WORKS: Cello Sonata No. 2 in C; Piano Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor; Romanian Rhapsody No. 1
PERFORMER: Julius Berger (cello), Lory Wallfisch, Julien Musafia (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 6043 (distr. One for You)
I was surprised to see these pieces flagged as ‘first recording’ — all three are otherwise available already — until I saw the disc was recorded in 1993, which might (just) make it true for the piano works, though not the Cello Sonata. Still, Enescu’s First Piano Sonata has been very infrequently done, the solo piano version of the Rhapsody is even more of a rarity, and the Cello Sonata – one of the greatest 20th-century examples of its genre – has so far lacked an ideally recommendable version. Its archetypal polarity of rubato and strictness, where elusive, almost insubstantial meditation combines with focused, highly rhythmic folk-vigour, seems to be very difficult to hold in balance. This interpretation tends too far to the rhapsodic and deliquescent, but is probably the best now available: cellist Berger plays with great sensitivity.
Pianist Lory Wallfisch, Romanian-born, knew Enescu personally: she must have been in her seventies when these recordings were made, though she retains an impressive and searching technique. In the Piano Sonata, however, with its intricate polyphony and bell-effects, one has the sense of music being made, however dedicatedly, from moment to moment rather than expounding the large design. But Julien Musafia turns in an absolutely irresistible performance of the Romanian Rhapsody, well-known in its orchestral guise but here transformed into a wayward post-Lisztian essay in throwaway transcendental bravura. Calum MacDonald