around 1949 photographed in New York (edited picture taken from a Remington cover).
Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3 of Johannes Brahms played by Albert Spalding and accompanied
by Ernst von Dohnányi
on an early Remington..
Sonata No. 1 played by the same artists.
Ernst von Dohnányi went to Budapest to study with Hans Kössler (composition),
with István Thomán (piano), and for a short time with famous Belgian composer
Eugen d'Albert. Both Koessler and d'Albert were admirers of Johannes Brahms and
on top of that d'Albert had been a pupil of Franz Liszt. Each certainly played
a role in the education of young Ernö, either by influencing the development
of the talent of the young pianist and composer, or most likely by reaffirming
Dohnányi's affinity with the classical form which made him a great interpreter
of Beethoven in his time.
von Dohnányi (Ernö Dohnányi) was born on July 27, 1877
in Pozsony (=Bratislava), then a Hungarian city close to the border with Austria.
His father was not only an amateur cellist but also a physics professor who certainly
loved the classics and had a feeling for form and structure more than he was interested
in free music making and new ways of expression. This is not without significance
because his father gave him the first lessons before he became a pupil of Karl
Förstner, the organist of the Pozsony Cathedral.
(Bratislava) is the birthplace of Ernst von Dohnányi. Zoltán Kodály
(born in Kecskemét) lived for several years in Galanta. And Béla
Bartók was born in Nagyszentmiklós which is now called Sînnicolau Mare and is
in Romania (on the map not far from Timisoara). Bratislava and Galanta are nowadays
on Slovak territory.
Hungary as part of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Hungary before WW II - Map (c)1995, drawn by R.A.B.
his graduation in 1897 (his Symphony in F was rewarded the King's Prize), Dohnányi
made his debut in Berlin. Two years later his First Piano Concerto received the
Bösendorfer Flügel Preis (Bösendorfer Prize), the grand
piano which was given by the famous Viennese piano manufacturer to the best student.
Dohnányi dedicated the concerto to his teacher Eugen d'Albert.
Europe and the United States until 1908.
After being a piano teacher in Berlin at the "Hochschule für Musik"
until 1915, he returned to Budapest and at the age of 42 was appointed associate
director of the National Hungarian Royal Liszt Ferenc Academy (Franz Liszt Academy).
Between 1921 and 1927 he again toured Europe and the USA where he was appointed
chief conductor of the New York State Symphony Orchestra (and that is where, in
1921, young Edward Kilenyi was presented to him). He performed in London and was
a guest conductor of the (Royal) Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam. At
the same time he continued teaching piano. Pianist
Kilenyi and conductor
Halasz (who started off as a pianist) were amongst his pupils in the nineteen
twenties, and both are representatives of the Hungarian school. Another
Bartók studied with Dohnányi
for a short time.
Ernst von Dohnányi
from the cover of the recording of Ernst von Dohnányi's Piano Concerto
No. 1 performed by pianist Balint Vaszonyi and conductor John Pritchard (PYE LP
the outside world this all seemed to be a glamorous career. But in fact Dohnányi's
life knew turbulence and animosity. His biography tells us that his career was
hampered because he refused to work under the dictatorial
regime of Miklos Horthy (1921-1939).
Although he had criticized Horty's links with fascism, he himself was accused
of collaborating with the German occupants during World War II from 1944 until
April 4th 1945. A severe blow was that his son Hans (father of conductor Christoph
von Dohnányi) was executed because he was involved in the coup against
Hitler in 1944, plotted by Claus von Stauffenberg and his group.
In that same
year, 1944, Ernst von Dohnányi quit his post of conductor of the Budapest
Philharmonic Orchestra (which he held since 1919).
pre World War II recording of Ernst von Dohnányi conducting the Budapest
Philharmonic Orchestra in Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1 (the orchestral
version of No. 14) on Columbia 9550/1 (listed as such in The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia
of Recorded Music, Simon and Shuster, New York 1942).
1931 he had become music director of the Hungarian State Radio and in 1934 had
been appointed director of the Budapest Conservatory (Franz Liszt Academy), a
post which he officially held until 1948.
Christoph von Dohnányi (born in Berlin in 1929) had won the "Richard
Strauss Prize for Conducting and Composition" in 1951, he went to study with
his grandfather Ernst von Dohnányi in Tallahassee, Florida.
Image Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft.
But by that time
he had left Hungary running from his personal enemies and fleeing for the communists
who aligned Hungary to the Soviet Union. Dohnányi went to live in Buenos
Aires, Argentina, where he stayed only for a short time. On the instigation of
conductor Laszlo Halasz and pianist Edward Kilenyi the seventy two
year old maestro applied for the post of professor at the Florida School of Music,
Tallahassee. He started teaching there in 1949 and four years later (1953) he
was joined by his pupil Edward Kilenyi. Amongst Dohnányi's pupils in Florida
was his grandson Christoph von Dohnányi who received his formation as a
1955 Ernst von Dohnányi became a US citizen. During
his stay in New York in 1960, where he recorded his Second Piano Concerto
for Bob Whyte's Everest label, Ernst von Dohnányi died on February
In his time
Ernö Dohnányi was a great interpreter of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Liszt.
