Tonight’s first work to be performed is by Ernő Dohnányi, after whom our orchestra is named. Ernő Dohnányi was a dominant figure in Hungarian musical life for about three decades in the first half of the last century. He was a pianist, a composer, a conductor and a music teacher, professor and later director of the Liszt Academy of Music. First, the overture to his juvenile comedy opera entitled Tante Simona (Aunt Simona) will be played by the orchestra. The opera premièred in Dresden in 1912, and its performance continued to great acclaim on German stages in the following decade. The Hungarian première did not take place until 1933, but by then the public’s taste had turned to a different style, and the opera was soon out of the repertoire. The plot of the opera features Aunt Simona who lives alone in an old Italian villa with her niece and her caretaker. When she was young, Aunt Simona was abandoned at the altar by her fiancé, and since then she has hated men and kept them away from her villa. Thus, it is only in secret that her niece can meet and spend time with her lover, who pretends to be a mute gardener in Aunt Simona’s service. By the end of the opera, of course, Aunt Simona is no longer single, the runaway fiancé turns up, and the former lovers are reunited. This time only the overture will be performed, in which the musical influence of Wagner and Strauss can be felt. There are three themes running through the overture, which then recur in the fabric of the opera, one of which is linked to the old lovers, Aunt Simona and her fiancé, another motif is linked to the young couple, and the third is associated with the idea of desire.
It is well known that BDO regularly performs works by contemporary Hungarian composers in order to make contemporary music known and loved as widely as possible. Tonight’s concert features a work by Rezső Ott, whose Bassoon Concerto was played by the orchestra in the last season. Rezső Ott graduated from the Academy of Music with a degree in bassoon and later in composition. And although he graduated as a “classical musician”, pop music has been an integral part of his life since his youth; he even founded a rock band. Accordingly, in addition to composing, he often takes on orchestration tasks for well-known pop music groups and artists. His work as a classical musician and composer has also been recognised by several awards. This evening the composer’s Concerto No. 3B will be performed.
The final piece of the concert will be Dvořak‘s last ‘European’ symphony, Symphony No. 8. Dvořák composed this work in the span of two and a half months when he retired to his country house in the summer of 1889. He wrote the symphony on the occasion of his appointment to the Prague Academy and conducted it himself in Prague in 1890. The work was a great success and was later performed in Frankfurt, Cambridge and in other European cities. He wrote a serene symphony, reflecting the idyllic atmosphere of rural tranquillity, with lavish orchestration, a richly motivic score based on Czech folk music, and a captivating, joyful finale.
Tonight our orchestra is conducted by Oliver von Dohnányi, a member of the Dohnányi family. The conductor was born on 2 March 1955 in Trenčín, Slovakia. He studied violin and conducting at the Music Academy in Prague and in Vienna. He has been a finalist in numerous international conducting competitions, won the Italian Premio Respighi and in 2018 he was awarded the Golden Mask, the highest prize of the Russian National Theatre, in the category “Best Opera Conductor”.
He has made several recordings, conducted many opera productions and international tours. He has worked with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, as music director of the Slovak National Theatre and the National Theatre in Prague, and with many renowned ensembles in Europe, America and Asia. He is a regular guest conductor of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatsoper Stuttgart, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Ekaterinburg Opera House, the New Zealand Opera House and the Croatian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Since the 2015/2016 season, Oliver von Dohnányi has been the Principal Conductor of the Ural Opera Ballet in Ekaterinburg.