Ernst von Dohnanyi
Piano Quintet No.2 in e flat minor, Op.26
“Piano Quintet No.2, Op.26 in e flat minor was completed in 1914. The opening Allegro non troppo begins very softly and mysteriously. The strings, led by the first violin, present the opening theme in their lower registers over a soft, prolonged triplet piano accompaniment which almost sounds like tremolo. Tension is built slowly and one expects that there will be an emotional explosion when the piano finally takes part in the theme. But surprisingly, this does not happen. Instead, the piano is allowed to present a more elastic and powerful version of the theme. While the tension, created mainly by the soft tremolo now in the strings, is still there, it remains beneath the surface, as the piano plays a more heroic version of the theme. The second subject is more lyrical and lighter. The second movement is marked Intermezzo, allegretto, but this marking does not really tell the full story. The very lovely, lilting opening theme, initially stated by the viola and then by the first violin, is indeed treated in the fashion of an intermezzo. It is clothed in the unmistakable aura of an elegant late Viennese waltz. What follows this, however, is quite different. This dance theme is not developed in any traditional way but rather by means of a set of five different interludes which flirt with being variations. The finale, Moderato, begins with an extraordinarily somber canon, with the cello beginning and the others following. The music is saturated with a mood of regret and resignation. The second theme (our soundbite starts here), presented by the piano, although solemn, is not as pessimistic.”---R.H.R. Silvertrust writing in 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.
This is an important work and certainly an adornment to any professional ensemble's repertoire. However, it presents no great technical difficulties and should not be missed by amateurs.