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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

George Enescu - String Octet; Piano Quintet (Kremerata Baltica)


Composer: George Enescu
  1. String Octet in C major, Op. 7: 1. Très modéré
  2. String Octet in C major, Op. 7: 2. Très fougueux
  3. String Octet in C major, Op. 7: 3. Lentement
  4. String Octet in C major, Op. 7: 4. Moins vite, animé, mouvement de valse bien rythmée
  5. Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 29: 1a. Con moto molto moderato
  6. Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 29: 1b. Andante sostenuto e cantabile
  7. Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 29: 2a. Vivace, ma non troppo
  8. Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 29: 2b. A tempo, un poco pìu animato

Kremerata Baltica
Gidon Kremer, violin
Eva Bindere, violin (Op. 7)
Andrei Valigura, violin (Op. 7)
Sanita Zarina, violin (Op. 7)
Dzeraldas Bidva, violin (Op. 29)
Ula Ulijona, viola
Janis Lielbardis, viola (Op. 7)
Eriks Kirsfelds, cello (Op. 7)
Marta Sudraba, cello
Andrius Zlabys, piano (Op. 29)

Date: 2002
Label: Nonesuch



The Octet is youthful and exuberant‚ the Quintet a subtler‚ more complex piece – both are superbly performed

Enescu’s epic string Octet rides the turn of the last century like an exotic handsome carriage‚ its sinuous Eastern­style themes rolling along on a quiet but insistent bass line. Previous recordings have given us the straight text but Gidon Kremer’s new Kremerata Baltica CD features an interesting and variegated string­band arrangement by Leonid Desyatnikov. The musical upshot of this reworking is a sort of large­scale cyclic concerto grosso where solo and tutti forces alternate‚ converse or support each other.

Desyatnikov’s arrangement never fattens or confuses the musical texture. Indeed‚ it often serves to add clarity‚ as in the jagged second movement’s urgent fugato‚ which gains an aural dimension‚ and the contrast with Enescu’s Korngoldian solo string writing at 4'17"‚ which is duly underlined. The third movement (all four are inter­related) is like a gentle lullaby and the latter part of the finale (from around 5'53") an embellished valse fantasy where in this texturally bolstered context violin arabesques and pizzicato side­commentaries keep busy while the principal theme soars away on lower strings. You can tell Ensecu was on a ‘high’ and the Kremer’s performance is stunning.

Previous recordings of the original Octet include three bargain contenders‚ all from Romania: a characterful old mono Electrecord version under Constantin Silvestri‚ an urgent but coarsely recorded Bucharest Virtuosi recording under Horia Andreescu (Olympia) and a less forceful but rather more refined digital Arte Nova production with Cristian Mandeal at the helm. If you want to check the original against Desyatnikov’s transcription‚ then Arte Nova’s CD has the added benefit of being available at super­budget price.

The A minor Piano Quintet of 1940 was completely new to me. Again Enescu opts for interconnecting movements but the overall complexion is darker than the Octet‚ the language infinitely more subtle. It reminded me both of late Fauré and late Brahms‚ the former in its densely harmonised but poignant first two movements (though there are also hints of Enescu’s folk­like Third Violin Sonata)‚ the latter in the ambiguous questioning of the third movement. The finale on the other hand sounds more Bartókian‚ though not in the closing moments which are unexpectedly protracted. There’s more musical meat here than in the Octet but less in the way of instantly memorable themes‚ which means that it’s a harder nut to crack. The knotted musculature of Enescu’s converging musical lines remains as fascinating and perplexing as ever‚ and the performance is again of the highest order.

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****


George Enescu (19 August 1881 – 4 May 1955) was a Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor, and teacher, regarded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and Romania's most important musician. He was the youngest student ever admitted to the Vienna Conservatory at the age of seven. Many of Enescu's works were influenced by Romanian folk music, his most popular compositions being the two Romanian Rhapsodies. He was also a noted violin teacher. Yehudi Menuhin, Christian Ferras, Ivry Gitlis, Arthur Grumiaux, Serge Blanc, Ida Haendel and Joan Field were among his pupils.


Kremerata Baltica is a chamber orchestra consisting of young talented musicians from Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania). It was founded by its artistic director, Latvian violinist, Gidon Kremer in 1997. The group has developed into one of the most prominent chamber orchestras in Europe, performs around 70 concerts annually during tours throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. They won awards for their recordings on labels such as Teldec, Nonesuch, ECM, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI. Essential to Kremerata Baltica’s artistic personality is its creative approach to programming, which often looks beyond the mainstream.


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