Georges ENESCU (1881–1955)
Symphonie concertante in B flat minor for cello and orchestra, Op. 8 (1901) [23:54]
Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, Op.13 (1905) [30:00]
Truls Mørk (cello)
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
rec. Tampere Hall, Finland, 20-21 Sept 2013 (Symphony 1); 6-7 June 2014
ONDINE ODE11982 [53:00]
This is the third and last CD in Ondine's Enescu cycle. All three numbered symphonies are there. The Second Symphony is on ODE1196-2; the Third is on ODE1197-2. We must leave it to CPO if we want the fascinating 'recovered' symphonies 4 and 5 (review ~ review).
Truls Mørk is called on by Enescu to be in almost constant autumnal song in the single movement Symphonie Concertante. The writing is in a hyper-Brahmsian style and should appeal if you enjoy the Brahms Double Concerto. The middle section — of three, each separately tracked — suggests the wintry end of autumn but the writing is still Brahmsian. The finale is the most joyously athletic of the three episodes. A work dating from the composer's tumultuous years in Paris, it was completed in 1901. It is for the most part devoid of the highly coloured nationalistic writing of Poème Roumain (1897) and the Romanian Rhapsodies (1901-02) except for an atypical outburst towards the end of the third and last section. There are various alternatives but none coupled with the First Symphony. Of those you should also hear the one by Alban Gerhardt on Hyperion.
The First Symphony is also a product of Enescu's Parisian period. In demeanour it is a big late-romantic construct in three movements yet it is only half an hour long. The evidence of our ears is all we need to convince us of the young composer's lofty, ecstatic inclinations. The symphony starts with a ripely sustained whooping updraft from the French horns and there is a gift of a melody towards the end. The rushing euphoria of a young man at the peak of his physical powers has the ideas tumbling over each other in a totally credible way at the end of the first movement. The middle movement gleams and glows in mystery - a touch, too, of the lusher moments in Rachmaninov's Second Symphony. The finale, with its sprinting feyness and climactic excitement, touches on Strauss on the one hand and Brahms (5:20) on the other. There are no Romanian nationalistic moments here. I have spent a lot of time recently listening to Dohnányi's orchestral works and the Enescu First Symphony, while more garrulous, is out of the same blood group as the Dohnányi First Symphony (Chandos).
The Tampere Orchestra makes a good enjoyable noise but on this evidence they could benefit from a plusher violin sound. I noticed this especially at several points in the Symphonie concertante. The recording is true and clear and the liner notes, in English and Finnish, by Kimmo Korhonen get the essentials across even if I felt in want of more biographical context. As for the First Symphony it features in several modernish recordings with cycles from Foster (EMI), Mandeal (Arte Nova), Horia Andreescu (Electrecord/Olympia) and. going by Christopher Webber's appraisal. a not well thought of one from the Philharmonia Moldava under Alexander Lascae on Ottavo. Rozhdestvensky is always interesting but tended towards gorgeous over-indulgence when he recorded all three Enescu symphonies for Chandos in the 1990s with the BBC Philharmonic. It's a while since I heard any of them but the approach can be contrasted with Svetlanov's acceleration to destruction in his Scribendum-Melodiya recordings of Brahms Symphony No. 4 (elation all round) and Capriccio Italien - astoundingly fast to the point of bludgeoned obliteration. I would like to hear the Chandos CDs making a new appearance given that when Rozhdestvensky recorded the Enescu First with the Moscow Radio Orchestra in the 1970s the results were truly exhilarating (review). It also stands comparison with another fine version, this time on Romanian Electrecord EDC 540 with George Georgescu conducting the George Enescu Philharmonic. I am grateful to Evan Dickerson for introducing me to the Georgescu.
This disc is very good indeed and a better than serviceable introduction to these works. If you catch the Enescu bug then don't forget to track down the First Symphony as conducted by Rozhdestvensky (Moscow) and, if you can find it, by Georgescu.