For much the last century, during the rush to ever more modern-sounding music, it was fashionable, in musicological circles, to dismiss any work that sounded like Brahms. There were a few hardy souls who continued writing music in that vein, and among them was Ernst von Dohnanyi (or Erno Dohnanyi, to use the more proper Hungarian form of the name). The two works on this disc are very much in the Brahmsian ambit, although the later Sextet ventures a bit harmonically and rhythmically.
The Serenade, written in 1902, is for string trio, that rarest of chamber music forms; it is difficult to write music with full-sounding romantic harmonies with just three instruments. However, by judicious use of double-stops and lots of cello and viola arpeggios using 4ths, 5ths, 6ths and 10ths, the harmonies are filled out admirably and richly. Indeed, this piece is every bit as yummy as a cup of hot dark rich chocolate. If you love Brahms, you'll love this piece. It has been much-recorded and even rescored (by Dimitry Sitkovetsky) for string orchestra; this recording holds its own with that company.
The sextet, for the unusual combination of piano, violin, viola, cello, clarinet and horn, is a much later work - from 1938 - but is only slightly more adventuresome harmonically. There is some modal filigree, but the underlying harmonic procedures are still Brahmsian. There are some rhythmic surprises, including a samba in the final movement; the German Brahms often ended his chamber pieces with movements based on Hungarian Gypsy melodies, but the Hungarian Dohnanyi ends _his_ piece with a waltz that becomes a samba. Go figure! And a lovely time is had by all.
The musicians here were all unknown to me except for the excellent French-American pianist, Daniel Blumenthal; his colleagues are fully his equals. These are invigorating performances of wonderful music. You can't go wrong with this issue.