Enescu: Quintet in A minor; Trio in a minor; Aria and Scherzino

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: George Enescu
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Enescu: Quintet in A minor; Trio in a minor; Aria and Scherzino
WORKS: Quintet in A minor, Op. 29; Trio in a minor; Aria and Scherzino
PERFORMER: Remus Azoitei (violin); The Schubert Ensemble


This disc is a superb follow-up to the Schubert Ensemble’s recording of George Enescu’s two Piano Quartets (reviewed August 2011). The Piano Quintet (1940) is one of the supreme masterpieces among his chamber music. Though composed with Enescu’s customary motivic density, intricacy and allusiveness, the material has an elegance and immediate melodic appeal, yet its thematic interrelationships are endlessly fascinating. Its two big movements perfectly balance profound meditation against dancing, dionysiac energy. This is a superb performance, alive to the music’s every nuance, and pianist William Howard emerges as a very impressive primus inter pares.

The rarely recorded Piano Trio (1916) is a lesser yet fascinating work. Enescu left it as a barely legible draft, edited for performance after his death by Pascal Bentoiu. The Schuberts, admirably, have made their own detailed study of Enescu’s original manuscript, producing a version that modifies Bentoiu’s in several respects. I found their realisation more convincing than the version issued last year by the Trio Brancusi on ZigZag Records, which presumably gives us Bentoiu straight. The Trio is a transitional work: Enescu had yet to reach his high maturity, and the influence of French Impressionism is palpable. For the encore – the little Aria and Scherzino, a pair of test pieces for solo violin and piano quintet – the Schuberts have teamed up with Romanian violinist Remus Azoitei. A very special release.


Calum MacDonald