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George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Ouverture de Concert sur des Thèmes dans le Caractère Populaire Roumain in A major, Op.32 (1948) [9:12]
Symphony No. 3 in C major with choir, Op. 21 (1916/18, rev. 1920) [46:11]
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir/Hannu Lintu
rec. 25 August 2011 (Overture), 24-26 April 2013 (Sym 3), Tampere Hall, Tampere, Finland
ONDINE ODE11972 [55:35]

This Ondine release is the second of a projected George Enescu cycle from Tampere and Hannu Lintu, a past artistic director of the Finnish orchestra. Enescu is surely Romania’s most important composer and as a contemporary of Bartók and Stravinsky is also one most of the most neglected of the 20th century.
 
First the Ouverture de Concert sur des Thèmes dans le Caractère Populaire Roumain. It was written while Enescu was residing in Paris, suffering from illness, cut off from the assets he had in his native Romania. He dedicated it to the memory of his patroness Romanian princess Elena Bibescu who had died over forty years earlier in 1902. Like many of Enescu’s works it was inspired by themes from Romanian folk music. The frolicsome opening, evocative of a pair of peasant folk fiddlers, sets the scene. Next there’s a swift change to richer scoring of a more serious rather tragic character. From then on he moves within a range of serious moods. A dark and weightier central section easily evokes rugged mountainous regions in stark winter weather. Strongly committed playing from the Tampere Phil gives fresh directness to Enescu’s forceful and fertile imagination.
 
The Symphony No. 3 is scored for large orchestra and wordless chorus. It was started in 1916 in the mountain resort of Sinaia just before Romania entered the First World War. Enescu continued to work on the score whilst staying in Iaci, Moldavia and completed it there in 1918. He conducted the première in 1919 in Budapest. Dissatisfied, Enescu undertook alterations in 1920 with this revised version being successfully introduced in 1921 in Paris. It seems that he was never fully satisfied with the symphony and made minor alterations to it right up to his death. It has been suggested that the three movements of this dramatically colourful Symphony may represent Hell, Purgatory and Heaven in the manner of Liszt’s Dante Symphony. Moody and squally, the opening Moderato is suffused with dark and disturbing writing of a distinctly cinematic quality. The brassy Scherzo-like central movement Vivace, ma non troppo has strong march-like elements reminding me of a Max Steiner or Korngold score to an Errol Flynn adventure. As the writing turns darker and denser we reach a weighty and wildly dramatic outburst at 10:53-11:13. Slow and solemn with sumptuous orchestral colours the Finale: ma non troppo has a wordless chorus with a conspicuously liturgical quality first heard at 3:43. Suggestive of the consecration rites of the Catholic Church a tolling bell at 13:21 heralds the conclusion with the music fading away to nothing. Throughout Hannu Lintu conducts the Tampere Phil with real penetration and his obvious advocacy for the music strongly held my attention. Lintu’s interpretation ensures the emotional impact of the writing comes over with telling effect.
 
This admirable release has the advantage of commanding sonics from the Ondine engineers - a full rich sound with an excellent balance.
 
Michael Cookson