Christoph von Dohnanyi - Reviews


"Tempos generally were urgent, strings and winds well balanced, articulation crisp. The music spoke with winning directness." Mozart Symphonies and Beethoven Piano Concerto w/ CSO, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, June 10, 2016

"Mr. Dohnanyi, looking hale at 85, almost seemed at times to be playing an organ, pulling this or that stop to shift colorations seamlessly and blend sonorities smoothly." - Brahms's 'A German Requiem' w/ the New York Philharmonic, THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 4, 2016

“Christoph von Dohnányi conducted without a score, with remarkably economical gestures, and with general air of patrician authority. He avoided exaggeration, whether in dynamics or in tempi, and let the stately forms speak.“   - Last three Mozart symphonies w/ Boston Symphony, BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, March 20, 2015

“Dohnanyi tends to prefer moments of pathos and expressive drama to be elegantly telegraphed rather than emphatically underlined. There were highlights big and small, including the wonderful balance in the finale of No. 39 between instrumental detail and pure onrushing exuberance; the graceful lilt of the woodwind playing in the trio section of the third movement of No. 40; and the quietly glowing strings in the Andante Cantabile of the ‘Jupiter.‘ Dohnanyi can make even the smallest details speak.“   - Last three Mozart symphonies w/ Boston Symphony, THE BOSTON GLOBE, March 20, 2015

“The Boston Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Christoph von Dohnányi climbed that peak with energy and determination.“   - Last three Mozart symphonies w/ Boston Symphony, BOSTON CLASSICAL REVIEW, March 20, 2015

“Dohnanyi had the violins seated antiphonally, and led clear-eyed and thoughtful accounts... Dohnanyi played up the dynamic contrasts to striking effect.“   - Strauss and Mozart w/ the Boston Symphony, THE BOSTON GLOBE, March 13, 2015

“That clean and direct approach, with a gentle aspect, that characterizes much of Dohnanyi’s work also guided the German conductor in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony... The heart is not worn on the sleeve in Dohnanyi’s Tchaikovsky but that’s a perfectly fine antidote to too many overly ‘dramatic‘ and ‘romantic‘ versions.“   -lutoslawski, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky w/ Chicago Symphony, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, May 2, 2014

“He strove to reaffirm the beauties of Tchaikovsky‘s scoring and structure – to show us how the Sixth Symphony functions as music, not autobiography. And he succeeded. Conducting from memory, he relished the lyrical ebb and flow without swooning over it, pointed climaxes adroitly, balanced textures deftly.“   - Lutoslawski, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky w/ Chicago Symphony, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, May 2, 2014

“Conductor Christoph von Dohnányi, leading the piece without a score before him, launched the first movement with a brisk tempo that riveted both players and audience. I have rarely seen – or heard – the San Diego Symphony playing with so much concentrated clarity as it displayed in the opening pages of what may well be the most famous piece of music in the Western world.“   - Beethoven & Mozart w/ Emanuel Ax and San Diego Symphony, SAN DIEGO STORY, April 29, 2014

“Dohnányi did not present a sentimental, old-guy Fifth. He conducted as if he was a man with his hair on fire in search of water — and he has a lot of hair. The orchestra played in the same manner. It was a performance that never stopped moving forward. Dohnányi swept the music along and didn’t get caught up in trying to make sure the audience “got it.” No doubt, we got it. What was it we got? The most satisfying performance of Beethoven that I’ve heard from the orchestra.“   - Beethoven & Mozart w/ Emanuel Ax and San Diego Symphony, SAN DIEGO READER, April 28, 2014

“Exhilarating performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5... with such purpose, such joy, and such beauty, that it made you feel glad to be alive.“   - Beethoven & Mozart w/ Emanuel Ax and San Diego Symphony, U-T SAN DIEGO, April 25, 2014

“Mr. Dohnanyi, still vigorous at 84, led a magisterial account of Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C. In the slow introduction, he uncannily blended breadth of phrasing with suspenseful intensity. The Philharmonic strings dispatched the rippling figures of the scurrying Scherzo effortlessly for Mr. Dohnanyi. A calmly authoritative account of the pensive slow movement led to a surging, exuberant finale. Mr. Dohnanyi is always a welcome presence on the Philharmonic’s podium.“   - Brahms Piano Concerto & Schumann Symphony No. 2 w/ New York Philharmonic, THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 11, 2014

