Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Variations on a Nursery Song.
Piano Concerto No. 2.
Adrian Boult, cond;
Ernö Dohnányi (pn);
Janos Starker (vc);
PRAGA 250 231 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 73:00)
Here are three classic EMI recordings from the late 1950s, offering splendid interpretations of music that deserve wider circulation. Yes, Dohnányi was nearing 80 when he taped his two contributions in 1956, and there are moments when his rhythms seize up; then, too, Boult was hardly the most whimsical of the conductors to have taken up the
, op. 25. Still, the aged composer tosses off a dashing, youthful-sounding performance that catches the warmhearted irony of the music without a trace of exaggeration or self-consciousness. It is, in fact, arguably even more dapper than the recording he made in 1931.
Dohnányi is equally successful at delineating the dark strivings of his heroic Second Concerto. To be sure, despite some flirtations with a mild form of modernism (especially in the complex fabric at the end of the third movement), it’s a fairly backward-looking work for 1946. Still, if you can accept its high-Romantic premises—which you should be able to do if you can accept the Rachmaninoff Fourth—you’ll find it a gripping experience. Richard A. Kaplan, in a review of Howard Shelley’s performance, dismissed the composer’s recording, arguing that it is “more valuable as a document than as a viable representation of the work” (29:1). To my ears, Barry Brenesal was closer to the truth when he claimed that Dohnányi’s version “contained all the majestic command of Romantic rhetoric one could desire” (28:4). Even though the orchestra won’t convince you that it’s familiar with the score, this is the touchstone in this repertoire.
In between the two works for piano and orchestra, Praga nestles Starker’s tightly argued account of the
, more intent than Alban Gerhardt’s luminous reading (see Richard A. Kaplan’s review in 29:4), but in its high-pressure way, just as appealing. Both cellists make you wonder why this work isn’t heard more often. All in all, then, this is a first-rate collection—or, rather, it would be if the reprocessing were better. Praga has, as they put it, “renewed” these recordings with “DSD bi-channel mastering,” but the resulting sound is crass and edgy, although marginally less so on the regular CD tracks than on the SACD option. Still, the ear adjusts, so until someone else does a better job with this material, this can be strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 2 in B minor, Op. 42 by Ernö von Dohnányi
Ernö von Dohnányi (Piano)
Sir Adrian Boult
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1949-1950; USA
Length: 27 Minutes 21 Secs.
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