Enescu: Piano Suite No. 1; Piano Suite No. 2; Piano Suite No. 3

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WORKS: Piano Suite No. 1; Piano Suite No. 2; Piano Suite No. 3
PERFORMER: Luiza Borac (piano)
Enescu’s three piano suites make a stimulating contrast in styles. The First, written in the year Brahms died and avowedly ‘dans le style ancien’, is almost purely Bachian in idiom, not so much pastiche as re-creation through spiritual empathy. The ebullient Second (1901-3) takes in Chabrier and largely anticipates Debussy’s and Ravel’s essays in neo-classical vein. The Third (1913-16) assembles seven more heterogeneous pieces in a complex distillation of atmosphere, with examples of Impressionism, evocations of Eastern European folk music both pawky and melancholic and mysterious landscapes resounding with dissonant bells – more like Messiaen than Bartók.


Such variety demands pianism of unusual empathy and flexibility, moving from the First Suite’s defiantly archaic absence of pedalling or performing indications to the Third’s plethora of tempo, dynamic and expressive markings, paradoxically intended to produce an effect of quasi-improvisatory freedom and folk-like parlando rubato. Romanian-born Luiza Borac responds admirably, with a range of touch and colouring superior to Cristian Petrescu’s performances in his complete Enescu piano works on Accord: the music moves more spontaneously, too, with greater freedom of tempo. The sensitivity with which Borac voices the individual notes in the harmonies of the Third Suite lets necessary air into this dreamlike music of the steppe, and she gives the best performance I have heard of this suite’s concluding ‘Carillon nocturne’, probably the most remarkable piano piece Enescu composed. Calum MacDonald