On Record: Sherban Lupu – The Unknown Enescu Vol. 2 (Toccata Classics)

Romanian Rhapsody no.1 in A major Op.11/1 (1901, arr. 1957)
Impressions roumaines (1925, arr, 2008)
Sonata Torso in A minor (1911)
Impromptu concertant in G flat major (1903)
Regrets in G flat major (1898, compl. 2018)
Adagio in B flat major Op.3/3 (1897, arr. 1929)
Valse lente ‘L’Enjôleuse’ (1902)
Caprice Roumain (1925-49, compl. 1994-6)

Sherban Lupu (violin) with Viorela Ciucur (piano); Sinfonia da Camera / Ian Hobson (Caprice Roumain), Ian Hobson (piano, Romanian Rhapsody)

Toccata Classics TOCC0647 [72’52″]

Producers / Engineers Florentina Herghelegiu, Christopher Ericson (Romanian Rhapsody), Jon Schoenoff (Caprice Roumain)

Recorded 7-8 April 2022 at George Enescu Auditorium, University of Music, Bucharest, 2 February 2001 at Krannert Center for Performing Arts, Urbana, Illinois (Caprice Roumain), 15 March 2004 at Krannert Art Museum, Champagne Illinois (Romanian Rhapsody)

Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

The expansion and enrichment of George Enescu’s catalogue has been in progress for several decades. Toccata Classics now issues a follow-up of works realized by others, posthumously published or performed in unfamiliar arrangements, all featuring the violinist Sherban Lupu.

What’s the music like?

Enescu’s early output charts a steady incline from precociousness to mastery, evidenced by the melodic poise of the Adagio from his First Piano Suite arranged by violinist Sandu Albu, or a fragmentary transcription of the bittersweet piano waltz Regrets as completed by Lupu. L’Enjouleuse might well have been a hit had its composer chosen not to publish it under the pseudonym ‘Camille Grozza’, its smouldering pathos in contrast to the objectified elegance of Impromptu concertant which was intended as a test-piece for the Paris Conservatoire.

Much the most significant among these earlier items, Sonata Torso belongs to a sequence of unfinished or unpublished pieces from between the First and Second Symphonies (1905-12) that find Enescu reassessing and extending his musical idiom. For all its prolixity, as would have made further movements unfeasible, this yields a wealth of tonal and harmonic incident within its rarefied ambit. Realized by Lupu from extensive sketches, Impressions roumaines makes for an invigorating entrée into the Third Violin Sonata for which this was preparation.

Lupu was also the catalyst behind Caprice Roumain on which Enescu intermittently worked for almost a quarter-century and the nearest he came to a violin concerto in his maturity. As completed by Cornel Țăranu, its compact design takes in a sombre and often ominous initial Moderato, a lightly sardonic scherzo modelled on the hora, a Lento of understated eloquence then a final Allegro whose synthesis of folk and art elements resembles Bartók in procedure if not aesthetic. Happily, this realization is increasingly being taken up by younger violinists.

Opening the collection with the First Romanian Rhapsody might seem unnecessary given its popularity over more than 120 years, yet this arrangement by composer and violinist Marcel Stern remains little known despite being published 65 years ago. The initial stages faithfully recreate the instrument interplay of Enescu’s original, and though the heady continuation can only hint at its scintillating orchestration, what results is a bravura concert-piece in its own right. Duo partnerships everywhere could do worse than try out this version in their recitals.

Does it all work?

Pretty much. This is a collection which, drawn from various sources and recorded at several locations, is given focus by the commanding presence and unstinting advocacy of Lupu. His playing may not be technically immaculate, though it does convey the essence of Enescu’s increasingly personal language; not least in Caprice Roumain, which he previously recorded with Cristian Mandeal (Electrecord) and to which this is a more than worthy successor. Ian Hobson’s credentials in Enescu hardly need restating, and neither do those of Viorela Ciucur.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Those who are primarily interested in the Caprice should investigate David Grimal’s superb account with Les Dissonances (La Dolce Vita) but this release, enhanced by detailed notes from Valentina Sandu-Dediu, makes a valuable addition to the Enescu discography.

Listen & Buy

For buying options, and to listen to clips from the album, visit the Toccata Classics website. For information on the artists, click on the names of Sherban Lupu and Ian Hobson

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