Ernst von Dohnanyi
String Quartet No.1 in A Major, Op.7
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.
Dohnanyi’s String Quartet No.1 in A Major, Op.7 was composed in 1899 and published in 1903. The opening movement, Allegro begins with a spacious and leisurely theme. A second theme is used to create a short scherzo-interludes. The second movement, Allegro grazioso, is an intermezzo consists of a theme and set of five variations. The third movement, Molto adagio con espressione, opens with a noble theme whose development becomes rhythmically quite intricate. The sriking finale, Vivace, is the most striking begins with a snakey melody, probably of Hungarian origin. A second theme, in which the lower three voices play double-stops creating a bagpipe-like effect, whilst the melody in the first violin recalls, the sound of oriental or Turkish music.
This quartet by one of the most important early 20th century composers, long unavailable, is suitable professionals and amateurs alike