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Dohnányi: Serenade & Sextet

Dohnányi: Serenade & Sextet

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Ernö Dohnányi's music slowly has been getting the discographic attention it deserves, and these exemplary readings of his marvelous Serenade for String Trio and Sextet happily join company with some other fine versions. By and large, these new renditions do not necessarily improve on the other prime modern choices--the Serenade offered by Domus on Virgin and the Sextet with Endymion Ensemble on ASV--but the warmly phrased and crisp playing by the members of Spectrum Concerts Berlin will certainly fuel competition in a decidedly uncrowded field.

Those who have yet to experience these miniature masterpieces are in for a treat. Both works admittedly recall Brahms in sonority and structure, but they stand on their own as wholly original works with myriad and often clever twists of character, from witty to sinister. For instance, note how Dohnányi conveys the entire sentiment of the Serenade in the neatly concise first movement, and how its fragmented march pops up momentarily at the end of the finale. The brilliantly conceived inner movements exhibit dramatic breadth in the tender Romance, the motoric Scherzo, and the beguiling variations of the Andante, whose veiled theme unfolds rather discretely. The musicians here are nothing less than committed, but hearing this made me want to reach for the legendary 1941 Heifetz-Primrose-Feuermann to recapture the idiomatic grace of one of the truly great recordings of its time.

The broad, muscular music of the Sextet also pays a debt to Brahms--it almost sounds like the Horn Trio and Piano Quintet in F minor mixed together and then sprinkled with more humor and a dash of additional verve. The first movement of the Sextet is almost symphonic in length and grandeur, propelled by sweeping themes and finishing with a knockout climax. Dohnányi finally liberates himself from Brahms and moves into 20th-century Vienna in the high-spirited finale, filled with off-kilter rhythmic vitality and irreverent little waltzes. Special mention should go to the excellent horn playing of Ron Schaaper, whose sensitive vibrato and immense glowing sound in the outer movements are glorious to hear.
--Michael Liebowitz,
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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Naxos
    • UPC/Barcode: 0747313215324
    • Item Number: 8557153