Compact programming ensures that George Enescu’s early
1950s Bach recordings with the instrumental trio of Celiny Chailley-Richez,
Jean-Pierre Rampal and Christian Ferras are presented on a well-filled
78 minute disc. To the two Bach performances is added Enescu’s
recording of the Kreutzer sonata with Chailley-Richez.
All the recordings feature the pianist, who was an Enescu colleague
and friend, and with whom Enescu was also to record several
other Bach concertos, including those for one, two, three and
four pianos. The violin soloist, Ferras, was an Enescu student
and Rampal was then at the start of his illustrious career.
Enescu’s direction of the two Bach works, the Triple concerto
and the Fifth Brandenburg, is wholly in keeping with his ethos.
As with his recordings of the violin sonatas and partitas the
pulse is slow, though not slow enough to allow phrase ends to
taper unacceptably. The right tempo for Enescu, as he was frequently
to say, was one that ensured that contrapuntal details were
always audible and never obscured. His concern with the formal
balancing of movements meant that there is a structural cohesion
to his performances, even at the risk of sometimes labouring
Though the Bach recordings are, in places, just a touch cloudy,
the three solo instruments are given a good, forward aural perspective.
The Brandenburg sits wholly within Enescu’s interpretative
prerogative; steady tempi, balanced architecture, clear voicings,
harmonic and contrapuntal details pointed clearly. Chailley-Richez’s
first movement is fine, and the three musicians make a sensitive
team; at this point in their careers Rampal makes slightly more
of an impression than Ferras, though the latter’s very
personalised vibrato can be savoured.
There’s a bit of blasting in a blustery recording of the
Triple Concerto. But the recording captures well Ferras’
pizzicato backing to Rampal’s flute cantilena in the central
movement underpinned by the precise piano playing, and its occasionally
dappled sensitivity. The finale is ponderous, notwithstanding
Enescu’s stated desire for equality of structure, but
this very stately approach is very much part of his aesthetic
Enescu’s post-war violin recordings saw him in sad decline,
exacerbated by some horrible physical problems. No one would
listen to them and be unconscious of the frailties of left and
particularly right hand. The intonation problems that plague
him have been, kindly, ascribed to questions of expressive heightening
but, pinched though the tone now is, this performance has always
enshrined a conception of grandeur and a very personal sense
of melancholy, which is, in part, what distinguishes it from
any other performance. Enescu is so revered a figure that even
this imperfect realisation of his conception is to be valued
for what it tells us about his playing, and also about what
his composer’s mind makes of the sonata.
Opus Kura (OPIC 7009) has released the sonata coupled with Schumann’s
second sonata, again with Chailley-Richez, and a live slow movement
from the Mendelssohn Concerto. Their transfer is more forward
than FR’s with a touch more surface noise, though both
have been transferred from commercial LP copies.
Masterwork Index: Brandenburg