Ernst von Dohnanyi
Piano Quintet No.1 in c minor, Op.1
"In 1895, while still at the Budapest Music Academy, Dohnanyi’s first published work, his First Piano Quintet, appeared and was championed by no less an authority than Johannes Brahms. Never known for passing out gratuitous compliments, Brahms, after having had a chance to look at the Quintet remarked, “I could not have written it better myself.” It’s highly unlikely that he ever gave higher praise to anyone or any other work. After hearing it through once, Brahms immediately arranged for a public performance of the quintet in Vienna and played the piano part himself. It was an immense success."---Taken from The Chamber Music Journal.
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. 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 opening movement to the quintet, Allegro, begins with a broad, spacious theme. The music is full of expectation and portents of great things to come. The strings then take over and bring the music to its first emotional high. The opening bars of the restless second movement, Scherzo, allegro vivace, remind one of a furiant, a Czech dance of the kind Dvorak often employed. The lovely trio has a vocal quality to it. The scherzo is followed by a very lovely Adagio quasi andante. The presentation of the entire main theme is entrusted to the viola alone with a soft piano accompaniment in the background. The theme has a valedictory and elegiac mood. There is an unmistakable sense of leave-taking, of farewell. The first violin then joins in and the theme is set as a duet, and with the entrace of the cello, the music becomes even more beautiful. The imaginative finale is literally pregnant with ideas. The opening theme to the Allegro animato in 5/4 bursts forth in a triumphant fashion. Particularly fine is the waltz-like second theme introduced by the cello. Out of this, Dohnanyi creates a fugue—but this is not a dry, academic ordinary fugue but a wonderful, lyrical one of the most astonishing beauty.
This is a masterpiece of the first order. Professional ensembles would do well to bring it with them into the concert hall and amateurs will relish the opportunity to play a work well within their grasp. We have reprinted the beautifully laid out original edition (unlike the modern reprint from another publisher) at a very affordable price in hopes players will be enticed to make the acquaintance of this marvelous work.