Enescu - Symphony No.5, Isis
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Cat No: 7778232
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 28th July 2014
ArtistsMarius Vlad (tenor)
Deutsche Radio Philharmonie
These two works by the Rumanian composer George Enescu defy classification and exist only in particella form. During the 1990s Pascal Bentoiu completed them and instrumented them in such a way that he might well qualify for consideration as their co-author.
In Isis, a symphonic poem for female choir and orchestra, the euphonious female voices are integrated into the orchestra in the manner of instruments. Enescu’s fifth symphony calls for a full complement of musicians, lending it a powerful sound quality and is of folkloristic coloration.
The Europadisc Review
If you think you already know the music of George Enescu, either from his once ubiquitous Romanian Rhapsodies or from acquaintance with his wider output (dominated by the four-act opera Œdipe and three completed symphonies), think again. During his lifetime, Enescu was famed more as a performer, musicologist and teacher than he was as a composer, and one consequence of his extraordinary artistic fecundity was that he left a large number of unfinished compositions. Chief among these were his Fourth and Fifth symphonies (1934 and 1941) and a symphonic poem entitled Isis (1923). In the 1990s, the Enescu expert Pascal Bentoiu (himself a composer) set about completing all three works, which were left largely in short score form. This new release from CPO of Isis and the Fifth Symphony appears to be their first commercial recording.
Isis takes its name from the Egyptian goddess of nature, death and magic, but it was also Enescu's pet name for his mistress (and, from 1939, his wife) Maruca Cantacuzino, to whom he would later dedicate Œdipe. It thus combines the intensely personal with the mythical. It's a mesmerising work, post-Impressionist in idiom, and occasionally even evoking the expressionism of Alban Berg, with which it was very much contemporaneous. Emerging from a nebulous opening, the music is mysterious and evocative, with most of the material derived from two related themes, one descending, the other rising. A wordless female chorus adds to the sense of mystery and exoticism. It is all deftly orchestrated by Bentoiu, with plenty of prominent instrumental solos.
The Fifth Symphony is cast in four movements, the first of which, in sonata form and marked Moderato molto, was orchestrated to about two-thirds of the way through before the work was abandoned by Enescu. Sumptuously scored, it gives a clear picture of what might have been had he continued, the music's modernism tempered by a strong sense of tonal grounding. The Andantino second movement contains clear evocations of Romanian folk music, and for Bentoiu it represents a nostalgic glance back to Enescu's childhood. There follows a brief scherzo marked Vivace con fuoco whose themes are derived from the opening movement, and which features a prominent solo xylophone. The elegiac finale, an Andante grave with suggestions of a funeral march, incorporates the poem I have one last wish by the Romanian national poet Mihai Eminescu (1850–1889), sung here with superb sensitivity by tenor Marius Vlad. The soloist is soon joined by a wordless female chorus (clearly a favourite colouring for Enescu), and the work ends bathed in a luxuriant other-worldly glow.
There's no doubting the commitment of conductor Peter Ruzicka and the musicians of the German Radio Philharmonic of Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern to this music, and the recording is finely detailed yet beautifully atmospheric. Let's hope that we get a recording of the completed Fourth Symphony sometime soon! In summary, an uncommonly fascinating release that is well worth investigating.
1Enescu - Isis
2Enescu - Symphony no.5: I. Moderato molto
3Enescu - Symphony no.5: II. Andantino moderato
4Enescu - Symphony no.5: III. Vivace con fuoco
5Enescu - Symphony no.5: IV. Andante grave
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