Enescu: Symphony No. 2, Romanian Rhapsody No. 2

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2, Romanian Rhapsody No. 2
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
So versatile was George Enescu (1881-1955) that composition tended to get sidelined amidst other activities: a leading violinist (and teacher of Arthur Grumiaux and Yehudi Menuhin), he was also a notable conductor, administrator and encourager – particularly of musical activity in his native Romania.


Enescu the composer nevertheless has his followers (some believe his opera Oedipe to be a masterpiece), although few of his works have gained popularity and he himself was to become scornful of two that did: the Romanian Rhapsodies of 1901. The second, written in a Romantic folk-based idiom closer to Dvorák than Bartók, is evocatively scored but loosely structured even for something as rhapsodic as a rhapsody.


This tendency to live for the musical moment is a more serious problem with the Second Symphony, written in 1913-15, whose cogency is so slight one can tune in or out more or less at will. The material too is undistinguished, though the Straussian scoring is lavish to a degree. Fine playing and recording, but there is less to this music than meets the ear. George Hall