Dohnanyi: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Dohnanyi
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Dohnányi
WORKS: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Michael Ludwig (violin); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570833

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Two rarely-heard concertos by the still-underrated Ernö von Dohnányi (1877-1960) here prove more than just a worthy curio. The Violin Concerto No. 1 dates from 1915 when the Hungarian composer was back in Budapest after teaching for ten years in Berlin. The influences of both Brahms and Wagner are palpable; melodic gorgeousness is enriched by full-blooded orchestration and ample opportunities for virtuoso display. The Second Concerto of 1949 finds Dohnányi in exile in Florida – he left Hungary in 1948, out of step with the strictures of the new political regime. With late-Romantic indulgence pushed into the background, the fireworks remain but are clearly edged with modernism. Though neither work has the individuality of Dohnányi’s compatriots Bartók and Kodály, their central-European flavour and intensity reward repeated listening. So, too, does the persuasive playing of the American violinist Michael Ludwig, whose silky tone, sensitivity to colour and flair for old-school ‘golden age’ style are completely in tune with the music’s idiom. He’s the real highlight of this disc. The RSNO under JoAnn Falletta lets rip with sympathy, but is somewhat hampered by the hall’s soupy acoustic. Jessica Duchen