On January 1, 2002 the Ernõ Dohnányi Archives of the Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest was officially founded by Hungarian Minister of National Cultural Heritage Zoltán Rockenbauer. This represented an unprecedentedly concrete step by the Hungarian government in rebuilding Dohnányi's heritage in his native country. The Dohnányi Archives’ initial collection of reproduced archival materials, including recordings, manuscripts, newspaper articles, and documentation of Dohnányi’s life-work from his late period (1949-1960), were gathered from sources in the United States by Dénes Legány (1965-2000) and were hitherto virtually unknown in Hungary. The Dohnányi Archives announced a broad range of goals, ranging from the facilitation of research for anyone interested in Dohnányi's life and work, the completion of a thematic catalogue of all of his compositions, publication of unpublished works, and planning and preparation of a complete works edition. The Archives’ first year was crowned by many successful events: two roundtable discussion sessions, a large-scale commemorative exhibition in the Museum of Music History, participation in foreign concerts, festivals, and international research, and significant expansion of its holdings through copies and loans from various private and public collections. In addition to initiating the current new annual periodical, the Dohnányi Archives coordinated and sponsored several independent research projects, the fruits of which are featured in this volume.
This occasion is more than a mere birthday celebration of the eldest of the three great composers, Ernõ Dohnányi, Béla Bartók, and Zoltán Kodály, who have come to represent Hungary’s rich and highly esteemed musical contribution to the world. The immediate philosophical implications are far deeper: this exhibit symbolizes the long-awaited homecoming of a world-class musician who repeatedly returned to his own country to work tirelessly in numerous capacities to elevate and enrich Hungary’s cultural milieu, despite having been often underappreciated and eventually maliciously slandered and blacklisted. A systematic, scholarly documentation of Dohnányi’s oeuvre has only recently begun with the establishment, by the Hungarian Ministry of National Cultural Heritage, of the Dohnányi Archives within the Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Despite the embarrassing gap left by the decades of ruthless silencing of Dohnányi’s music in Hungary, the organizers of this exhibit were nonetheless able to gather together under one roof a very significant number - as seen in the accompanying catalogue - of autograph manuscripts, photographs, posters, recordings, archival films, personal belongings, and other documents, testifying to the indestructibility of Dohnányi’s legacy. Hungary has finally come of age to the extent that she can accept and even rejoice at having been able to give to the world a natural talent of such distinction.
The Museum of Music History of the Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences presented an exhibit honoring the 125th anniversary of the birth of Ernõ Dohnányi from July 25 – September 30, 2002. This jubilee offered an opportunity to display publically for the first time a unique collection of documents and memorabilia lent specifically for the occasion by institutional and private collections throughout Hungary. A selection of photographs from the exhibit is published here as a supplement to the original commemorative catalogue.
This study challenges the much-heralded viewpoint accepted by many that Dohnányi and his elder colleague, violinist Jenõ Hubay (1858-1937) were primarily rivals. In fact, much of their relationship was characterized by mutual respect and even amiability. History has emphasized the relatively short period from 1919 to 1927, after the collapse of the short-lived proletarian government when Dohnányi, who had been named director of the National Hungarian Royal Academy of Music by the previous, but equally short-lived republican government, was suddenly replaced by Hubay. Dohnányi refused to return to the Academy on the terms of accepting demotion to the status of a mere faculty member, and it was not until he finally received the title and salary of honorary director in 1928 that he agreed to return to the institution. Dohnányi and Hubay first met in 1894, when Dohnányi became a student at the Academy and attended chamber music classes under Hubay’s tutelage. Shortly thereafter the two began concertizing together, and letters written by Hubay to his wife reveal the awe in which the elder artist held the young pianist and composer. Hubay’s letters are occasionally even tinged with envy, but from a broader perspective, their relationship grew, matured, and was characterized by a distinctive artistic integrity.
