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Enescu: Poeme Roumain, Vox Maris, Voix De La Nature/ Mandeal

Release Date: 09/12/2006 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 654250   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  George Enescu
Performer:  Florin Diaconescu
Conductor:  Cristian Mandeal
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bucharest George Enescu Philharmonic OrchestraBucharest George Enescu Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This disc contains one of Enescu's first "official" works (as a prodigy he was writing symphonies in his early teens), the wonderfully evocative Romanian Poem, and one of his last, Vox Maris. Both are evocative nature pieces, though in different ways. The earlier work reveals the strong influence of Romantic Nationalism and folk music, while in the latter these have been fully sublimated into a curiously elusive, haunting, personal language. Voix de la Nature is the only surviving movement of larger work, left incomplete at the composer's death. Performances of this music are so rare that it's poor praise to say that these are the best versions readily available. They are excellent by any standard. Enescu's music is extremely Read more difficult to perform, and whatever the "George Enescu" Orchestra may lack in sheer finesse it more than makes up for in style (it had better!). Cristian Mandeal is a talented conductor generally (his Brahms for this label was surprisingly good), and the sonics are also quite fine. Essential for all Enescutians.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

George Enescu (1881–1955) is considered by many who know his music to be one of the least-known great composers of the 20th century. The reasons for this are multiple and complex. He was one of the most versatile musical talents of his time; and, while he may have made his most significant mark as a violinist, he was also an accomplished pianist, conductor, and teacher. Certainly, these other activities detracted attention from his work as a composer. The huge success of his early Romanian Rhapsodies was a mixed blessing: he always felt they overshadowed his more serious, more characteristic music. He was a native of rural Romania who studied in Vienna and Paris, where he settled. While it shows various distinct influences, his music defies categorization. Perhaps it is this last aspect of his art that posterity has found most difficult: as illustrated by the works on this CD, his musical language evolved from a Romanian-accented French to something more like a French-accented Romanian. His affinity for French musics, encompassing Debussy’s influence as well as Franck’s, along with his lifelong connection to the music of his native country, results in a sound (or, better, sounds) unlike that of any other composer; the closest parallel I can suggest is that of Szymanowski, who likewise has never quite broken into the “basic repertoire.”

The three works on this disc represent the earliest and latest periods of Enescu’s career as a composer. The Romanian Poem was first performed in 1898; Vox maris, or “Voice of the Sea,” was written in the 1920s, although he may have tinkered with it for years thereafter. The movement of Voix de la nature given here, written in the 1930s, is the only one of three to have been completed.

The titles of these pieces tell us much about their musical content. Enescu referred to op. 1, a “Symphonic Suite,” as describing “the distant impression of familiar images of home.” The work is explicitly programmatic, even narrative: without difficulty one can hear church bells, chanting priests, a shepherd’s pipe, a cock crowing, and so forth. The second part includes a folk-like passage that unmistakably prefigures the Romanian Rhapsodies. The ending, based on the Romanian national anthem, is reminiscent of Liszt; other passages remind the listener of the Debussy of Printemps as well as such composers as Dukas and Magnard. Enescu’s early flair for orchestral color is augmented by the use of a wordless male choir.

Vox maris is also narrative music, depicting the experience of a sailor who drowns in a storm, followed by calm and the voice of the Sirens. It is impossible not to recognize the influence of La mer, yet the music could not have been written by Debussy any more than it could by any other composer besides Enescu. In all three pieces Enescu displays a singular musical voice with a flair for atmosphere and, in the later works, a stylized treatment of tonality that is highly chromatic without ever threatening to abandon tonality altogether. If the music has any fault, it may be the lack of a distinctive melodic profile; in any event, it is music that demands careful and repeated listening.

The performances here were recorded in 1997; like many titles appearing currently on this label, they apparently circulated in previous issues, but on a geographically limited basis. They still sound fine, other than the hideously out-of-tune chimes, and the Bucharest orchestra that was named for Enescu in the year of his death plays well. The booklet is slim, with only a two-page essay on the music and a one-page blurb on the orchestra; there are no texts for the brief passages for solo tenor and soprano in the first two works, respectively. The soprano is not even named—an act of mercy, as far as I’m concerned: if this is how the Sirens really sounded, Odysseus must have been at sea far too long.

Gripe du jour: the front cover touts this as a “world premiere recording.” It is not; all three works are or have been easily available elsewhere. In particular, the Poème roumain appears in a collection of Enescu’s best-known orchestral works conducted by Lawrence Foster on an Apex import. Still, for its low price and ease of acquisition, this disc may be a good choice for listeners interested in experimenting with the music of this challenging but intriguing composer.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Romanian Poem for Orchestra no 1, Op. 1 by George Enescu
Conductor:  Cristian Mandeal
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bucharest George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra,  Bucharest George Enescu Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897; Romania 
Vox Maris, Op. 31 by George Enescu
Performer:  Florin Diaconescu (Tenor)
Conductor:  Cristian Mandeal
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bucharest George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra,  Bucharest George Enescu Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1929-1951; Romania 
Voix de la nature by George Enescu
Conductor:  Cristian Mandeal
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bucharest George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Romania 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Fine Listening June 25, 2014 By Alan B. (Bowie, MD) See All My Reviews "A welcome relief from the great but dominating presence of his Romanian Rhapsody. This disc is an introduction to me of other works by Enescu, works which I found very listenable and glad I added to my collection." Report Abuse
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