Movement 1: Marcia (Allegro)
Movement 1: Marcia: Allegro
Movement 2: Romanza (Adagio non troppo)
Movement 2: Romanza: Adagio non troppo
Movement 3: Scherzo (Vivace)
Movement 3: Scherzo: Vivace
Movement 4: Tema con variazioni (Andante con moto)
Movement 4: Tema con variazioni: Andante con moto
Movement 5: Finale: Rondo
Movement 5: Rondo (Finale)
The Hungarian flavour is already apparent in the crisp opening Marcia, whose counter-melody, at once soulful and truculent, has an exotic Magyar character. In fact most of the remaining movements refer to the themes of the March in a more or less sublimated fashion. The following Romanza, with its long, shapely and evocative Hungarian-inflected melody, presented in clean textures and rising to a passionate climax, clearly foreshadows the music of Zoltán Kodály. Dohnányi later arranged this ternary-form movement for string orchestra, but it is in the trio form that we can sense the remarkable textural economy of the middle section, a passionate dialogue between violin and cello accompanied merely by arpeggios on the viola. The heart of the work is the vigorous and closely worked Scherzo, which has aspects of a full sonata form and is notable for its irregular rhythms, rapid figuration and deft fugal treatment of themes which are woven together in the final section.
The fourth movement is a set of five variations on a chorale-like theme (itself a variant of the Magyar melody from the March) which evoke an almost Schubertian lyricism. The Rondo Finale is perhaps the most Brahmsian movement in character. Towards the close the sonorous Magyar melody from the first movement makes an unexpected reappearance in its original form, satisfyingly binding the work together into a structural unity, although the formal brightness of the ending in C major is surely undercut by the tune’s melancholic protest.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2005