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Saturday, May 27, 2017

George Enescu - Symphony No. 2; Chamber Symphony (Hannu Lintu)


Composer: George Enescu
  1. Symphony No. 2 in A major, Op. 17: I. Vivace, ma non troppo
  2. Symphony No. 2 in A major, Op. 17: II. Andante giusto
  3. Symphony No. 2 in A major, Op. 17: III. Un poco lento, marziale -
  4. Symphony No. 2 in A major, Op. 17: Allegro vivace, marziale
  5. Chamber Symphony, Op. 33: I. Molto moderato, un poco maestoso
  6. Chamber Symphony, Op. 33: II. Allegretto molto
  7. Chamber Symphony, Op. 33: III. Adagio -
  8. Chamber Symphony, Op. 33: Allegro molto moderato

Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Hannu Lintu, conductor

Date: 2012
Label: Ondine




Here’s an important, adventurous release. Enescu’s Second Symphony, composed around 1912-14, received only a single performance during the composer’s lifetime. Lasting nearly an hour, it’s enormously complex and horrendously difficult to play. The idiom, ostensibly, is Richard Strauss on steroids. Enescu’s scoring is relentlessly opulent, but what makes the piece so difficult on first hearing is a combination of contrapuntal busyness and the composer’s desire to keep all aspects of the music–rhythm, tonality, timbre, dynamics–in an almost constant state of flux. Consider the opening of the finale (sound sample below), ostensibly a march, but the music never quite settles down for any length of time until the last chord, some fifteen minutes later.

This doesn’t mean that the work isn’t worth hearing. Quite the contrary. Enescu was a genius, and his tendency to over-write, evident even in his simplest pieces such as the Romanian Rhapsodies, is simply one aspect of a mind so full of ideas (and so allergic to literal repetition) that his music practically always sounds as if bursting at the seams. So the symphony takes some getting used to. It is music for the true connoisseur, and while it has been recorded a few times previously, you’d be hard pressed to find a better performance than this one. Hannu Lintu and the Tampere Philharmonic cope with the music’s challenges confidently. Most importantly, they play the music with remarkable clarity while keeping it up to tempo. The abundance of incident never sounds merely fussy, and the main melodic thread never vanishes amidst the thickets of notes.

The Chamber Symphony for 12 Instruments, a late work, couldn’t be more different. Now the melodic ideas are elusive, gnarly, almost atonal in spots, the argument highly compressed. Enescu’s love of counterpoint is still in evidence, but textures are lean, even austere. Taking only about fifteen minutes in total, the work is frankly strange, but it makes a valuable coupling in such a sympathetic performance. Ondine’s engineering is excellent in both symphonies. As I said, this isn’t music for casual listening, but it certainly belongs on the shelf of every serious collector.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:


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.


Hannu Lintu (born 13 October 1967, Rauma, Finland) is a Finnish conductor. Lintu studied piano and cello at the Turku Conservatory and at the Sibelius Academy, and studied conducting with Atso Almila, Jorma Panula and Eri Klas. He was chief conductor of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra (1998-2001), Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra (2009-2013) and is currently chief conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (since 2013). Lintu has conducted commercial recordings for such labels as Claves, Dacapo, Danacord, Hyperion, Naxos, and Ondine.


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