Enescu: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Vox Maris

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ALBUM TITLE: Enescu Symphonies
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Vox Maris
PERFORMER: Catherine Sydney (soprano), Marius Brenciu (tenor); Les Eléments Chamber Choir; Monte-Carlo PO; Orchestre National de Lyon/Lawrence Foster
CATALOGUE NO: 586 6042
Symphonies 1 and 2 were recorded in 1993, but No. 3 and the symphonic poem Vox Maris (sketched in 1920 but Enescu tinkered with it until his death without releasing for performance) are brand new recordings. Put together now, they represent probably the best integral version so far of Enescu’s four most monumental orchestral works. Lawrence Foster has been Enescu’s most dedicated interpreter outside Romania; he and his orchestras know instinctively how these highly individual, detail-rich scores must be articulated in order to hang together in utterly convincing fashion. Not even Horia Andreescu with the Romanian National Radio Orchestra (Olympia) is so cogent or so well-recorded.


If Symphony No. 1 is redolent of Brahms and Chausson, the huge, turbulent Nos 2 and 3 are entirely characteristic in their endlessly-proliferating, always exploratory polyphony, the scoring as seductive as Schreker or Szymanowski yet neither decadent nor overheated: the bewildering linear accumulations always tend towards emotional clarification and calm. The triumph here is Vox Maris, a rarity whose textural complications have previously been muddied by indifferent recording. Here every line can be heard unclotted; its radiant, mystical contemplation of wind and storm seems on a par with the symphonies for inventiveness. This intricately patterned, noble music could never be crowd-pleasing, but its idealistic ardour and wealth of gorgeous detail cry out to be savoured on many hearings. A superb set, doing real justice to an ever-underrated master. Calum MacDonald