons, one in combat and the other executed by the Nazis for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler, Dohnányi moved to the United States. He had remained in fascist Hungary during the war, though using his influence and expending his own fortune to protect Jewish musicians. A whispering campaign against him was promoted by the new Communist government of Hungary, to the point where he found it necessary to leave. He was not able to revive his career as a concert pianist, but continued to compose, and became interested in American folk music; his last orchestral work, in 1953, is entitled American Rhapsody. This piece was written for the sesquicentennial of Ohio University and includes folk material such as On Top of Old Smokey and I am a Poor, Wayfaring Stranger. Dohnányi also found a teaching position for ten years at the Florida State University School of Music in Tallahassee, whose music library holds a large archive of Dohnányi's papers, manuscripts, and related materials. A link to searchable databases at Florida State's Warren D. Allen Music Library is provided below. An International Ernst von Dohnányi Festival was held there in 2002.
His last public performance, on January 30, 1960, was at Florida State University, conducting the university orchestra in a performance of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 with his doctoral student, Edward R. Thaden, as soloist. Following this performance, Dohnányi traveled to New York City to record some Beethoven piano sonatas, as well as other works, on stereo LP discs. He had previously recorded a Mozart concerto, his own Variations on a Nursery Tune, the second movement of his Ruralia Hungarica (Gypsy Andante), and a few solo works (but no Beethoven sonatas) on 78 rpm and various works, including Beethoven's Tempest Sonata, on early mono LP discs. He died ten days later, on February 9, 1960, of pneumonia in New York City. The BBC issued an LP recording taken from one of his last concerts with sonatas by Beethoven and Schubert, now considered one of the glories of the heritage of Romantic pianism.
His books entitled "Daily Finger Exercises for the Advanced Pianist in Three Volumes by Ernst Von Dohnanyi" was published by Mills Music, Inc. in 1962.