Sam Van Hallgren

David Russell’s “Tiny Desk: Concert from NPR Music

During my set today, I played the finale from Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” played by the brilliant Scottish guitarist David Russell. Here’s more from Russell. This performance captured for the brilliant, intimate and unpretentious “Tiny Desk” series of concerts from NPR Music. (Check out Ozzy Ozbourne peaking over Russell’s shoulder from the cover of a book!)


Dohnanyi’s historic performance (video)

I’m playing Ernst von Dohnanyi’s “Symphonic Minutes” this afternoon, and wanted to share this video I found of the great Hungarian pianist and composer’s final public performance.
Beethoven’s Sonata No. 16 in G major. (Tallahassee, 1959)

In the 1950s and 60s, there was a kind of cottage industry in discovering (or re-discovering) and recording great blues innovators … I think of someone like Son House, who was credited with teaching Robert Johnson how to play guitar … he was found working in Rochester, NY factory. He hadn’t touched a guitar in years … so what does Son House have to do with the Hungarian pianist and composer Erno (or Ernst) von Dohnanyi? … By the early 20th century, Dohnanyi had earned a reputation as one of the great concert pianists of his era. As music director of the Budapest Philharmonic, he helped popularize the work of Zoltan Kodaly and former classmate Bela Bartok … but like many of his 20th century peers who fled war-torn Europe in the 30s and 40s, Dohnanyi ended up in the US. He spent the last decade of his life in relative obscurity teaching at Florida State University (you can visit his grave in Tallahassee). After a rare public performance in January, 1960, the 80 year-old Dohnanyi spent the last couple weeks of his life in a New York City recording studio, where his performances of Beethoven and Schubert sonatas were recorded for stereo LP.