Erno Dohnányi (1877-1960) was once the preeminent figure in Hungarian music and is generally regarded as the one who laid the foundations for the country's musical life during the 20th century. If he is now slightly out of fashion, he is brought back firmly into the spotlight by Martin Roscoe's splendid first disc of a projected series of the solo piano music. Dohnányi himself was a pianist of immense distinction, lionised internationally as was his great forerunner in Hungarian culture, Liszt. And, like Liszt (although not so prolifically), he drew on his mix of poetic imagination, bravura and inside knowledge of the instrument to compose works for the piano, some of which are the most winning of the late Romantic era. He has been immortalised through the perky sense of humour and puncturing of Romantic portentousness in his Variations on a Nursery Tune for piano and orchestra, but the solo works show him to be very much part of that Romantic milieu, expressing himself with passion and sincerity in the Four Rhapsodies Op 11 of the early 1900s. Indeed, one of the rhapsodies the third in C major has always been one of my favourite pieces, combining a scherzo deftness and an exhilarating energy with one of those aspiring melodies that any composer of similar disposition might have given their eye teeth to have written. Roscoe finds the ideal blend of lightness and broad lyrical sweep, characterising the other three contrasting rhapsodies with equal effectiveness, as he does the 10 bagatelles of Winterreigen (1905), Dohnányi s nod of respect to Schumann. The Pastorale (1920), the Three Singular Pieces (1951) and one of Dohnányi's waltz arrangements complete a programme that refreshes some gorgeous, unjustly neglected music. **** CLASSICAL CD OF THE WEEK --Sunday Telegraph,22/01/12
Even Hungarian composer Ern Dohnányi's best-known work, the Variations on a Nursery Theme, for piano and orchestra, rarely crops up on concert programmes nowadays. But in his lifetime, Dohnányi (1877-1960) was a hugely influential figure, who was at various times the director of the Liszt Academy in Budapest, in charge of the music output of the Hungarian Radio Corporation, and musical director of the Budapest Philharmonic, as well as composing and pursuing parallel careers as a pianist and a teacher his pupils included Geza Anda, Annie Fischer and Georg Solti. Though he was born only four years before Béla Bartók, Dohnányi's own music belonged to an entirely different generation of Hungarian composers, and it seems as if modernism hardly left any mark on his style at all. Instead, his works for piano stem directly from the high Romanticism of Liszt, and it's that bravura approach that makes this first instalment of Martin Roscoe's four-disc survey of Dohnányi's complete piano music so enjoyable. The disc is made up of collections of genre pieces, though the Four Rhapsodies Op 11 do follow the outline of a substantial sonata, complete with a scherzo that unfurls a sumptuously ripe melody as its trio section, and the 10 Winterreigen, each one dedicated to one of Dohnányi's friends, do hark back to Schumann's piano cycles. There's something larger than life about the keyboard writing here, and it demands exactly the kind of no-holds-barred approach that Roscoe adopts; he dispatches the fistfuls of notes with wonderful precision and just the right degree of swagger. --Guardian,25/01/12
The auspices are good even before you press the play button: Hyperion, Potten Hall, Ben Connellan(recording engineer), Jeremy Hayes(producer)-and a master pianist who has thoroughly immersed in the composer for years. This is a particular happy start to the series. --Gramophone,Mar'12
As is clear from his 1993 recording of both the piano concertos(CDA66684), Roscoe has long been interested in Dohnanyi. His immaculate pianism, probing --BBC Music Magazine,Mar'12
Roscoe plays every one of them with full commitment....I eagerly await the remaining three volumes. **** --The Pianist, Mar/Apr'12
Erno Dohnányi was one of the most extraordinary polymaths in musical history: director of the Franz Liszt Academy, conductor of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, music director of Hungarian Radio, he was also revered as a teacheranyone who was anyone in Hungary was taught by him, not least Georg Solti. Dohnányi was also one of the finest pianists of his generation. As a pianist-composer his music grew out of the tradition of both Liszt, his compatriot, and Brahms, but his command of instrumental colour and rhythmic élan is all his own. This volume, the first of a complete survey from Martin Roscoe, encompasses nearly half a century of Dohnányis composing life, from the trenchant virtuosity of the Four Rhapsodies to the wit of the late Three Singular Pieces. Martin Roscoes previous recordings for Hyperion reflect his eclectic interests, from Bach transcriptions to the complete piano music of Nielsen and no fewer than four volumes in the Romantic Piano Concerto series.