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August ENNA (1859-1939)
Overture: Cleopatra (1893) [8:38]
Violin Concerto in D major (1897) [25:54]
Symphonic Fantasy (1931) [28:42]
Kathrin Rabus (violin)
NDR Radiophilharmonie/Herman Baumer
rec. 14-18 Feb 2011, Großer Sendesaal, Funkhaus NDR, Hannover
CPO 777 674-2 [63:40]

CPO celebrate the orchestral music of a Danish composer who straddled the last century and its predecessor. We have two works from Enna's virile thirties and one from his last decade. They are fruitily recorded in splendidly big sound in a very rewarding acoustic.
 
The overture is lifted from an opera based on H Rider Haggard's typically exotic novel of the same name. Baumer - whose excellent Foerster symphony cycle on MDG I welcomed in 2008-9 - defies time-serving routine and imbues the score with smoking intensity. The stabbingly passionate strings about two minutes in and the swelling and receding 'waves' at 6:35 illustrate the work of a conductor who is determined that this will not be a token revival. While the NDR Radiophilharmonie's violins could be sweeter toned the music shivers pleasurably. By the way the libretto was written by Einar Christiansen - the same writer who did a similar service for Nielsen's opera Saul and David. If you develop a taste for Enna operas then look out for Heisse Liebe and The Little Match Girl also on CPO.
 
The brave and accomplished Kathrin Rabus reminds us what an agreeably flowing work is Enna's three movement Violin Concerto. Some of you will know it from the Danacord recording by Kai Laursen. Like the overture this has a low-key Tchaikovskian flavour with some added showiness that veers between Brahms and Mendelssohn. There is a splash or three of Paganini especially in the first movement. It makes a nice companion to sit neatly next to the slightly better exposed Karlowicz and de Boeck concertos.
 
Then wind forward some thirty years to the Symphonic Fantasy which is his last orchestral work. This half hour piece is in three movements. It's lush and swooning proclivities find an echo in the music of Granville Bantock. It has similarly luxurious and at times delicate tendencies to those observed in Fifine at the Fair and Pierrot of the Minute. The finale feels ungainly with its stops and starts but is never less than cheery; no boiling passions here.
 
Jens Cornelius's note, in German, English and Danish, is lucid and hits the right notes. It does not fall victim to the CPO liner-note disease of excessive technicality and effete musicological philosophising.
 
If this disc appeals and you would like to add to your Enna library then go for CPO's recording of the Second Symphony.
 
Rob Barnett