Ernst von Dohnanyi
Sextet in C Major, Op.37
For Violin, Viola, Cello, Clarinet, Horn and Piano
"The Sextet in C Major, Op.37, dates from 1935 and is Dohnanyi's last piece of chamber music. It is for the unusual combination of clarinet, horn, piano, violin, viola and cello. This fact has virtually insured it would be little heard in concert—a great pity because it is a masterwork. From a tonal standpoint, the Sextet shows Dohnanyi alive to the musical developments in the Europe of the 1930’s, jazz in particular, which was gaining a real foothold throughout western and central Europe. The opening Allegro appassionato is a big and, at times, turbulent movement. It begins with a marvelous heroic theme introduced by the horn. It has a dramatic, epic quality to it, combined with a sense of suspense. The overall mood is not particularly sunny, although it has its moments, for the most part is dark and ominous. The second movement, Intermezzo, adagio, begins quietly and in a dark vein with the piano playing a rising series of chords, piercing the longer-lined string parts. In no way is it an intermezzo in the Mendelssohnian sense. After some while, a menacing, highly dramatic slow march is introduced. One might imagine a gang of prisoners being paraded to the spot where their execution was to take place. Although the movement ends quietly, no sense of tranquility is created. The third movement, Allegro con sentimento—presto, quasi l’istesso tempo—meno mosso, is a loose set of variations. The main theme, very Brahmsian, is entrusted to the clarinet, which presents it in its entirety. The first variation has the piano elaborating upon it quietly. The horn is used tellingly to create a sense of weight in the slower variations. As the movement ends, the horn brings back the opening theme of the first movement which leads, without pause, directly to the brilliant finale, Allegro vivace, giocoso. Primarily written in the style of the European jazz of the 1930’s, the mood is playful and yet at the same time, the treatment is also serious. As one wag has written, the music sounds like an inebriated Viennese hotel band’s haphazard attempt to render Gershwin. Incredibly, right in the middle of the jazzy theme, a lopsided Viennese waltz is interjected, as if the musicians had suddenly become confused and lost their way, but continued nonetheless in a desperate attempt to save face. The coda is an extraordinary combination of the jazz elements, the waltz and the heroic opening theme.
This is an extraordinary work of the first magnitude. Here are four very striking movements, each quite different and yet interrelated. The part writing could not be better and one feels that nothing could be more natural than a work for piano, string trio, horn and clarinet. Of course, the exact opposite is true."---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. 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
We have reprinted the only edition ever made of this work. The piano part, which includes the five other parts as well, is huge. The original pubisher chose to make the piano staves and notes somewhat smaller than normal to save paper but the part is still over 100 pages in length. It is perfectly readable, but just not as large as one normally finds.
*** Please note the size of the piano part is such that the shipping costs to addresses outside the US requires us to add an extra amount to the price in addition to the standard shipping price which will be added in the shopping cart.