George ENESCU (1881-1955) The Unknown Enescu: Volume 1, Music for Violin
Aubade (1889) [3:46]
Pastorale, Menuet triste et Nocturne (1900; arr. Lupu) [13:38]
Sarabande (c.1910-15) [4:43]
Sérénade lointaine (1903) [4:49]
Andantino malinconico (1951) [2:15]
Prelude and Gavotte (1898) [10:21]
Airs dans le genre roumain (1926) [7:12]
Légende (1891) [4:21]
Sérénade en sourdine (c.1910-15) [4:21]
Fantaisie concertante (1932; arr. Lupu) [11:04]
Nocturne ‘Villa d’Avrayen’ (1931-36) [6:11]
Hora Unirei (1917) [1:40]
Aria and Scherzino (c.1898-1908; arr. Lupu) [5:12]
Sherban Lupu (violin/conductor)
Masumi Per Rostad (viola)
Marin Cazacu (cello)
Dmitry Kouzov (cello)
Ian Hobson (piano)
Ilinca Dumitrescu (piano)
Samir Golescu (piano)
Enescu Ensemble of the University of Illinois
rec. June 205 Concert Hall, Radio Broadcasting House, Romanian Radio and April 2011, Kranert Centre for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois
TOCCATA TOCC 0047 [80:30]
Fresh from his stint purveying the virtuosic cascades of the Moravian Heinrich Ernst, violinist Sherban Lupu turns closer to home with the first in a series devoted to his Romanian compatriot George Enescu.
It may seem strange to devote a disc to Enescu’s works featuring the violin, since surely with such a small oeuvre (only 33 opus numbers) they’ve all been multiply recorded. In fact there are five first recordings here and two first recordings in the versions presented by Toccata.
The genesis of the disc is interesting. Eight of the pieces derive from two discs recorded back in 2005 in Bucharest for Romanian Radio, whilst the remainder of the programme was recorded in April 2011 in Illinois. Toccata gives the  catalogue number of the Romanian recording but only a specialist will have come across them, I suspect (for the record, it’s UCMR – ADA R11 AF261008252).
Lupu has arranged several of the pieces in various ways and he also conducts the small ensemble at the University of Illinois that bears Enescu’s name. It’s clearly a labour of love for the Romanian fiddle player. The Aubade is a transcription of a work originally written for string trio, as well as other instrumentation; it’s heard here in the version for violin and piano and to it Lupu brings a subtly deployed tone, a distinctive sound often, here, without too much vibrato. Lupu has arranged the Pastorale, Menuet triste et Nocturne for solo violin and ensemble, but the piano’s presence reflects the fact that work was originally intended for violin and piano four-hands. I’m not sure the orchestra adds much, or that the piano and orchestra is the most effective solution. Lupu turns on tonal succulence in the Old School Menuet triste, and the piano hints at the cimbalom in the Nocturne finale, where the fiddle evokes lassitude very effectively: it’s the most individual of the three sections.
The Sarabande fuses Bach with folklore, whilst the Serenade lointaine is pure Fauré (of whom Enescu had been a pupil). It’s a very mini-piano trio, in effect. It’s followed by the very late, uneasy 1951 lament called Andantino malinconico, which makes a stark contrast with that early carefree opus. Programmatically, as one can see, Toccata swoops around, contrasting late with early; thus, the 1898 Prelude and Gavotte that follows is a baroque tinged pieces, but laced with spitting unison passages for violin and cello supported by two pianos.
The Airs dans le genre roumain (1926) for violin, heard in its first ever recording, offers a lexicon of folk fiddling with a raft of bent notes, harmonics, double-stopping and luscious glissandi. His more salonish side can be gauged by the Sérénade en sourdine for violin and cello, which is saved by a few piquant harmonies. Of much more interest is a piece Lupu has arranged, indeed completed from drafts, the Fantaisie concertante of 1932. This was written at around the same time as his opera Oedipe and inhabits something of the same complex sound world. This demanding solo violin piece makes an important addition to Enescu’s canon, and its restoration is convincing.
Every piece here reflects something of Enescu’s compositional stage, from early to late. The disc also reflects the problems Enescu found in completing pieces, or in the necessity he found in arranging them for other forces.
Malcolm MacDonald has written an extensive and excellent booklet note, sensibly tracing things chronologically, but Toccata hasn’t followed suit in its programming, so when you read the notes, you have to scan everything back and forth to find the piece you want to read about: a minor inconvenience. Otherwise, an excellent start to the series.
Jonathan Woolf  
An excellent start to the series.