George Enescu Violin Sonatas Review

Album. Released 2002.  

BBC Review

The three works on this excellent CD span almost 30 years of Enescu's career.

Claire Rogers 2002

The Romanian George Enescu was something of an all-round musical genius. Not only an excellent composer, he was also a first-rate violinist and conductor, and an accomplished pianist and cellist with a formidable musical memory.The three works on this excellent CD span almost 30 years of his career, but each one is as fascinating as the other in its own way, and Adelina Oprean and her brother team up brilliantly to meet each of their challenges.

Adelina Oprean in many ways has the perfect background to tackle these works. To begin with she's Romanian, which, given the evocative, Romanian folk-inspired element of Enescu's musical make-up, has to be a bonus, and she's also an ex-pupil of Yehudi Menuhin, Enescu's most illustrious and devoted violin pupil.

Enescu's two sonatas take us into fascinatingly different sound-worlds, and sandwiched between them is the enigmatic Sonata 'Torso', one of various works which he left unfinished during his career. It's the only time this movement has ever been recorded, which is one more reason to go out and buy this CD.

Sonata no.2 is a stunning early work, heavily tinged with Brahmsian sonorities and rhythms. Oprean captures the mood of the sinuous opening theme of the first movement and the wistful understatement of the Tranquillo slow movement beautifully, as well as playing the more impassioned sections with great command and feeling, before launching deftly into the spirited dance-like finale.

By contrast Sonata no.3 is pure Romanian folk music, but with a difference - there are no real folk tunes here. Enescu chose instead to write it all himself, annotating the score in incredible detail to explain exactly how each violinistic effect is to be achieved.Menuhin said of these markings that if observed one cannot help but sound like a true gypsy violinist. But a great technique is also called for, and Oprean manages to negotiate the endless fiendish harmonics of the first two movements with style.Justin Oprean's piano playing hauntingly conjures up the sounds of the cimbalom so closely associated with Romanian folk music, and together they capture brilliantly the contrasting moods of the work, from the mysterious, nocturnal world of the second movement, to the spikier rhythms of the dance-like finale with its almost savage ending.

It's impossible to come away from this music without wondering why on earth Enescu's violin music isn't better known, and well thought-out recordings like this one are hopefully a step in the direction of redressing that balance.

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