Reviews of Dvorak, Martinu and Dohnanyi CD releases


DVORAK, MARTINU: Kahánek / Bamberg Symphoniker / Hrusa (Supraphon SU 4236-2) ★★★★★

Stephen Hough sees Dvorak's piano concerto as a "glorious lyrical work" yet as "a concerto for ten thumbs". The soloist's part is amazingly awkward, Dvorak was no piano virtuoso, but without the reward of exciting keyboard fireworks – its not an adversarial work. The pianist is a first among equals and the Czech pianist Ivo Kahánek, like Hough, plays it that way and reveals its many felicities. The Andante sostenuto movement has one of Dvorak's irresistible melodies – sample it and doubts will be overcome. Kahánek's teamwork with the Bamberg players, under his attentive countryman Jakub Hrusa, is ideal. Hough, live with the CBSO on Hyperion, paired Dvorak with Schumann but Kahánek's choice of Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu's two-movement Piano Concerto No.4 "Incantation" (1956) is a more illuminating one. Soloist and orchestra interweave seamlessly in its spiky lyricism and crisp rhythms, while the chirruping woodwind is reminiscent of Bartok's mysterious night music.

Norman Stinchcombe

DOHNANYI: Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz / Paternostro (Capriccio C5386) ★★★★

We seldom hear the music of Hungarian composer Ernö von Dohnanyi – the German form Ernst is used on the CD cover – in our concert halls. He's well represented on disc though and this release, with some sparkling playing under vastly experienced conductor Roberto Paternostro, is very welcome. The Symphony No.1 in D minor dates from 1901 when the composer was twenty-four and is rather Brahmsian with just a dash of something more modern. At more than fifty minutes and in five movements, with both a lively scherzo and charming intermezzo, it's over-long but the young Dohnanyi uses his big orchestral forces with great skill and those with a taste for late romantic music will enjoy it. The Symphonic Minutes, a suite of five short pieces, is a real gem (delightfully played) with a suave miniature rhapsody– and who could resist a caprice the composer wanted played "as vivaciously as possible".

Norman Stinchcombe

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