Nash Ensemble Delight with Vaughan Williams and Dohnányi Rarities

Roger Jones for Seen and Heard International

“The Nash Ensemble’s final contribution to the Festival concert was Ernó Dohnányi’s Sextet, composed in 1935. The programme notes recall his many accomplishments as a pianist, conductor and teacher at the Budapest Academy of Music; he also promoted the work of Bartók and Kodály. One wonders why music of such quality and vigour is not better known, but presumably at the time it was dismissed as old-fashioned fare and compared unfavourably with the avant-garde works of Schoenberg, Berg and Bartók himself. Yet it is a flawless and enjoyable piece by a master orchestrator at the height of his powers. It begins dramatically with a dark mysterious horn theme until a lyrical viola melody dissipates the tension and generates calm. The Intermezzo begins with a soothing chorale but later the piano adopts a more martial tone – reflecting the growing tension in Europe in the Thirties, perhaps – but this eventually fades away. The Allegro con sentimento – a theme and variations introduced by the clarinet – was suitably varied, and was followed by a boisterous Finale with plenty of syncopation, puckish humour and zany dance forms, including a waltz. The normally very composed Nash Ensemble decided to let their hair down, with cellist Adrian Brendel grinning from ear to ear throughout, and the audience were borne along by the infectious rhythms. This elite ensemble never fails to impress with their musicianship, and tonight they exceeded everyone’s expectations by promoting two delightful rarities alongside established and much loved masterpieces.”

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