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GEORGE ENESCU (1881-1955) Orchestral Works - A Four CD set  George Enescu Bucharest PO/Christian Mandeal ARTE NOVA 74321 49145 2

[only the single discs appear on the Crotchet database. Please e-mail if you wish to purchase the boxed set and I will try to get it for you.]


GEORGE ENESCU (1881-1955)  Orchestral Works
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Suite No. 1 Suite No. 2 Suite No. 3 Villageoise Intermède Concert Overture Op. 32 Romanian Rhapsodies Nos 1 and 2

These four discs can be bought separately as well as together in a light card slip-case. The number given above is for the set. More recently the Mandeal cycle has been swelled by a CD including the Sinfonia Concertante (cello and orchestra) by the same performers. I have not heard that disc yet.

Enescu is a traditionalist with more than a dash of modern impressionism. We need to hear more of his music. This music has made little headway in the concert hall although in the UK a concert including his third symphony is promised for the coming (1999/2000) season.

It is a delight to recall that counting the early Electrecord Rumanian LPs (these ought to be reissued as well - perhaps on a bargain label) this Arte Nova set is the fourth commercially recorded cycle. The fifth (incomplete) is on EMI with Lawrence Foster conducting the Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra in the three suites and the first two symphonies. Foster has also recorded the opera Oedip. Apart from these discs there is, if I recall correctly, a flamboyant but rather crude sounding set on Marco Polo (issued very early on in the history of the CD) and a better set on Olympia. All are at full or medium price apart from this Arte Nova cycle which is in the super-bargain category.

The notes are rather brief and are not a strength of the set.

GEORGE ENESCU (1881-1955)
Suite No. 1 for orchestra 26.55 ***
Intermède for strings 10.22 **
Symphony No. 1 32.03 *
George Enescu Bucharest PO/Cristian Mandeal rec Bucharest Romanian Athenaeum Hall * 12-14 July 1993 ** 12 Dec 1995 *** 4-7 June 1994
ARTE NOVA CLASSICS 74321 37314 2 [69.38]

The dignified romance of the First Suite with its massed strings elegantly dipping and bowing in spot-on unanimity makes an immediate impression. The Prelude a l'unisson first movement has the violins skirling like the solo in Sheherazade. The Lento reminds me of the ecstatic string writing of early and mid-period Tippett. Enescu delivers an enormous passionate voltage in his succulent massed string writing. Tippett must surely have been influenced by this work in the Corelli Fantasia Concertante. In the Intermède the harp glitters and sparks for a few moments but otherwise this is another string-dominated movement of some (earthbound) dignity. The darting life of the finale uses a theme gaining in confidence. This is big-boned string writing for a patently massive band of strings

The two movements of Intermède are an allegrement: all sunlit happy evenings on the veranda (Dvorák's serenade for strings) and a très lent which is both more reflective and more modernistic; uncertain in tonality, making a contrasting companion to the Barber Adagio.

The First Symphony has long been a favourite of mine with its commanding pugnacious drama well to the fore in this recording. Even so it does not have the dizzying heft of the Rozhdestvensky recording on an old Melodiya LP. The music flows like lava, eruptively eloquent, driven by turbulent elementals and rolling thunder. At the end of the first movement a sense of hard-won triumph flows through the string figures rushing up and down the scale. The second movement is a valse triste of a swooningly romantic Straussian beauty, bidding farewell in string quartet textures at the close. The finale is Brahmsian (St Anthony variations) with some references to Elgar - a storming movement. The drama is intensified by the contrasting silvery torment of strings at 8.23. The work ends in an atmosphere that will recall the triumph of Sibelius 2's finale.

GEORGE ENESCU (1881-1955)
Rhapsody No. 2 for orchestra (1901) 11.43 *
Symphony No. 2 51.39 (1914) **
George Enescu Bucharest PO/Cristian Mandeal
rec Bucharest Romanian Athenaeum Hall
* ** 20-24 June 1994
Arte Nova Classics 74321 34035 2 [63.35]

The second rhapsody is the less famous (or is it infamous) of the two. Its Dvorákian restfulness, irrepressibly bubbling springs, gypsy sentiments, kitschy village band and wheezy harmonium do not always register very favourably. However it is played here by an orchestra who must have played the rhapsodies many times and must be taken to present it with authentic spirit. It is enjoyable but for some of it you will need to suspend several levels of taste.

The Straussian second symphony has an ungoverned exuberance expressed through a great tumult of notes in common with the Szymanowski Concert Overture. It is a rich work indeed; possibly over-rich but irresistible in the big central movement with its Baxian half-lights and marine luminescence. There is a tendency towards Ravelian meandering but things start tighter in the finale which is darker punctuated by the side-drum's clattering. This is very much a night-scene, ghoul infested. A big romantic tune unfolds towards the end of the movement which becomes increasingly diffuse in a rhapsodic way in which Mandeal revels.

GEORGE ENESCU (1881-1955)
Concert Overture (1948) 9.23 *
Symphony No. 3 (1918) 50.20 **
George Enescu Bucharest PO/Cristian Mandeal
rec Bucharest Romanian Athenaeum Hall
* 23 April 1996 ** 25-28 Sept 1995
Arte Nova Classics 74321 37863 2 [59.43]

The overture's whisper-quiet theme softly oscillates on the strings but is soon dispelled by a passage of Franckian vigour (2.10) and a fine Dukas-style galop (9.10). The music has plenty of flashing inspiration (11.20) and the swooping French romanticism almost tips over into Viennese schmaltz (14.20). The piece ends climactically in triumphantly chattering strings (16.10). The overture thankfully lacks any of the cheesy kitsch into which the rhapsodies all too frequently collapse.

The nightmare scenery of the finale of the second symphony carries over into same territory in the symphony. One has the vividly registered feeling that Mandeal has uncorked the genie's flask. The symphony (his last) is in two gangling 18 minute movements flanking a 13 minute central episode which floats in warm Delian atmosphere. The work has some sweeping, richly ambient string writing. In the finale a choir joins the orchestra rising to a glorious peak (hands across the ocean to Delius's A Mass of Life) at 10.55. That finale also features sacerdotal bells and an almost visual hieratic approach. This music will be warmed to by those who like their like Scriabin or Szymanowski (Krol Roger). Notable are the upward sweeping waves of sound at 14.40.

GEORGE ENESCU (1881-1955)
Rhapsody No. 1 for orchestra (1901) 13.22 *
Suite No. 2 for orchestra 29.03 (1915) **
Suite No. 3 for orchestra 25.54 (1938) ***
George Enescu Bucharest PO/Cristian Mandeal
rec Bucharest Romanian Athenaeum Hall
* ** 20-24 June 1994
Arte Nova Classics 74321 37855 2 [68.36]

The first rhapsody seems to evoke high pastures lushly green but with a dash of Alfven and even Donna Diana (Reznicek). It is all pleasantly bucolic. Mandeal injects vibrancy and chattering life into the ensuing grand rumpus.

The second suite is nicely varied with darting strings (I); a Fauré-like beauty spoken through an antique Sarabande (II); a neo-classical gigue (III); a sober Menuet (IV) and a final rustic Bourrée struck through with a neo-classical approach.

The first movement of the third suite Champêtre is neo-classical. Its successor is alert with the third movement a touching piece of haunted childhood memorabilia. The fourth movement is a moonstruck silvery essay. The final rustic dances are touched with impressionistic effects.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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