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Dohnanyi: Variations on a Nursery Song; Symphonic Minutes; Suite , Op. 19

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 25, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Erno von Dohnányi had a long career as an important composer, pianist and teacher. Deeply indebted to the Germanic Romantic tradition, the works on this disc showcase his love of
scintillating orchestral tone-colour notably of brass, wind and percussion and his fascination with Classical forms such as the variation. His Variations on a Nursery Song traverses several musical styles in a tour de force of good-humoured virtuosity, while the Symphonic Minutes and
the Suite in F sharp minor cultivate a lush, romantic mood with characteristic dashes of suavity.
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Product Details

  • Conductor: JoAnn Falletta
  • Composer: Erno von Dohnanyi
  • Audio CD (May 25, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B003DQWPBA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,822 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Back when I was a kid, I "cut my teeth" on the Julius Katchen/Sir Adrian Boult recording of the "Nursery Tune Variations" on London/Decca. Actually, there were two of them -- the earlier monaural recording was successful enough that a stereo remake came along in the early 1960s.

The Katchen recording still deserves a place of honor -- and I still have it in my collection. But among the newer recordings of the Variations, you can't go wrong with this splendid interpretation by pianist Eldar Nebolsin, ably supported by JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. In some respects, pianist Nebolsin brings out more contrast in the (deliberately) contrasting sections that Ernst von Dohnanyi incorporated into this music -- from the "sturm-und-drang" introduction to the Viennese waltz sequence, the "clattering bones" scherzo, and the pathos of the passacaglia. (One must remember that composer Dohnanyi had "tongue firmly in cheek" as he created each of these elaborate variations on the simple "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" theme.)

Conductor Falletta and the BPO provide rich and sympathetic accompaniment in the Variations. Maestra Falletta is a Dohnanyi specialist -- and it clearly shows here. (She is also featured in another NAXOS disk of the two Violin Concerti of Dohnanyi -- an equally impressive recording.)

For the remaining works on the program, I am particularly impressed with the "Suite in F-Sharp." This music used to be quite popular on concert programs "back in the day." In fact, the first recording of this music dates back to the early 1930s when RCA Victor recorded it with Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In the early years of stereo, the Sir Malcolm Sargent and Milton Katims recordings were the ones to have.
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As often stated the Variations have today more or less become Dohnanyi's calling card; still, it isn't exactly abundantly repressented in the catalogues. I was always happy with the disc made by the late Earl Wild (plus the New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi, the composer's grandson) - and I very much still am. This new version, however, purely apart from being splendedly recorded, benefits from a veritable cornucopia of emotions ranging all the way from the coquettishly lighthearted to the morosely serious, and, as an added bonus, it very cogently demonstrates Dohnanyi's indebtedness to Richard Strauss, whose "Burlesque" the Variations at times resemble to the point of pastiche.

Eldar Nebolsin once again proves himself to be an excellent pianist indeed. His Chopin recordings have already provided many a fine illumination, and his performance on this disc deserves nothing but the highest praise. Sir Georg Solti, during his student days a pupil of Dohnanyi at the Budapest School of Music, often descibed him as brilliant - but also the laziest pianist he knew. Solti took paticular delight in an anecdote from one of Dohnanyi's foreign tours, during which in three consecutive performances of a Beethoven concerto he lost his way at the exact same spot and had to improvise the rest of the movement. Leaving the stage the third night he was, allegedly, heard murmuring: "I should probably take the time some day to learn that piece." Dohnanyi may not have known his Beethoven, but Nebolsin sure knows his Dohnanyi - in and out.

The Symphonic Minutes and the Suite are rarely played but thoroughly delightful works, well worth the attention. JoAnn Faletta's direction is full to the brim with passion as well as an admirable attention to detail.

A feast for all senses - warmly recommended.
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A quite fun recording, the titular variations start off with an overblown and bombastic introduction which then segues into a very simple (wonderfully played, with just the right amount of irony by pianist Eldar Nebolsin) rendition of a very well known children's tune, which the variations then follow. The humor is apparent in these pieces, and the reasons for this being Dohnanyi's most famous work become quite obvious.

The other works on this disc are good, but less distinctive, the first, Symphonic Minutes, provides five brief movements which are breezy and quick, with fun and catchy tunes.

Overall, a very fun and entertaining disc.
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Dohnanyi: Variations on a Nursery Song; Symphonic Minutes; Suite , Op. 19
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