Violin Concerto; Phantasy for Piano and Orchestra
Carolin Widmann (violin), Luiza Borac (piano); NDR Radiophilharmonie/Peter Ruzicka
CPO 555 487-2 53:33 mins
For the cellist Pablo Casals, George Enescu (1881-1955) was ‘the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart’. His equal genius as a violinist, pianist, conductor and composer has often been remarked upon, but when it came to his own music, Enescu’s original voice did not fully establish itself until about 1900 or 1901, with such masterpieces as the Octet and two Romanian Rhapsodies. The two previously unrecorded works here are teenage efforts, both unpublished, and the realisation of their dispersed materials is the result of a labour of love by the Romanian composer-musicologists Pascal Bentoiu (who died six years ago) and Cornel Țăranu, and the conductor Peter Ruzicka, no stranger to the rarer corners of Enescu’s output.
The first movement of the incomplete Violin Concerto seems to have been performed only once, in Paris in 1896 with Enescu as soloist. Heard with modern ears, it sounds like an uncanny cloning of Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms – disconcerting, but wonderfully played by Carolin Widmann. The Phantasy for Piano and Orchestra (1898) is a little more distinctive, if still somewhat Brahmsian, and Luiza Borac gives an arresting performance with the NDR Radiophilharmonie and Ruzicka. An interesting disc, but probably one for Enescu completists only.