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George ENESCU (1881-1955)
CD 1

Romanian Rhapsodies: No. 1 in A major (1901); No. 2 in D major (1901) [11:46] [11:02]
Poème Roumain Op. 1 (1897) [28:32]
Suite No. 3 in D major Suite Villageoise Op. 27 (1937) [26:44]
CD 2

Suite No. 1 in C major Op. 9 (1903) [29:32]
Suite No. 2 in C major Op. 20 (1915) [26:39]
Symphonie Concertante Op. 8 (1903) [22:59]
Franco Maggio-Ormezowski (cello) Op. 8
Jean-Paul Barrellon (oboe) Op. 8
male voices of Choeur de l'Orchestre Colonne and Ensemble Audite Nova de Paris/Jean Sourisse
Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo/Lawrence Foster
rec. Palais de Congrès, Monte-Carlo, June 1983 and July 1984. DDD
WARNER APEX 2564 62032-2 [78:04 + 79:10]


Here are two discs packed with music fit to burst. Better still; they are offered at bargain price.

Could I refer you to Evan Dickerson's guide to the recorded orchestral Enescu . His frame of reference is wide and will guide you. My impressions are from a more limited Enescu perspective.

Foster is no Mravinsky or Stokowski or Golovanov. His approach is more expansive; more relaxed. Accordingly the two Rhapsodies while they do have flashes of temperament are not explosive. Instead they respond well to a suave and lyrical flow superbly paced by Foster. The Poème Roumain (a very early and unusually extended work), written at the same age that Korngold wrote his Sinfonietta, is surprisingly Brahmsian and tawnily autumnal. It becomes more nationalistically turbulent towards the close.

Then come the three orchestral suites. They are dotted throughout his musical life. The Third Suite is an affectionate series of brightly coloured rustic vignettes. Some of these are nostalgic; e.g. The old childhood house at sunset tr. 6 and the magical River in the moonlight. Others, like the finale, are infused with dance material and the solo violin takes it accustomed role evocative of the village fiddler. The suite is in three moments. Foster makes a conscious decision not to put the pedal to the floor.

The First Suite employs pure monody across its initial movement entitled Prélude à l'unisson. The Menuet Lent (tr. 2) features a discreetly crooning viola solo. The Intermède has a warmly centred, sincere and nonchalantly strolling gait. The finale is rousing - a sort of Romanian furiant. The Suite No. 2 rejoices in baroque titles for its six movements. Use is also made of an orchestral piano. The shadow of Bach and even of Handel peeps out from most corners. Other reference comparisons might include Warlock's Capriol and Moeran's Serenade. Both the Air and the Sarabande are affecting and consolatory pieces.

The poetic Symphonie Concertante is the closest Enescu came to writing a cello concerto. It is presented in a single track. The music has a discursive and smilingly rhapsodic Delian flow which in this recording, even when the music becomes animated, is broad rather than rapid.

Do you respond to Enescu poetically sustained? Can you live with Foster's well supported and well upholstered Brahmsian textures - and these are convincingly done? If so then look no further. This set forms an immediate complement to Foster's EMI symphonies - recordings only recently issued/reissued and reviewed on this site.

Rob Barnett

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