Dohnányi’s teaching activities at the National Hungarian Royal Academy of Music (today: Ferenc Liszt University of Music) were separated into two periods: the early period (1916 - 1919), when he returned to Hungary following ten years of teaching at the Berlin Music Academy, and the later period (1928 – 1944). The list featured here of Dohnányi’s official students, compiled from the Music Academy’s yearbooks, is an attempt to clarify much misinformation regarding who actually studied with Dohnányi in Budapest. No doubt many others also attended his master classes, and references can often be found to people who claim to have been a Dohnányi student but their names do not appear in the available documents. This study lists nineteen piano students from the early period (e.g. György Kosa, Miklós Schwalb), and twenty-nine piano students (e.g. Géza Anda, György Faragó, Annie Fischer, Andor Földes, Edward Kilényi) and eight composition students (e.g. Lajos Rajter, György Solti) from the later period. It also examines the repertoire performed by Dohnányi’s students, as well as the frequency of performance of Dohnányi’s compositions during the entire period, including the hiatus from 1919 - 1927.
The preposterousness of the entire slander campaign against Dohnányi is fully revealed here. The absurdity of the false claims can be traced back to a rumor that Dohnányi was obliged to shake hands with the Nazi puppet government president, Ferenc Szálasi, at the conclusion of a mandatory cultural conference in November, 1944. A photograph reprinted here from the archival newsreel of the conference in question reveals that Dohnányi in fact did not shake hands with Szálasi. The circumstances which lead to the inclusion of Dohnányi’s name on a preliminary list of “war criminals”, drafted in Debrecen in February of 1945, remain a mystery. Despite the fact that documents dating from as early as the spring of 1945 attested to Dohnányi’s innocence, certain persons and newspapers continued to spread the defamatory rumors. The author examines every possible complaint that could have been used against Dohnányi, and in each instance proves that no concrete evidence ever existed that could have provided a basis for the attacks.
This summary of a detailed research project, based on written documents as well as interviews with various Dohnányi descendants, explores the early origins of the Dohnányi family, who, from as far back as the 15th century, were landowners in the region of the White Carpathian Mountains where the village of Dohnány in Trencsén County is located. The genealogy of the Dohnányi family is traced back to György Dohnányi (1668-1749), who was awarded the rank of nobility in 1697 by King Leopold I for outstanding public service. Most of György’s descendants lived in Ószombat in Nyitra County, where Frigyes Dohnányi (1843-1909), Ernõ Dohnányi’s father, was also born. Although Ernõ Dohnányi’s immediate family moved to Budapest when Hungary’s borders were redrawn after World War I, other descendants of the family still live in the region today. Biographical sketches are also included of Dohnányi’s ancestors and descendants, as well as of Dohnányi’s maternal family, Szlabey, and the families of origin of his wives, Kunwald, Galafrés, and Zachár.
The villa on Széher Street in Buda, with its beautiful panoramic view, represented the fulfillment of Dohnányi’s lifelong dream to have a home of his own surrounded by a vast garden. This article, written by a relative of Dohnányi who still resides in the house today, traces the history of the purchase of the plot of land adjacent to that of Dohnányi’s good friend, Dr. Vilmos Manninger, and the building of the home to suit the needs of the multi-generational family and a musician’s lifestyle. Until 1928, when the family was finally able to move into the house, the internationally renowned Dohnányi had passed his fiftieth year, yet had only resided in rented living quarters. The new home on Széher Street quickly became the site of rich cultural activity, including Dohnányi’s Thursday afternoon piano master classes, BBC radio broadcasts, and regular gatherings of colleagues, artists, politicians, and various prominent members of society. With Dohnányi’s separation in 1940 from his wife, Elza Galafrés, he left his seemingly idyllic home, returning only intermittently until he fled Hungary permanently in November of 1944. In that same month Galafrés invited Dohnányi’s maternal relatives, the Dr. Ernõ Szlabey family, to move into the home. In a drastic change of scene, the villa became a haven for war refugees from Transylvania and even as far away as Estonia, and the rooms of the upper floors were filled with people as the war front advanced in late December, during the siege of Budapest. In an attempt to save the house from military confiscation, Dr. Szlabey converted the main floor level of the house into an urgently-needed maternity hospital, which opened officially on January 12, 1945 and remained in operation until 1950. Approximately 560 babies were born there during the five-year period. The state seized ownership of the maternity hospital in 1950, and of the remainder of the house in 1952. The building was divided into four apartments.
