around 1949 photographed in New York (edited picture taken from a
Violin 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.
1894 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.
Dohnányi toured 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. Dohnanyi was instrumental in the education of György Cziffra. Another pupil was
Bartók studied with Dohnányi for a short time.
Ernst von Dohnányi
Picture taken 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 TPLS 13052).
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
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.
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 conductor.
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 9.
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 was Dohnány's last pupil.
von Dohnányi and his pupil Edward Kilenyi around 1955.
Together they 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.
Although Dohnányi's 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
von Dohnányi's Remington recordings:
- 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.
This 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.
Dohnányi: Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 21 (written
in 1912 in Berlin) was recorded in 1952 with violinist
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
at the piano. See also
The Remington Series.
Rudolf A. Bruil.
To 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,
Kiszely-Papp, and pianist Bálint Vázsonyi. -