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George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Suite No. 1 in C major Op. 9 (1903) [25:08]
Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, Op.13 (1905) [35:17]
Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra/Georges Enescu (Suite)
George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra/George Georgescu
rec. 1942 (Symphony) and 1943 (Suite)

At the height of the War in Europe a series of recordings was being undertaken in Bucharest devoted to the music of George Enescu. In 1942 George Georgescu conducted the ‘George Enescu’ State Philharmonic in the composer’s Symphony No.1 whilst the following year Enescu himself directed the city’s Philharmonic Orchestra in his own Suite No.1. Eventually they made their way to Electrecord LPs and thence to CD. Inevitably the sound is somewhat constricted.

The Suite encodes folkloric slides in an early work strong on powerful drama and dynamics. The opening movement’s string unisons generate a palpable sense of harmonic tension in this conductor-led recording but the second movement, a delightful Minuet, graces folkloric eighteenth-century hues as well as broadening into richer late-Romantic territory. If the orchestra seems somewhat heavy in the slow movement one can hardly doubt the composer-executant’s authority, whilst he generates, even in this essentially light-heated work, an implacable quasi-Sibelian drive in the triumphant finale.

Georgescu’s handling of the First Symphony is a notably successful and pioneering one. Whether or not Rozhdestvensky knew of this set it’s noteworthy that his tempi follow Georgescu’s pretty closely in his Chandos set of the symphonies. There is, with both men, a comparable sense of drive and Úlan, and both capture the young Enescu’s astonishing fecundity of invention. Composed during his Parisian period this richly accomplished work survives some shrill sonics – the violins especially – not least in the expressive central slow movement, a characterful linear melody, the essence of which is somewhat reminiscent in places of Mahler. With the orchestra’s brass section on committed form, the finale bustles vigorously to a resplendent peroration. Recorded on magnetic tape, it preserves the performance of a trusted and admired colleague of the composer’s – one whose later intercession enabled Georgescu to overcome political problems and to resume his Romanian conducting career.

Georgescu has always enjoyed cachet among collectors, not least for his complete Beethoven symphonic cycle. His stewardship of the Enescu symphony is invigorating and a historic document, as is the Enescu-directed Suite. There are no notes, but the transfers are highly respectable.

Jonathan Woolf

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