Back when I was a kid, I "cut my teeth" on the Julius Katchen/Sir Adrian Boult recording of the "Nursery Tune Variations" on London/Decca. Actually, there were two of them -- the earlier monaural recording was successful enough that a stereo remake came along in the early 1960s.
The Katchen recording still deserves a place of honor -- and I still have it in my collection. But among the newer recordings of the Variations, you can't go wrong with this splendid interpretation by pianist Eldar Nebolsin, ably supported by JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. In some respects, pianist Nebolsin brings out more contrast in the (deliberately) contrasting sections that Ernst von Dohnanyi incorporated into this music -- from the "sturm-und-drang" introduction to the Viennese waltz sequence, the "clattering bones" scherzo, and the pathos of the passacaglia. (One must remember that composer Dohnanyi had "tongue firmly in cheek" as he created each of these elaborate variations on the simple "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" theme.)
Conductor Falletta and the BPO provide rich and sympathetic accompaniment in the Variations. Maestra Falletta is a Dohnanyi specialist -- and it clearly shows here. (She is also featured in another NAXOS disk of the two Violin Concerti of Dohnanyi -- an equally impressive recording.)
For the remaining works on the program, I am particularly impressed with the "Suite in F-Sharp." This music used to be quite popular on concert programs "back in the day." In fact, the first recording of this music dates back to the early 1930s when RCA Victor recorded it with Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In the early years of stereo, the Sir Malcolm Sargent and Milton Katims recordings were the ones to have. Here, Maestra Falletta and the BPO turn in a superlative performance, wonderfully rich and vital. Even the third movement (Romance), sometimes overshadowed by the outer movements as well as the puckish Scherzo movement, is revealed here to be quite the musical gem.
Falletta and the BPO are equally effective in the shorter suite "Symphonic Minutes," which again presents Dohnanyi's mastery of melody and orchestration -- capped by a thrilling final Rondo which seems a whole lot faster than it could ever be danced to ("prestissimo" is more like it!).
As for recent alternative readings of these works to choose from, in my opinion the only other recording that seriously rivals this program is Matthias Bamert's Chandos recording with the BBC Philharmonic. (That one contains the "Nursery Variations" with Howard Shelley along with the "Suite in F-Sharp"; for the "Symphonic Minutes," you'll have to purchase a different Bamert recording that also contains Dohnanyi's Symphony No. 2, another fine composition from the composer's later years.)
The tie-breaker might be the fact that NAXOS's midline price beats Chandos by a mile -- so particularly for those who may not be very familiar with the music of Dohnanyi, I can't think of a better place to start than here.