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Dohnányi wrote no more operas after Tovey's article and only one more piece of chamber music, the Op 37 Sextet. The wonder is that he composed anything at all. A superb pianist from his earliest years, Dohnányi (1877-1960) was in constant demand throughout Europe and across the Atlantic. In his native land (he was born in what is now Bratislava, that most musical of cities), after praise from Brahms and cooperation with Joachim, Dohnányi was powerfully engaged in Hungarian musical life. He taught piano and became director at the Budapest Academy, conducted the Philharmonic Orchestra, and was musical director of Hungarian radio. Bartók claimed that Hungarian music rested largely on Dohnányi's shoulders.

Apolitical himself, Dohnányi was at the mercy of successive upheavals within Hungary, where he stayed until 1944; he then escaped with his future third wife and author of this monologue, to Austria. One son, father of the conductor Christoph von Dohnányi, was executed by the Nazis, another died in Russian captivity; yet for the best part of ten years Dohnányi's career was blighted by rumours of pro-Nazi sympathies, anti-Semitism, and anti-Communist pronouncements. Their venom can be sampled in the book's Appendices. In the chaos of post-war Europe and cooped up in rural Austria amid wretched privations, he completed a Second Symphony and Second Piano Concerto, though forbidden as a 'war criminal' to appear at the Salzburg Festival.

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Copyright © 13 July 2003 Robert Anderson, London, UK


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