In this poetic tribute to the beautiful grounds surrounding the onetime Dohnányi villa on Széher Street, the author describes her first meeting with the garden, with its winding paths, staircases, trees, bushes, flower beds, large clearing, swimming pool, statues, and gardener’s house. Even today, the overgrown, neglected “jungle” still stirs the imagination, conjuring up a glimpse of the magic of the past. Dohnányi kept a botanical diary, in which he regularly took notes on the growth progress of the flowers he had selected and planted. This book is lost, as are so many other treasures. But the linden trees, birch trees, maple trees, and pine trees continued to offer inspiration to many who came later, including art philosopher Lajos Fülep (1885-1970), who moved into the main floor apartment in 1951. The garden, originally designed by landscape-horticulturist László Solty, defies categorization. Budapest was not a city known for its bourgeois gardens, as was, for example, Amsterdam. But Pozsony had had a centuries-old tradition of flourishing private gardens which served as sanctuaries for meetings of the minds and refreshment of the soul. “In addition to an artistic inclination and the discipline of liturgical music, Dohnányi also unknowingly brought with him the horticultural legacy from his native Pozsony.” Although the garden’s very existence has been threatened on numerous occasions by would-be developers, film-makers, and other prospecters, the concerted efforts of the residents have thus far been successful in thwarting any such encroachments. The hope is expressed that the Dohnányi garden will be renovated and designated a national historic site, in memory of the man who established it. “Those who build gardens have a vision of the future.”
Among the documents and memorabilia preserved by the Szlabey family in Dohnányi’s only home of his own in Hungary are at least 372 letters and postcards - ranging from 1897 to 1940, numerous photographs, concert programs, press clippings, several autograph manuscripts, other manuscripts and printed scores, and personal belongings, including Dohnányi’s alleged favorite conductor’s baton. This article concentrates primarily on the correspondence, which includes some 108 letters written to Dohnányi by family members, friends, colleagues, former students, and various persons who sought Dohnányi’s opinion of a musical score, for example, or who approached him with a direct request for financial assistance (these were frequent). Official correspondence includes contracts, concert requests, and invitations. The majority of the letters are in German, no doubt due to the fact that Elza Galafrés, who handled most of Dohnányi’s correspondence, had an extremely limited command of the Hungarian language. Among the most interesting letters in the collection are those written by Dohnányi to his parents, three of which are published here in full. The two childhood letters written by Dohnányi to his mother, née Ottilia Szlabey (summer, 1888 and July 11, 1889, Kis-Herestyén), describe the details of preparation and planning for what were presumably among Dohnányi’s earliest known public concerts, in Aranynos Marót (June? 28, 1888) and Léva (July 27, 1889 – on Dohnányi’s twelfth birthday). In the third letter, written to Frigyes Dohnányi (July 4, 1900, Budapest), Dohnányi requests that his father assent to his marriage to Elza Kunwald before he embarks on his next tour of America. Another noteworthy group of correspondence is that between Galafrés and her elder son János Huberman (Halli – Dohnányi’s adopted son). The many excerpts of letters that appear in this article give the reader a clear sense of the variety and importance of this hitherto unknown collection.
The Music Division of the National Széchényi Library in Budapest possesses the largest collection of autograph manuscripts and other documents pertaining to Ernõ Dohnányi’s lifework. Dohnányi’s Hungarian estate was officially donated in 1962 by the composer’s sister, Mrs. Ferenc Kováts (née Mária Dohnányi). A complete revision of the inventory of the materials in the collection began in the late 1990’s, and is still in process. The collection contains the autograph manuscripts of fifty-five works - many of which exist in several arrangements; published scores of approximately eighty compositions – a large percentage of which are dedicated first editions; some 1200 Hungarian and 2200 foreign-language newspaper articles; several hundred photographs, concert programs, and brochures; nearly 800 letters and other documents; recordings; and relics. The letters written by Dohnányi to family members, the great majority of which were written to his sister, can be divided into two groups: early childhood through 1917, and the approximately fifteen-year final emigration period, from late 1944. Four of Dohnányi’s letters are published here, each from a different period of his life: 1) to Mária Dohnányi, Kisherestyén? July 22-25, 1888; 2) to Frigyes Dohnányi, Budapest, September 21, 1894; 3) to Mária Dohnányi, Boston, April 2, 1900; and 4) to Mária Dohnányi, Berlin-Charlottenburg, July 28, 1915.
