Thursday, March 05, 2015

Dohnanyi Piano Quintets Have Potential

Ernö Dohnányi wrote his first piano quintet in 1895, while he was still very much under the influence of Brahms. Published as his Opus 1, Dohnányi's first piano quintet is a solid enough composition, especially for a young man of 22. Dohnányi's natural voice wasn't that far removed from that of his idol, so the music flows in a natural and unforced fashion. If you love Brahms, there's much to like in this quintet.

By 1914, Dohnányi had begun to establish his own style. His second piano quintet draws more on Hungarian musical traditions, especially with its modal tonalities in the first movement. The final movement's fugue is a delight; inventive and lively without sounding learned at all.

The Ensō String Quartet and pianist Gottlieb Wallisch perform well together, creating a seamless ensemble. The energy they bring to this music brings out its full potential, I think, and makes this release an enjoyable listening experience.

Are these the best piano quintets ever written? No. But as played by Wallisch and the Ensō String Quartet, they sound pretty darned good.

Erno Dohnányi: Piano Quintets Nos. 1 & 2
Ensō String Quartet; Gottlieb Wallisch, piano
Naxos 8.570572

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