“Dohnányi, music director laureate of the Cleveland Orchestra, paced the opening of Brahms‘ Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn quickly, more like something you‘d whistle on a brisk country walk than hear in a concert hall - unlike the way Sawallisch heard it - but it fit. He etched with menacing fine details the slithering, nocturnal eighth variation, and gave a rather patriotic glow to the broad-shouldered finale.“   - Brahms, Weber and Beethoven w/ Philadelphia Orchestra, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, April 6, 2014

“Conducting from memory, Dohnányi concentrated on the big narrative of the work, making supple transitions between sections and molding its nuances like someone who knows his way around a familiar and cherished landscape... Dohnányi’s interpretation was broad and wide in its brush strokes.“   - Schumann Symphony Nos. 2 & 4 w/ Cleveland Orchestra, CLEVELAND CLASSICAL, April 3, 2014

“Conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi remains a powerful and beneficial influence, fully worthy of his specially created position. His performance with his old ensemble Thursday was superb, a brilliant reminder of his glory days at Severance Hall and a clear demonstration of the fond esteem in which the orchestra still holds its former maestro.“   - Schumann Symphony Nos. 2 & 4 w/ Cleveland Orchestra, THE PLAIN DEALER, March 28, 2014

“Beethoven’s ‘Leonore‘ Overture No. 1, led by Dohnanyi with a kind of cool-eyed diagrammatic clarity, one that allowed the work’s drama to build organically from its own disparate threads.“   - Beethoven Loenore Overtures & Piano Concertos w/ Boston Symphony, THE BOSTON GLOBE, March 21, 2014

“Dohnányi led the second “Leonore” overture as if to simulate Beethoven’s very working-out of the music: deliberately paced, transitions and resolutions slightly suspended, the main theme quietly testing itself out before fully bursting forth, the offstage trumpet call emerging like a fortuitous inspiration.“   - Beethoven Loenore Overtures & Piano Concertos w/ Boston Symphony, THE BOSTON GLOBE, March 17, 2014

“[Dohnányi and Bronfman] gave full weight to its moments of breathtaking novelty.“   - Beethoven Loenore Overtures & Piano Concertos w/ Boston Symphony, THE BOSTON GLOBE, March 14, 2014

“His performance of Ein Heldenleben... was a striking achievement... Dohnányi offered us something altogether more sympathetic and emotionally complex.“   - Ein Heldenleben and Beethoven First Piano Concerto w/ Philharmonia Orchestra, THE GUARDIAN, March 2, 2014

“Dohnanyi rose to meet his own goals, bringing out the music’s many intricacies but rendering them into a meaningfully organic whole.“   - Mahler Symphony 2, Boston Symphony, THE BOSTON GLOBE, September 27, 2013

“Dohnányi projects a sense of accumulated insight in his approach to so much Austro- German repertoire, evident in everything from his control of large-scale symphonic rhetoric (the coda of the finale landed with particular force) to the way he attends to the innumerable small details of balance and phrasing that inform an artful performance.“  - Brahms Double and Symphony #2, Boston Symphony, THE BOSTON GLOBE, September 23, 2013

“For something completely different, Dohnányi turned the symphony’s Allegretto grazioso into a showpiece for the orchestra’s virtuosity in leggiero playing at fast tempos, exceeding the speed limit just a bit in the dainty first section, then whirling away in an impossibly fast, precise, and exhilarating Presto.“   - Brahms Double and Symphony #2, Boston Symphony, BOSTON CLASSICAL REVIEW, September 22, 2013

“Dohnanyi’s conducting continues to be a marvel in its precision of musical intention, and here he seemed to also be feeding off of the youthful energy and commitment radiating from every corner of this orchestra.“   - Mahler and Mozart w/ Emanuel Ax at Tanglewood, THE BOSTON GLOBE, August 19, 2013

“If Dohnányi and Sawallisch shared anything as musicians, it is surely their ability to convey authority and a certain appreciation for holding drama in reserve.“   - Philadelphia Orchestra w/ pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, March 11, 2013