As a composer his style was influenced by Brahms and Liszt and did not develop
into a modern idiom (contrary to the styles of Bela Bartók,
and to a certain extend the idioms of Zoltán Kodály and Leo Weiner). Dohnányi's
style is romantic, somewhat less Hungarian, but above all very personal. His best
known composition is his Opus 25 from 1914: Variations on a Nursery Song for
Piano and Orchestra, which has been recorded by the big record labels and
the famous pianists the world over. His Violin Concerto No. 1 Op.
27, from 1914 (also stemming from his most prolific period of the early nineteen
hundreds), is less comprehensive, and more rhapsodic. It is not a virtuoso piece
for the sake of virtuosity. There are influences of Brahms, Bruch and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy,
yet it is truly Dohnányi's.
The concerto had to wait until 1986 to receive its first recording. The performance
of this four movement concerto by violinist Gottfried Schneider and the
Bamberger Symphoniker (Bamberg Symphony) conducted by Yoel Levi was released
on the Schwann label, as a CD and as LP (Schwann VMS 2112). It is a sensitive
performance of this music with drama and passion. Dohnányi's
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor from 1899 had to wait until 1972 to be
premiered on LP on the PYE label from Great Britain, reference TPLS 13052. The
passionate concerto written in a flamboyant style was performed by Balint
Vaszony, excellent Brahms interpreter, who came to Florida in 1958 to study
with Dohnányi. In fact he
von Dohnányi and his pupil Edward Kilenyi around 1955.
had made a recording for Columbia playing on two pianos 'Suite en valse' coupled
with Kilenyi playing 'Waltz Settings', on a 12 inch Columbia Long Play disc (ML-54256).
Copyrighted photo courtesy of The Ernst von
Dohnányi Collection at The Florida State University.
Kilenyi was Recording Director of Remington Records, Inc. until 1953, the year
he took up the post of teacher at the Florida School of Music. Then Laszlo Halasz
became Recording Director of Don Gabor's label. The contacts of Ernst von Dohnányi
with Edward Kilenyi, and with his fellow countrymen Donald Gabor and Laszlo Halasz,
resulted in several recordings for the Remington label.
performances have to be judged in view of his age, it is regrettable that
Don Gabor did not make better sound recordings, especially when 'Dohnányi
plays Dohnányi' (Four Rhapsodies) and Schumann's 'Scenes from Childhood'
(Kinderszenen). It would have been welcomed if more takes had been recorded. However
the original tapes of the recordings show much intensity. That is especially the
case in the performance with Albert Spalding of his Violin Sonata Op.21.
Ernst von Dohnányi's
- Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 17 and Andante Favori in F Major. Haydn:
Variations in F Minor
- Dohnányi: Four Rhapsodies Op. 11, Schumann: Kinderszenen
(Scenes from Childhood), announced by Ernst von Dohnányi himself. The interest
of this recording is the fact that the composer plays his own Op. 11, but regrettably
at a rather late age, and therefore not always in a controlled manner, which can
also be said of the rendition of the Beethoven Sonata.
- Brahms: Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3 for Violin and Piano - Albert Spalding, violin,
with Ernst von Dohnányi, piano; released in 1951.
- Brahms: Sonata No. 1 ("Regen") Op. 78 Albert Spalding, violin, with Ernö
Dohnányi, piano - coupled with
Hungarian Dances Nos. 8,9 and 17, with Anthony Kooiker at the piano.
record was released in the spring of 1952. The liner notes, written by Edward
Tatnall Canby, suggest that these performances with Spalding were recorded in
the fall of 1949 when Dohnányi came to New York when visiting the United
States, before he took up the post of professor at the Florida School of Music.
for Violin and Piano, Op. 21 (written in 1912 in Berlin) was recorded in 1952
Spalding and Ernst von Dohnányi at the piano, but was never released
on Remington records. Tom Null issued this performance for the first time
on Varèse-Sarabande VC 81048 in 1978 - coupled with Enesco's Violin Sonata
No. 2 played by George Enesco himself and
Chailley-Richez at the piano. See also
A. Bruil. Fall 2002
honor the one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth anniversary of Dohnányi's birth
and to commemorate the ten years he spent as a teacher of the Florida State University,
an International Ernst von Dohnányi Festival was held from 31 January through
2 February 2002. Many guest artists who attended and performed were conductor
Matthias Bamert, pianist Barry Snyder, cellist János Starker, musicologist
Alan Walker, and leading Dohnányi scholar, pianist
Kiszely-Papp, and pianist Bálint Vázsonyi. - R.A.B.