DOHNÁNYI Ernst von, Sextet in C Op.37
Allegro con sentimento
Presto, quasi l’istesso tempo
Born in Hungary, Dohnányi’s early compositions had been praised by Brahms, and he always had a strong sense of being part of the Austro-German Romantic tradition. In this respect he was very different from his classmate at the Budapest Academy, Béla Bartók, but his music is always beautifully crafted and has very individual harmonic touches. The Sextet for piano, violin, viola, cello, clarinet and horn was completed on 3 April 1935 and it is the most unusually scored of his chamber works. It was first performed in Budapest on 17 June 1935, with the composer at the piano, and received warm reviews. One critic specifically praised the unusual choice of instruments, commenting that ‘the combination … is neither coincidental nor arbitrary.’
The musical structure is unified by Dohnányi’s use of a dramatic rising motif – often on the horn – that is first heard right at the start. The first movement is brooding and tense, but ends with hope (the rising motif returning in triumph). The Intermezzo includes a rather sinister march, while the third movement is a set of variations that includes one that is scherzo-like. This leads directly into the finale – an almost dizzyingly ebullient movement which suggests a kind of jazzed-up Brahms.
Nigel Simeone © 2011