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George ENESCU (1881-1955)
String Octet in C major Op.7 (1900) (arr. Lawrence Foster) [40:54]
Violin Sonata No.3 in D major Op.25 (1926) [24:07]
Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo/Lawrence Foster
Valeriy Sokolov (violin); Svetlana Kosenlo (piano)
rec. Auditorium Rainier III, Monaco, January 2008
VIRGIN CLASSICS 5193122 [65:01]†
Experience Classicsonline

Enescuís compositional precocity has been well surveyed over the years but a hearing of the magnificent Octet still comes as a salutary reminder as to just how advanced he was at the age of nineteen. One usually hears it unadulterated but there seems to be a fashion for string expanded and editorialised versions of late. Gidon Kremer has already given us a version of the work by Leonid Desyatnikov for the Kremerata Baltica (Nonesuch CD 7559 79682-2). Here we have another by conductor Lawrence Foster. If you want the version proper then I suggest the ASMIF on CHAN9131 where itís coupled it with Shostokovichís Two Pieces Op.11 and the sextet from Straussís Capriccio.
But if you have a yen for the opened out orchestrally sized version then this latest entrant will do very nicely. Firstly itís very well recorded. And secondly the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo handles the powerful, confident counterpoint, so preternaturally a product of Enescuís genius, with real assurance. The way Foster ensures the coalescence of themes in the first movement attests to his sure absorption of style, and the long limbed scherzo second movement is similarly accomplished. The eruptive tutti passages Ė one can see why some orchestrators are keen to expand the Octet still further Ė register powerfully on the Richter scale. Equally the players bask in the expressive and fascinating slow movement with its admixture of early Schoenberg and hints of the Siegfried Idyll, and Strauss. The finale is equally dynamic, its mass and weight subtly stratified in the recording, and brilliantly projected.
The Third Violin Sonata has a rather more established discographic pedigree. Collectors will be aware of the twin totems Ė the Enescu/Lipatti of 1943 and the Yehudi and Hephzibah Menuhin recording of 1936. The august duo of Ida Haendel and Ashkenazy has recorded it in recent years for Decca and there have been numerous other recordings too; Sherban Lupu is as fine a contemporary performance as youíll find for instance. Into the non-breach step Valeriy Sokolov and Svetlana Kosenlo. Some people have something of a frenzy for Sokolov - Bruno Monsaingeonís film about the young player, Natural Born Fiddler, tended to trade on the violinistís good looks in concert. But he proves himself worthy of accolades. He ensures that the charismatic folkloric writing is fully conveyed; so too the frequent cimbalon imitations from his adept partner Kosenlo. There is plenty of rubato here and the gypsy balladry is spun with caprice and assurance; so too the meaty chewy tonal commitment in the finale.
Is this a strange conjunction though? A sonata and an expanded octet make for odd bedfellows. Should Sokolov have been encouraged to add the other sonatas in an all-sonata disc? Should the Octet have been coupled with something else? But for the fact that this is Enescu - and the market can take such a conjoining because the performances are so good and the fare has the air of novelty - but for that fact I would have been reluctant to endorse the disc. Given the circumstances however this gets a Ďthumbs upí from me.
Jonathan Woolf


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