Enescu Symphony no. 2
By turns flamboyant, turbulent and languorous, the second of Enescu’s mature symphonies was written just before World War I. While manifestly individual in character and idiom, it also reveals stylistic affinities with Richard Strauss, Szymanowski, and perhaps Suk’s Asrael Symphony. It’s a huge piece for very large orchestra, teeming with invention, impressive alike in Enescu’s firm symphonic architecture, his continual, stream-of-consciousness exploration and metamorphosis of themes, and his vibrantly colourful orchestration. There are other good versions of this sumptuous work (Lawrence Foster on EMI, Gennady Rozhdestvensky on Chandos, for instance), but this new Finnish account is at least their equal in impetus and recorded sound.
It’s especially valuable for the coupling, the rarely-recorded Chamber Symphony that was Enescu’s last work: a third the length of Symphony No. 2 and scored for 12 solo instruments only. Hannu Lintu and his players sympathetically expound this elusive piece, at once elegiac and exploratory. At the end of his life, and despite crippling illness, Enescu was still finding new combinations of sonority and new ways of integrating highly chromatic material within an expanded tonal framework. At once cosmopolitan and nostalgically Romanian, this is a little masterpiece.