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Constantin SILVESTRI (1913-1969) Complete Piano Works
Luiza Borac (piano)
rec. 2020, THS Studio, Dormagen, Germany HÄNSSLER PROFIL PH20028 [79:28 + 79:35]
There are a number of distinguished conductors whose success on the podium overshadowed their compositional endeavors, and the Romanian Constantin Silvestri was one such. Furtwängler, Klemperer, Weingartner and Dorati also fall into this category. He studied piano and composition at the Conservatory in Bucharest and went on to forge a successful conducting career with Romanian National Opera, the Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra and finally the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra after he defected to Great Britain in 1961. Yet, he somehow found time to compose, and the result is over 40 orchestral, chamber and vocal works, in addition to the piano works, which the Romanian pianist Luiza Borac has recorded here in their entirety.
CD 1 opens with two suites titled "Children playing". These fifteen short pieces are clearly influenced in style by Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood" and by Silvestri's own teacher Mihail Jora. They bear such titles as The Lead Soldiers, which is a brisk, determined march, and Pastorale, recalling lazy afternoon dreams. The Whip, at only 46 seconds, is the shortest piece and, as its title suggests, depicts lashing and thrashing. The chromaticism of Dreaming confers on it a hazy veil, whilst Goblin is sprightly and capricious. Suite No. 2 ends with the sparkling arpeggios of Whirligig. In similar light vein are the 6 "Romanian Dances of Transylvania", Op 4. Silvestri, in what was his first piano composition, borrowed themes from Bartók's "Romanian Folk Songs of the Bihar Region". These he arranged for orchestra, with a second version for piano and four hands. This solo piano arrangement is by Luiza Borac.
The D major Sonatina features an introspective Meditativo bookended by two animated outer movements. The "Sonata breve" dates from 1958, but was substantially revised in 1957. The composer humorously remarked that it can be played by “clarinet and bassoon, or clarinet and cello, or violin and cello, or viola and cello....or....not at all". It's cast in four movements. The first is carefree and nonchalant, and is followed by a pensive Andante. Then there's a lilting Scherzo, and finally a spiky finale, ushered in by a sombre Grave. The Sonata, Op. 19, No. 2 was written two years later, and again revised in 1957. Silvestri himself premiered it in 1946 under its original title "Sonata quasi una Fantasia". This is the work’s first recording. It consists of two substantial movements and seems harmonically more advanced than what went before. The first consists of an expressive narration of chromatic ruminations, the second is a waltz, notable for its harmonic complexity. His last work for piano is the three-movement "Sonata-Rhapsody" of 1953. Its character is very much improvisatory and the technical demands are extraordinary. This presents no problem to Borac, who meets all the challenges head-on with great gusto and aplomb. The opening movement is dramatically intense, with the finale a whirlwind of scintillating fireworks. For me, this work is the highlight of the set.
To maintain the Romanian connection we end with music by two further composers. György Kurtág is represented by two short pieces. The first is "In Memoriam Ferenc László” (2010), a tribute to the Romanian musicologist, whilst the second "....c'astăzi s-a născut" is based on a Transylvanian Christmas carol, and was written in 2017 for the composer's wife on the occasion of her 90th birthday. Both are receiving their first recordings. Finally, Borac performs the unfinished Piano Concerto in D minor, composed by George Enescu in 1897. This one movement fragment is Brahmsian in style and oozes lush romanticism. The performance is a live one with audience applause retained. Rossen Gergov provides the pianist with admirable and sympathetic support.
Luiza Borac has done much to champion her native Romanian composers, and I note that she's scored some success with a CD of Dinu Lipatti's piano works, in addition to two volumes by George Enescu. This latest release, approached with her usual scholarly diligence, and beautifully recorded, reveals a valuable repository of intriguing scores otherwise lost and forgotten. The entire project has been a true labour of love. Stephen Greenbank
Suite No. 1, Op. 3 No. 1 "Children Playing" [11:36]
Suite No. 2, Op. 3 No. 2 "Children Playing" [13:08]
Sonatina D major, Op. 3 No. 3 [9:56]
Suite No. 3, Op. 6 No. 1 (1933) [16:32]
Dances populaires roumaines de Transylvanie, Op. 4 [6:26]
Sonata quasi una fantasia, Op. 19 No. 2 (1940) arr. L. Borac - First Recording [20:11]
Sonata breve a due voci, Op. 13 No. 2 (1938, rev. 1957) [14:56]
Pičces de concert, Op. 25 (1944) [15:33]
Chants nostalgiques, Op. 27 (1944) [10:31]
Sonata No. 4, Op. 28 No. 1 "Rapsodia in 3 episodi" [22:01] György KURTÁG (b.1926)
2 Piano Pieces (2010 & 2017) - First Recording [4:09] George ENESCU (1881–1955)
Piano Concerto D minor (Fragment) (1897) - First CD Recording 
National Radio Orchestra Bucharest/Rossen Gergov