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Monday, May 29, 2017

George Enescu - Works for Violin & Piano (Remus Azoitei; Eduard Stan)


Composer: George Enescu

  • (01-10) Impressions d'Enfance, Op. 28
  • (11) "Torso" Sonata in A minor: Moderato
  • (12-14) Violin Sonata No. 2 in F minor, Op. 6
  • (01-03) Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor "dans le caractère populaire roumain", Op. 25
  • (04) Ballade
  • (05) Impromptu concertant
  • (06) Andante malinconico
  • (07) Tarantelle
  • (08) Hora Unirei
  • (9-11) Violin Sonata No. 1 in D major, Op. 2

Remus Azoitei, violin
Eduard Stan, piano
Date: 2014
Label: Hänssler



A touch of racy Romanian fire in this appealing violin-and-piano repertoire

Like Béla Bartók, Romanian composer-violinist-pianist George Enescu wrote violin music from a fairly early age, even earlier in fact: both the Ballade and Tarantella that feature on the second disc of this admirable survey are the products of a prodigiously gifted 14-year-old. Both are world premiere recordings, forming part of a sequence of unusual short pieces that includes a racy Hora Unirei from 1917 (like an offbeat waltz), a playful Impromptu concertant (1903) and a brief but harmonically pungent Andante malinconico that Enescu wrote for a sight-reading competition just four years before he died. All five miniatures showcase the refined but vibrant performing style of Remus Azoitei, a distinctive player whose sound world echoes Enescu’s own, as did Sherban Lupu’s on an earlier, somewhat less comprehensive survey of Enescu violin works (Electrecord, 8/01), which included the uncompleted Caprice roumain for violin and orchestra which Enescu had been working on between 1925 and 1949.

Azoitei’s pianist Eduard Stan is memorably supple in terms of both rhythm and touch, vital attributes in the last and greatest of the violin works, the Third Sonata, with its tricky transitions, complex but spirited dance sequences and fiery climaxes, especially in the finale. Other partnerships have triumphed here too, not least Yehudi and Hepzibah Menuhin, Lupu and Valentin Gheorghiu, and Christian Ferras with Pierre Barbizet, but Azoitei and Stan combine temperament, mastery of idiom and executive elegance in a very special way. They shape the music beautifully, so that what in some hands sounds like mere extended improvisation (a desirable attribute admittedly) also parades discernable form.

The five larger works all come off exceptionally well. Regarding the folky and atmospheric Impressions d’enfance I’ve previously written in these pages of Sherban Lupu’s “quietly sighing bow, like the breathy frame favoured by certain jazz saxophonists…and his mastery of gypsy-style devices”. Azoitei’s playing is less “breathy” but no less sweet; like Lupu, he gives the impression of controlled rhapsodising, and so does his pianist. The earliest larger-scale work here is the First Sonata, another teenage essay, confident and fitfully memorable though predictably derivative, with Schumann coming most often to mind. Carl Flesch described the Second Sonata (1899) as “one of the most important works of all sonata literature, whose neglect is totally unjustifiable”. Flesch died in 1944 and it’s sad to relate that even nowadays this attractive Sonata, with its discernible echoes of César Franck, is hardly more familiar than it was then. Yes it is a fine piece, one that Enescu himself recorded (with Lipatti), but the Third is a must-have masterpiece that the Torso Sonata in A minor (1911), a work that approaches Chausson’s Poème in scale and expressive power, clearly anticipates. Again, the performances are richly responsive and tastefully phrased, the recorded sound excellent. So if the repertoire appeals, no need to look any further: this is a first-rate collection, although Lupu is also worth searching out, maybe as a supplementary purchase, especially for that orchestral Caprice roumain.

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone

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.


Remus Azoitei is a Romanian violinist who now lives in London. He studied with Itzhak Perlman, Dorothy DeLay and Masao Kawasaki at the Juilliard School in New York. His teachers also included Daniel Podlovsky and Maurice Hasson. He is violin professor at the Royal Academy of Music and Artistic Director of the Enescu Society in London. performs on a violin made by Niccolo Gagliano in 1735. Over the years, Azoitei has developed a successful artistic partnership with pianist Eduard Stan. They recorded together the first ever entire repertoire for violin and piano by George Enescu.


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  3. Thanks for this unexplored repertoire!