Ernst von Dohnanyi
Cello Sonata in B flat Major, Op.8
Ernst von Dohnanyi (1877-1960 Ernö Dohnányi in Hungarian) is generally regarded, after Liszt, as Hungary’s most versatile musician. He was active as a concert pianist, composer, conductor and teacher and must be considered one of the chief influences on Hungary’s musical life in the 20th century. Certainly, his chamber music is very fine, with most of it being in the masterwork category. Yet, sadly and inexplicably, it has virtually disappeared from the concert stage. Dohnanyi studied piano and composition in his native Pressburg (Bratislava) before entering the Budapest Academy. His first published work, his Piano Quintet No.1, was championed by no less an authority than Johannes Brahms. Upon graduating in the spring of 1897, Dohnanyi embarked on a dazzling career as a concert artist, often playing in chamber ensembles. Later, he also devoted considerable time to teaching and conducting.
The cello sonata dates from 1899. The well-known music critic and composer, Donald Tovey, writing in Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music, has this to say about the sonata:
"The Cello Sonata in B flat Major, Op.8 is an important work. The first movement is weighty and majestic and the themes are well able to support the Brahmsian treatment. A lively Scherzo with a quiet trio shows that the intention of the work is not tragic and this is born out in the the theme and variations of the finale.
Without question, here is a work for the recital hall, sure to please and deserving of all cellists attention. In many ways it is superior to Brahms's cello sonatas in that the cello does not have to struggle to be heard over the piano.