Dohnanyi: Violin Concerto No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 2; Concertino for Harp & Orchestra

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 2; Concertino for Harp & Orchestra
PERFORMER: James Ehnes (violin), Howard Shelley (piano), Clifford Lantaff (harp); BBC Philharmonic/Matthias Bamert
These beautifully crafted compositions, completed after the Second World War and in the wake of Dohnányi’s enforced exile from his native Hungary, offer tangible proof that a true master could breathe new life into late Romanticism decades after the style had apparently fallen out of fashion. In particular the Second Violin Concerto, with its unconventional orchestral accompaniment that dispenses with violins, demonstrates considerable creative ingenuity, achieving a most satisfying balance between passages of warmth and nostalgia and those of sly humour. Perhaps the Second Piano Concerto, which the composer committed to disc when he was well into his seventies, offers less striking material, but nonetheless wins strong approval for its youthful energy and confidence. As for the more modestly conceived Harp Concertino, it surely ranks as one of the most delightful works for the instrument in the repertoire. Although fine alternative versions of all three works are currently available, none to my mind matches the qualities of the present disc. Without doubt, Matthias Bamert’s powerfully delineated conducting and the brilliantly incisive playing of the BBC Philharmonic make all the difference, providing the ideal backcloth for the excellent team of soloists. As always, the recording has a rich ambiance, which serves Dohnányi’s scoring exceptionally well. Erik Levi