Wednesday, 29 November 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, November 2017)

Profil PH17000 (2 CDs) / ****1/2

This double-disc album is Romanian pianist Luiza Borac's tribute to her compatriot, the violinist-composer and polymath George Enescu (1881-1955), or Georges Enesco in the Gallicised version of his name. Enescu, who is probably best known as Yehudi Menuhin's teacher and mentor, studied in Paris during the turn of the 19th century and kept company with the likes of Debussy, Ravel and Nadia Boulanger. 

This heady era of musical experimentation and emerging modernism is celebrated by works like Debussy's 12 √Čtudes, Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit and La Valse, all repertoire staples, which Borac performs with virtuosic flair and stylistic sophistication.

Rarities include first recordings of two waltzes and a 4-voiced Fugue by Enescu, which although derivative, are charming and well-crafted. Whoever thought that Enescu's wrote piano transcriptions of Sarasate's Gypsy Airs (originally for violin) or his rip-roaring First Romanian Rhapsody? These are unusual  takes which do not sound completely idiomatic but make enjoyable listening. Equally pleasurable are the Five Bagatelles by fellow countryman Marcel Mihalovici. 

This curious collection is rounded up with a lively performance of Schumann's Piano Concerto with the Romanian National Radio Orchestra and a 2-minute encore of Ahnung, a fragment discarded from Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood) that was discovered in 2009 and premiered by Borac.    

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