The violin concertos of
Ernö von Dohnányi -
'... a very impressive performance.'
It is not only under its present egregious president that the USA has taken leave of its senses. In 1940 Charlie Chaplin launched one of film's finest productions, brilliantly lampooning Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator; his reward was exile from America in 1952. Dohnányi, pianist and composer of outstanding gifts, welcomed as a worthy scion of the Classical tradition by Brahms, Joachim and Donald Tovey, became a refugee to the New World after the Second World War. He had lost a son apprehended in an abortive plot against Hitler; but in the States he was subjected to a malicious whispering campaign that for long wrecked his chances of a successful new career.
While saluting music's path-breakers, one is equally grateful to those building constructively on the past. In the fulness of time a Bach and Brahms achieve Classic status. So it will be with Dohnányi, whose lifetime's work fell under the shadow of Bartók and Kodály (he promoted both of them unstintingly), and even if his opus numbers total less than fifty spread over more than sixty years. Born in what is now Bratislava, as musical a city as any in Europe and for some time the Hungarian capital, he came under the influence of the Cathedral organist, and doubtless wondered as a boy at the towering statue of St Martin dividing his cloak with the beggar that previously backed the high altar.
Copyright © 8 June 2008
Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt