The most important work that Dohnányi based on Hungarian folk sources is the group of four compositions entitled Ruralia hungarica
which he published in 1924 as his opus 32. They have complex internal relations. Op 32a is a seven-movement suite for solo piano composed in 1923; he then arranged five of these movements as an orchestral suite, Op 32b (the best-known of the four works) that formed his contribution to the celebrations marking the fiftieth anniversary of the merging of the cities of Buda and Pest as Budapest. Two further Ruralia hungarica
compositions followed: Op 32c, for violin and piano, is partly a transcription of material in Opp 32a and 32b but has one entirely new movement; while Op 32d, for cello and piano, is based on that new movement and owes nothing to Opp 32a and 32b. Unusually for him, Dohnányi founded his Ruralia hungarica works on authentic Hungarian folksongs, chosen from a volume from Transylvania (which had been part of Hungary until ceded to Romania in 1920) that had been collected by Kodály and Bartók and also published as part of the Budapest celebrations.
The opening Presto is a transcription of the lively movement that comes second in both the solo piano and orchestral suites; likewise the concluding Molto vivace is an arrangement of the movement that stands as the finale in Opp 32a and 32b. Both of them function perfectly as virtuoso violin display pieces in this new instrumental context. The middle movement of Op 32c, however, is unrelated to the other Ruralia hungarica pieces. The designation ‘alla Zingaresca’ suggests that Dohnányi’s intention was to produce a piece in more traditional ‘Hungarian gypsy’ style, an interpretation that is borne out by the cimbalom imitations in the piano and the floridly rhapsodic violin-writing in this delicious movement, probably the romantic high-point of all Dohnányi’s violin compositions.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2010