In Ernst von Dohnányi’s Concert Piece, the cello plays only a few real solos. The work consists of three movements linked to each other with attaccas, transitioning from the moderate tempo of the first to the scherzo of the second, and then on to the final Adagio. Although the work was dedicated to the noted German cellist Hugo Becker, one can also surmise that the Hungarian composer was also “addressing” it to his own father, Frigyes Dohnányi, an outstanding cellist in his own right.
László Lajtha wrote his Fourth Symphony in 1951, during the darkest days of Hungary’s suffering under Stalinist leader Mátyás Rákosi. None of the horror of these circumstances shows up in this piece: instead, Lajtha wrote a brilliantly pure work full of serenity. The two quick movements, the Allegro molto and the Vivace, frame the dance-like meditation and melancholy of the Allegretto. The subtitle Spring fits especially to the final movement: written in a 6/8 time signature, it is an opulently scored circle dance of sweeping power.
Zoltán Kodály wrote his Concerto for Orchestra in 1939/40 after receiving a commission from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to write a composition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ensemble’s establishment. The work was premièred on 6 February 1941, under the baton of Frederick Stock. The work consists of a single sprawling movement spread across five sections: the thematic material of the beginning (Allegro moderato) reappears in the third and fifth sections. The second and fourth parts are a lyrical Largo.