> ENESCU Violin Sonatas [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Violin Sonata No. 2 (1899)
Violin Sonata No. 3 (1926)
Violin Sonata - torso (1911)
Adelina Oprean (violin)
Justin Oprean (piano)
rec 11-13 Feb 1881 DDD


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Enescu has been on my 'to be explored' list ever since I heard one of his orchestral works. It was not the famous Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1 which I still find rather queazy. In fact it was a Radio 3 broadcast of an elderly Melodiya LP: the irrepressible Gennadi Rozhdestvensky conducted Enescuís First Symphony. The orchestra was the Moscow Radio SO and the performance (which I still have on tape somewhere) was nothing short of explosive - a terrific orgiastic blast of energy.

These sonatas are, as expected, more intimate but perhaps more enduring than the high calorific blast of the First Symphony. In fact the Second Sonata (dedicated to Thibaud) is contemporaneous with the Symphony. It is a songful piece in which the Rumanian composer takes on the manner of both Brahms (especially the first movement) and his teacher Fauré. There is an unfeigned carefree joie de vivre in the vif last movement to contrast with the smiling inwardness of the Tranquillo.

The so-called Torso movement dates from 1911. It is a florid rhapsodic piece striking attitudes betwixt Szymanowski and Elgar.

This leads us naturally to the hothouse character of the Third Sonata which has as much in common with the warm Sicilian hedonism of Szymanowski's King Roger as with Rumanian folk music. There is much mittel-European melisma, zigeuner flounce and Iberian zapateado. This could so easily have been a tired and hackneyed trot through the usual currency of gypsy eyes, glutinous serenades and flickering fires. Instead Enescu seems to search out the essence of his country's folkroots and from these synthesises a quasi-impressionistic language which looks in various directions: to Ravel's Tzigane, forward to Miklós Rózsa in the violin concerto and the avowedly Hungarian works and to Szymanowski of the Mythes and of Harnasie. The Opreans tear into this music with utmost commitment and emotional dedication. Listen to Adelina in the last four minutes of the mercurial and waywardly inventive finale of the Third Sonata. This is big and highly-coloured music.

Good notes from Noel Malcolm, Enescu's biographer (see Toccata Press).
Rob Barnett


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