ENESCU Complete Solo Piano Works
Luiza Borac reset the bar in Enescu’s solo piano music in her survey (2003 05), overtaking Aurora Ienei (Electrecord/Olympia – nla) and Cristian Petrescu (Accord – nla), impressing with the greater fluidity and dynamism of her playing, caught in Avie’s far superior sound. Despite some impressive individual issues, such as by Meecham (Somm, 1/09) and Varga (Naxos), Borac – whose survey made no claim to completeness – went unchallenged, until now. Her compatriot Raluca Stirbat has set down a very impressive rival collection, adding some additional early pieces omitted by Borac, such as the Prelude that formed a Diptych with the Scherzo in F sharp minor (1896), the Barcarolle, La Fileuse (both 1897), two Impromptus (1898, 1900), Regrets (1898) and the original (1912) and very different version of the 1924 First Sonata’s opening movement, several issued here for the first time.
Stirbat’s recordings of the Second and Third Suites are recycled from an earlier Gramola release. Sonata No 1 (1924) – which she has also recorded before for Gramola – is new, Stirbat’s tempi in this later interpretation a touch more measured, taking a minute longer. While lagging noticeably behind Borac in the central Presto vivace, Stirbat takes the concluding Andante molto espressivo rather more at the walk than her rival’s more molto espressivo amble – a difference of 90 seconds, or one-sixth of the playing time. (Varga on Naxos is in between, perhaps closer to Borac but not so involving; all are outpaced in the first movement by Rangell on Bridge Records, but at nine minutes he is slowest in the finale.)
The First Sonata is typical as a comparison. Overall, Borac’s playing has the greater subtlety and fluency, with Stirbat – hampered by occasionally hard sound that makes her instrument sound clattery – stiffer and harder-edged. Listen to Suite No 2’s Wagnerian opening or the delicate textures of ‘Carillon Nocturne’ in Pièces impromptues to hear how Borac gets closer to Enescu’s essence. Yet Stirbat is no less virtuoso an interpreter, as can be heard in some of the Chopinesque early pieces. Overall, her views of the works are sufficiently different to make hers a highly recommendable alternative set, but Borac’s remains first choice.