Dohnanyi – Janacek

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dohnanyi,Janacek
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Dohnányi: Violin Sonata in C sharp minor; Ruralia hungarica; Orchestral Suite No. 1 – Romanza (arr. Heifetz); Janácek: Violin Sonata; Dumka; Romance; Allegro (discarded from Violin Sonata); On an Overgrown Path – A blown-away Leaf (arr. Stedron)
PERFORMER: Hagai Shaham (violin), Arnon Erez (piano)


 Having released three highly successful discs of music by Jenö Hubay it is in no way surprising that Hagai Shaham should also demonstrate a particular empathy for the work of his Hungarian compatriot and contemporary, Erno˝ Dohnányi. The strongly Brahmsian Sonata is given a warm and affectionate reading, the central variation movement imaginatively characterised with Shaham’s honeyed tone proving an ideal foil for Arnon Erez’s bold and dynamic piano playing.

But it’s the more folksy Ruralia hungarica that draws the most compelling performance, Shaham negotiating the challenging violin pyrotechnics of the outer movements with impressive powerhouse playing as well as delivering a wonderfully atmospheric Andante rubato alla Zingaresca.

In contrast, I remain far less persuaded by the Janácek items. For one thing the early Romance and Dumka are somewhat routine pieces offering little hint of the staggeringly original music that the composer was to write from the beginning of the 20th century. Also Shaham and Erez seem inhibited by the dramatic contrasts of the Sonata and tend to smooth over the deliberately discontinuous nature of the musical argument.


The rather closely miked recording seems to minimise the degree of dynamic and tonal variety in the performance, and here the bolder approach of David Grimal and Georges Pludermacher on their recent recording for Ambroisie is much to be preferred. Erik Levi