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DOHNANYI, E.: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2

Composer(s):Dohnanyi, Erno
Artist(s) Falletta, JoAnn, Conductor • Royal Scottish National OrchestraLudwig, Michael, violin
Period(s) 20th Century
Genre Classical Music
Category Concertos
Catalogue 8.570833
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps
Download and Stream

Best known for his Variations on a Nursery Theme for piano and orchestra, the Hungarian composer Ernő Dohnányi also wrote two published Symphonies, two Piano Concertos and two Violin Concertos, all of which have been undeservedly neglected. The rarely heard Violin Concerto No. 1, notable for its Brahmsian slow movement, combines virtuosity and lyricism. Written in the mould of the great Romantic violin concerto, and with an unmistakably Hungarian flavour, the superbly orchestrated and remarkably inventive Violin Concerto No. 2 (1949-50) is worthy of being ranked alongside the Concertos by Barber and Korngold.

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Review By Harry Rolnick,The Classical Music Network,August 2008

The second violin concerto, which has been recorded several times, hardly fits into any category. At first, you think of Brahms, but the melodies are a bit too sweet. Then Max Bruch, but hardly as saccharine. The concerto is “well-made”, like so many late 19th Century virtuoso works, but this was md-20th-century. What we do find, under Mr. Ludwig, is a piece of late romanticism, which begins with a cadenza, and continues with two or three more dazzling solos, along with the most lush soaring themes. The following movement, less than four movements long, is a bumptious romp. (The double-stopping centre is close to a Brahms Hungarian dance, but hardly Hungarian.) The last two movements bear all the tricks of the well-trained composer, including several delightful

That work, written in Florida, is supposedly more “mature”. But give me the first concerto, written in 1915! The atmosphere is more mysterious, the tunes a bit stranger, the orchestral atmosphere a bit swampy, almost cinematic. Of course “movie music” wasn’t composed until 18 years later, so the atmosphere starts with true originality. By the time of the finale, one feels again that this is merely a well-constructed work, working in various fugues and canons. Dohanányi, though, does have a wonderful way with solo orchestra instruments, and his little obbligati for winds give it as much color as the violin itself. To me, the most stunning part of the whole disk is a cadenza at the end of this concerto accompanied first by solo French and then an orchestral fugato as Mr. Ludwig plays above it. Michael Ludwig is no ordinary soloist. Now First Chair with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, he has managed to fit in concertos with the Chicago and Philadelphia orchestra, with recitals around the world and several recordings. I have never heard him live, but he is obviously not afraid to take chances with his repertory. Nor does he stint on his playing, which is broad, bravura when necessary, and with a grand sweep. His virtuosity is evident in both works here.

The Royal Scottish Orchestra well deserves its sobriquet, with soaring horn calls, a classic trumpet solo in the second concerto, some liquid winds, and, under JoAnn Falletta, a conductor who gives as much verve to her orchestra as her soloist gives to the music.

The recording by Naxos is well focused, and the program notes by Keith Anderson—Naxos’ very first annotator—are, as always, informative and detailed. Not that the music needs such detail. It is as accessible as Bruch, as rich at times as Brahms, and has enough fireworks to inspire both soloist and audience.


Review By Ken Page,Limelight Magazine,August 2008

Seventy-odd minutes of virtuosic violin, Hungarian style, packaged into two concertos mined from the richest of 20th century classico-romantic veins. But wait a moment. Dohnányi is a different kettle of fish from compatriots whose work is better known. These pieces stand or fall on their merits as expressions of their composer’s musical expertise, not on his ability to paint musical pictures. The violin is to the fore throughout, demanding stamina as well as frequent virtuosity. Ludwig is up to the task, which is all to the good, as he has little opportunity to go off daydreaming once those 70 minutes begin. Active playing is required. Active listening, too. Dohnányi’s fans are most likely to be people who don’t mind making some effort to immerse


Review By Paul Sayegh,The Virginian-Pilot,August 2008

Falletta, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s music director, revels in this late-Romantic sound world, skillfully supporting her soloist while maintaining a strong hold on musical structure. Ludwig is simply spectacular, playing with absolute security, gorgeous tone and a feel for the music that suggest he has fully absorbed it.

The music is sure to appeal to anyone who has a taste for Brahms, with a healthy sprinkling of Wagner and early Richard Strauss thrown in. It is lushly orchestrated and richly melodic in a way that makes you want to keep listening.

A disc to be enjoyed again and again.

Review By Robert R. Reilly,,July 2008

More late-Romantic 20th century concertos come from Naxos. The immensely attractive Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, by Hungarian composer Erno von Dohnanyi (1877-1960), are available on a new Naxos CD (8.570833) with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, violinist Michael Ludwig, under conductor JoAnn Falletta. These are sumptuous, colorful works.

Review By Lawson Taitte,The Dallas Morning News,July 2008

TERRIFIC DISCOVERIES: It seems there's no end to first-rate 20th-century violin concertos. These two by Ernst von Dohnányi, rarely recorded, are attractive enough to enter the mainstream repertoire. The first, written in 1915, when the composer was in his late 20s, opens mysteriously and soon turns lush. It might remind you of Borodin, as filtered through the sensibilities of someone acquainted with Richard Strauss' more exotic harmonies. The second, from more than 30 years later, is a bit spikier, but poses no problems for anybody sympathetic to Dohnányi's fellow Hungarian, Bartók. The soloist plays in double stops for long periods, and much of the lyric charm comes from assertive brass and wind obbligatos.


Review By David Denton, Naxos,April 2008

A requirement for all who love romantic concertos



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