Enescu Piano Works
It’s not often that I recommend readers go straight to the closing tracks of a CD, but in this case the leap is worth making. The third of these Suites, really a collection of seven separate pieces, ends with two related movements in mystic vein, a ‘Chorale’ and ‘Carillon’, the first with rapturously beautiful chord structures, the second a pre-Messiaenic evocation of bells. Both are simply miraculous, and Romanian-born Luiza Borac plays them with more fluidity of line than either of her CD rivals: the otherwise excellent Cristian Petrescu dares a tempo that is just marginally too slow.
Taken as a whole, these Pièces impromptus are the most sophisticated essays on the programme, the opening ‘Mélodie’ like a meditation on Strauss’s Lied Morgen, the somewhat over-long‘Burlesque’ fourth piece reminiscent of Ernö Dohnányi in playful mode. The other ‘jewel’ is a quietly ruminating ‘Mazurk mélancolique’, placed third. Enescu penned the Third Suite while in his early thirties, whereas the previous two reveal a precociously gifted youngster infatuated with Baroque models, Bach especially. The second Suite (1901-03) is the more original, opening as it does with a harmonically luxuriant ‘Toccata’ and closing with a ‘Bourrée’ that recalls, in addition to Bach, a brief suggestion of Haydn.
The attractive First Suite (1897), a product of Enescu’s 16th year, really does sound like a Bach pastiche. It’s the one instance where I feel that Borac – who generally does this music proud – might have allowed herself marginally more expressive licence, indulging the sense of Bachian awe that seems to me very much part of the music’s soul, though she does excel in the tricky closing ‘Bourrée’. The clarity and intelligence of her playing pays highest dividends in the more dense language of the Second and especially Third Suites.
As to rivals, Borac easily holds her own against the less well recorded and occasionally rather foursquare Aurora Ienei though Petrescu’s imposingly played three-disc survey of Enescu’s piano music is also well worth searching out. A most valuable CD, then, and no mere musical byway, with authoritative and often poignant annotations from Martin Anderson and Borac herself. One hopes that it might be the first instalment of a second Enescu piano music survey. All things considered, we could certainly do with one.