“Conducting from memory, Dohnanyi proved an expert if somewhat impersonal guide to that geography. Bruckner’s symphonies are of course deeply spiritual scores for some of their staunchest champions, but Dohnanyi clearly takes a different approach. Here is the professor of architecture visiting the cathedral to show visitors its beauty but not to worship.“   - Mozart Piano Cto w/ Radu Rupu & Bruckner 4, Boston Symphony, THE BOSTON GLOBE, February 15, 2013

“At 83, he exudes a rare authority on the podium and can be trusted to produce not only lucid accounts of complex pieces, but dynamic, unshowy performances of traditional repertory.... the performance did all the little things right. Dohnanyi knows how to maintain and relax the music’s dynamic tension, how to sculpt phrases so that they have both shape and solidity, how to keep the balances in check with a large string section.“   - Brahms, Sibelius and Beethoven, Boston Symphony Orchestra, THE BOSTON GLOBE, February 8, 2013

“The overall performance was textured and crisp. During genial passages the playing was breezy and glowing. But Mr. Dohnanyi, without being a bit didactic, brought out harmonic depth and intricate details. Maybe, this performance suggested, there is more to this sprightly overture than we assume.“   - Beethoven week w/ New York Philharmonic, THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 1, 2013

"This was a night for thinking festive anniversary thoughts. And it was not hard to do so with the insightful Christoph von Dohnanyi on the podium, a conductor who has delivered some of the most rewarding Tanglewood concerts in recent seasons…Dohnanyi's ear for detail and his preference for lean textures kept his Fifth from tipping over into the land of flabby orchestral cliché. No matter how well you think you know this music, he seemed to say, there's always something new to hear."   - Beethoven program at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, THE BOSTON GLOBE, July 7, 2012

"On the podium this week is the eminent German conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi, one of the most reliably insightful of the BSO's frequent guests.... He commands authority without grand gestures. Last night he led an eloquent, wisely shaped performance that seemed true to the gentle spirit of this requiem."   - Brahm‘s Requiem review, Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Globe, April 6, 2012

"The program ended with a stellar performance of Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique" Symphony, one of the few pieces the intensely self-critical composer felt satisfied with. Mr. Dohnanyi led a stirring, full-blooded interpretation that swept the listener along for its near-50-minute duration. He avoided sentimentality without shying away from the work's heart-on-sleeve emotionalism."   - Schnittke, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky concert, NY Philharmonic, THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 30, 2012

"Mr. Dohnanyi led a colorfully nuanced and energetic performance of this glittering work. After murky rumblings in the strings, the Fugue depicts the conflict between reason and emotion. The riotous Maenads' Dance unfolds with an urgency like that of "Rite of Spring."   - “The Bassarids” and Schubert’s Symphony No.9, NY Philharmonic, THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 23, 2012

"Presenting Beethoven's "Choral" Symphony No. 9 and a pair of shorter works, the music director laureate offered definitive reminders of his titanic artistry and status, marshaling vast forces in performances of unflagging zeal and allure. At times, well before the music ended, the sold-out crowd seemed poised to leap to its feet."   - Cleveland Symphony, Beethoven‘s Symphony No. 9, works by Ligeti and Wagner, THE PLAIN DEALER, March 9, 2012

"In the lucid and refined performance Mr. Dohnanyi drew from the Philharmonic, the symphony came through as a stirring and original work. The first movement was vigorous and urgent but never rushed or overly Romantic, so that all the inner voices came through with contrapuntal clarity. Mr. Dohnanyi brought lyrical grace to the Romance, sweeping energy to the scherzo and welcome coherence to the episodic finale...The orchestra under Mr. Dohnanyi, who has few equals in Brahms, played superbly."   - New York Philharmonic, Jörg Widman, Schumann, Brahms, New York Times, January 14, 2012

"Dohnanyi and the orchestra closed up the night with a focused and forceful account of Beethoven's "Eroica'' Symphony. Dohnanyi's grasp of this score is masterful, and the details, pacing, and dynamics all fell into place. The second movement's funeral march was particularly arresting, played with a freshness of conception as if nothing could be taken for granted. And it was good to be reminded by the applause after the first movement: For some in the audience, this really was a premiere."   - Beethoven’s “Eroica’’ Symphony, Boston Globe, August 20, 2011

