Dohnanyi: Suite for Orchestra, Op. 19

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COMPOSERS: Dohnanyi
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Dohnanyi
WORKS: Suite for Orchestra, Op. 19
PERFORMER: Danubia SO/Domonkos Héja
CATALOGUE NO: 2564-62409-2
Four years older than his compatriot Béla Bartók, Ernö Dohnányi pursued a far less adventurous path in maintaining his allegiance to the late-Romantic Austro-German tradition, albeit one tinged with a dose of paprika in many places. Spanning nearly a half century, the three orchestral works on this warmly engineered disc reinforce this position, but demonstrate that the composer was perfectly capable of pouring new wine into old bottles.

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The Suite in F sharp minor, dating from the composer’s years in pre-First World War Berlin, is a particularly attractive work, brimful of lovely melodies and imaginative orchestral touches as well as showing Dohnányi’s characteristically resourceful use of variation form to good advantage. Domonkos Héja and the youthful Danubia Symphony Orchestra relish its many opportunities for soloistic virtuosity, offering a more expansive and lyrical approach to the work than the rather slick and occasionally hard-driven account from Matthias Bamert and the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos.

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In Ruralia Hungarica, Dohnányi pursued a more overtly nationalist stance, clothing a sequence of folk melodies in sophisticated harmonies and colourful instrumentation – a feature that is also prevalent in the later American Rhapsody. Once again Héja and his excellent orchestra deliver enthusiastic and expressive performances of both works, projecting lots of energy and exhilaration in the more extrovert sections whilst underlining the strong vein of wistful nostalgia that is never far from the surface. Erik Levi