This discography is conceived as a comprehensive database that will be continuously updated. Arranged by composition, it features commercial recordings made by Dohnányi as both pianist and conductor, and as many recordings by other musicians as could be found. The list ranges from piano rolls dating from as early as 1904 to the most recent releases by today’s artists, and its ever-growing dimensions further affirm the idea that a Dohnányi renaissance is underway.
Reviews of four recently-published books about Ernõ Dohnányi:
Although the original edition of this monograph (Budapest: Zenemûkiadó 1971), which has long been out-of-print, served as one of the most important sources of information about Dohnányi for more than thirty years (the English version of the biography, for which Vázsonyi had been contracted in the late 1960‘s, was never published), this much-awaited second edition should have been reworked from a perspective of greater objectivity and clarity to address the needs of modern scholars. It is no longer necessary to fight so overtly for Dohnányi’s restoration into the annals of Hungarian music history: the composer’s music speaks for itself, and its growing popularity attests to the significance of Dohnányi’s contributions as seen from the perspective of several decades.
This biography, written by Dohnányi’s third wife, fills an important gap in the available English-language literature about the composer. Although it was not intended to serve as a reference book, the author made a sincere effort to draw as much as possible on firsthand sources in compiling the narrative, which is clearly divided into two parts: the first half covers the period from Dohnányi’s birth in 1877 until his first meeting with Ilona in 1937, while the second half is essentially a personal, autobiographical account of their years together. Strangely, the last six years of Dohnányi’s life are cryptically compressed into a two-page epilogue, after which a seemingly random selection of documents can be found in the appendices. Noteworthy among these are two of Dohnányi’s lectures, “Sight-Reading” and “Romanticism in Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas”, as well as an informative collection of letters and newspaper articles relating to Dohnányi’s political persecution.
It is commendable that the unjustly neglected composer, Ernõ Dohnányi, has been included in this important series, which seeks to fill the gap in scholarly information published about numerous Hungarian composers for whom up-to-date information would not otherwise be readily available. Yet because Dohnányi does not fall into any of the categories of the other composers featured in the series, and his importance far exceeds the strict, 32-page limit imposed throughout, a large-scale, comprehensive monograph of the composer remains a debt that should be addressed by Hungarian musicologists. This tersely-written handbook accomplishes the nearly impossible task of compressing a great deal of the most important information into a very small space. Because the focus is almost entirely on Dohnányi’s music, biographical details are only touched upon. Quotes from letters are employed with the utmost of economy. Through the brief structural analyses and highlighting of the most important characteristics of each given piece, the reader is prompted to seek out and study the music itself, and to further investigate the many potentially exciting ideas for research that emerge. The catalogue of works utilizes a new format that is easy to survey.
Although this volume is a welcome addition to the small amount of scholarly publications available on Dohnányi, it cannot be considered a conclusive study due to the unusually large number of errors and gaps in research. Like the other books in the Greenwood Press series, “Bio-Bibliographies in Music”, it follows a prescribed format featuring a brief biography, a list of works, a discography, and an annotated bibliography. In this instance it is primarily the last section that offers information of significant interest, and within that, the subsection devoted to contemporary reviews of Dohnányi’s compositions and performances is noteworthy. The brief descriptions for each entry are supplemented by a key sentence quoted from the article to capture its overall sentiment. This is not a complete list, but it is an important one, consisting of press clippings from some twenty-six scrapbooks that were compiled by Dohnányi’s family. It can be concluded that a project of this scope and complexity is not a one-person task, especially because Dohnányi scholarship is still in its infancy. International and institutional cooperation are essential to assure the utmost integrity in the future systematic, comprehensive cataloguing of all of the pertinent source materials relating to Dohnányi’s lifework, including press literature.