Dohnányi, Ernst (Erno) Von

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Dohnányi, Ernst (Ernő) Von

Dohnányi, Ernst (Ernő) von, eminent Hungarian pianist, composer, conductor, and pedagogue, grandfather of Christoph von Dohnanyi; b. Pressburg, July 27, 1877; d. N.Y., Feb. 9,1960. He began his musical studies with his father, an amateur cellist; then studied piano and theory with Karoly Forstner. In 1894 he entered the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest, where he took courses in piano with Thoman and in composition with Koessler. In 1896 he received the Hungarian Millennium Prize, established to commemorate the thousand years of existence of Hungary, for his sym. He graduated from the Academy of Music in 1897, and then went to Berlin for additional piano studies with d’Albert. He made his debut in a recital in Berlin on Oct. 1,1897; on Oct. 24,1898, he played Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto in London; then followed a series of successful concerts in the U.S. Returning to Europe, he served as prof, of piano at the Hochschule für Musik in

Berlin (1908–15). He then returned to Budapest, where he taught piano at the Royal Academy of Music; served briefly as its director in 1919, when he was appointed chief conductor of the Budapest Phil. In 1928 he became head of the piano classes at the Academy of Music; in 1934 he became its director. In 1931 he assumed the post of music director of the Hungarian Radio. As Hungary became embroiled in the events of World War II and partisan politics that invaded even the arts, Dohnanyi resigned his directorship in 1941, and in 1944 he also resigned his post as chief conductor of the Budapest Phil. Personal tragedy also made it impossible for him to continue his work as a musician and teacher: both of his sons lost their lives; one of them, the German jurist Hans von Dohnanyi, was executed for his role in the abortive attempt on Hitler’s life; the other son was killed in combat. Late in 1944 he moved to Austria. At the war’s end, rumors were rife that Dohnanyi used his influence with the Nazi overlords in Budapest to undermine the position of Bartok and other liberals, and that he acquiesced in anti-Semitic measures. But in 1945 the Allied occupation authorities exonerated him of all blame; even some prominent Jewish-Hungarian musicians testified in his favor. In 1947–48 he made a tour of England as a pianist; determined to emigrate to America, he accepted the position of piano teacher at Tucuman, Argentina; in 1949 he became composer-in-residence at Fla. State Univ. in Tallahassee.

Dohnanyi was a true virtuoso of the keyboard, and was greatly esteemed as a teacher; among his pupils were Solti, Anda, and Vazsonyi. His music represented the terminal flowering of European Romanticism, marked by passionate eloquence of expression while keeping within the framework of Classical forms. Brahms praised his early efforts. In retrospect, Dohnanyi appears as a noble epigone of the past era, but pianists, particularly Hungarian pianists, often put his brilliant compositions on their programs. His most popular work with orch. is Variations on a Nursery Song’, also frequently played is his Orch. Suite in F-sharp minor. Dohnanyi himself presented his philosophy of life in a poignant pamphlet under the title Message to Posterity (Jacksonville, Fla., 1960).


DRAMATIC Der Schkier der Pierrette, pantomime (1908–09; Dresden, Jan. 22, 1910); Tante Simona, comic opéra (1911–12; Dresden, Jan. 10, 1913); A vajda tornya (The Tower of the Voivod), opéra (1915–22; Budapest, March 19, 1922); Der Tenor, comic opéra (1920–27; Budapest, Feb. 9,1929). ORCH.: 1 unnumbered sym. (1896; Budapest, June 3, 1897); 2 numbered syms.: No. 1 (1900–1901; Manchester, Jan. 30, 1902) and No. 2 (1943–4; London, Nov. 23, 1948; rev. 1953–56; Minneapolis, March 15, 1957); Zrinyi, overture (1896; Budapest, June 3, 1897); 2 piano concertos: No. 1 (1897–98; Budapest, Jan. 11, 1899) and No. 2 (1946–47; Sheffield, England, Dec. 3, 1947); Konzertstuck for Cello and Orch. (1903–04; Budapest, March 7, 1906); Suite (1908–09; Budapest, Feb. 21, 1910); Variationen iiber ein Kinderlied for Piano and Orch. (1913; Berlin, Feb. 17, 1914, composer soloist); 2 violin concertos: No. 1 (1914–15, Copenhagen, March 5, 1919) and No. 2 (1949–50; San Antonio, Jan. 26, 1952); Unnepi nyitdny (Festival Overture; 1923); Ruralia hungarica (Budapest, Nov. 17, 1924, composer conducting); Szimfonikus percek (Symphonic Minutes; 1933); Suite en valse (1942–3); Concertino for Harp and Chamber Orch. (1952);

American Rhapsody (1953; Athens, Ohio, Feb. 21,1954, composer conducting). CHAMBER : 2 piano quintets (1895, 1914); 3 string quartets (1899, 1906, 1926); Cello Sonata (1899); Serenade for String Trio (1902); Violin Sonata (1912); Sextet for Piano, Clarinet, Horn, and String Trio (1935); Aria for Flute and Piano (1958); Passacaglia for Flute (1959). Piano : 4 Pieces (1896–97); Waltz for Piano, 4-Hands (1897); Variations and Fugue on a Theme of E(mma) G(ruber) (1897); Gavotte and Musette (1898); Passacaglia (1899); 4 rhapsodies (1902–03); Winterreigen, 10 bagatelles (1905); Humoresken in Form einer Suite (1907); 3 Pieces (1912); Fugue for Piano, Left-Hand or 2-Hands (1913); Suite im alien Stil (1913); 6 Concert Etudes (1916); Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song (1917); Pastorale, Hungarian Christmas song (1920); Suite en valse for 2 Pianos (1945); 6 Pieces (1945); 3 Singular Pieces (1951); didactic pieces. VOCAL: Magyar hiszekegy (Hungarian Credo) for Tenor, Chorus, and Orch. (1920); Missa in Dedicatione Ecclesiae (Mass of Szeged) for Soloist, Chorus, Organ, and Orch., for the consecration of Szeged Cathedral (Szeged, Oct. 25, 1930); Cantus vitae, symphonic cantata (1939–41); Stabat Mater for 3 Soloists, Children’s Chorus, and Orch. (1952–53; Wichita Falls, Tex., Jan. 16, 1956); songs.


V. Papp, D. £. (Budapest, 1927); M. Reuth, The Tallahassee Years of E. v.D. (diss., Fla. State Univ., 1962); B. Vazsonyi, D. E. (Budapest, 1971).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Dohnányi, Ernst (Erno) Von

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