"The distinguished German conductor had the orchestra playing at very near the top of its form, and he had the estimable Emanuel Ax as soloist for both Brahms piano concertos, sealing the success of the concerts Thursday and Friday nights. Seldom has standard Teutonic repertory felt less standard, in terms of both execution and interpretation...One must hope, on the evidence of the two Brahms programs, that the summer management invites Dohnanyi back at the earliest opportunity."   - Brahms Programs at Ravinia, Chicago Symphony, John von Rhein for THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, July 16, 2011

"Dohnanyi directed with innate authority in a fluent, refined performance that yet had vital power and combustibility. Rarely will one hear all the variegated aspects of this work come across so vividly and with such eloquence and dramatic impact."   - Brahms Symphony 2, Piano Cto. 1 with Emanuel Ax, Chicago Symphony at Ravinia, The Chicago Classical , July 15, 2011

"The performance closed with Dvorak's Seventh Symphony, which Dohnanyi - conducting from memory, as he had all evening - rendered with considerable insight. After his decades-long tenure as leader of the Cleveland Orchestra ended in 2002, Dohnanyi has made frequent guest appearances here and at Tanglewood, and the orchestra's musical activities are thus enriched. He shaped the work carefully, rather than forcibly, and the orchestra responded with enthusiasm. "   - Boston Symphony, Ligeti Double Cto, Mozart Violin Cto No.4, Dvorak 7th Symphony, The Boston Herald, January 29, 2011

"The Boston Symphony Orchestra had never performed Ligeti's Double Concerto until last night in Symphony Hall, but the orchestra was in good hands. This week's guest conductor is Christoph von Dohnányi, who led the piece's 1972 world premiere in Berlin and worked with the composer closely. This, incidentally, is the best kind of guest conductor programming: a visiting maestro bringing repertoire in which he has something truly distinctive to contribute...Dohnányi led a performance of great textural sensitivity."   - Boston Symphony, Ligeti Double Cto, Mozart Violin Cto No.4, Dvorak 7th Symphony, The Boston Globe, January 28, 2011

"On his third appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra since stepping down as music director in 2002, the credit for a splendid evening at Severance Hall belongs to Dohnanyi entirely."   - The Cleveland Orchestra, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Widmann, The Plain Dealer, January 7, 2011

"This performance, under the ever-welcome Christoph von Dohnányi, now the Philharmonia Orchestra's Honorary Conductor for Life, was fresh and visionary."   - Weber, Schumann, Brahms, Philharmonia Orchestra, ClassicalSource.com, December 4, 2010

"In no other recording of the Bach/Webern Ricercare do the blended brass and woodwind voicings so vividly evoke the edgy, tart sonorities that characterize many Baroque organs...the best Webern orchestral disc ever"   - Reissue Decca Complete Webern Orchestral disc, Cleveland Orchestra, ClassicsToday.com, July 12, 2010

"His performance of Brahms' Symphony No. 1 evinces great stalwartness, a keen vision realized by means of active engagement with every corner of the ensemble...seething intensity, a bold rendition whose main themes scorch the aural retina and whose developments steadily and forcefully thrust the listener forward. Hold out for an Andante that's as deeply organic as it is fulfilling."   - Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Cleveland Orchestra, The Plain Dealer, April 2, 2010

"The orchestra's playing was pert and lively in the outer movements [Mozart Sinfonia Concertante]; the central Andante was saturated with a mesmerizing glow. With the orchestra at full muster, Mr. Dohnanyi offered an account of Bruckner's Symphony No. 4, notable for its keenly illuminated architecture, showing a sovereign control in pacing and transitions."   - Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, Bruckner Symphony 4, New York Philharmonic, The New York Times, December 11, 2009

"Schumann's Symphony No. 2 was an unqualified success, affirming Dohnanyi's status as a leading interpreter of the composer's difficult scores. There have been more pliant and glowing performances of this work, but never have I heard it rendered with such unrelenting drive and laser-guided vigor."   - Mozart K.414 with Paul Lewis, Bartok, Schumann, Chicago Symphony, The Chicago Tribune, November 21, 2009

"In Dohnányi's conducting - never remotely showy - it is the clarity of his approach and his inclination to underline the natural democracy of Brahms's orchestral writing that is absorbing."   - Philharmonia Orchestra, St. David‘s Hall, Cardiff, The Guardian, October 20, 2009