ENESCU Symphonie Concertante BARTÓK Divertimento
If there’s one significant composer who needs a little help from his friends, it’s George Enescu. And by ‘friends’ I mean interpreters who know how to shape and mould a phrase (Foster, Georgescu and the like) and recording engineers with a good ear for what’s going on in the orchestra, which in Enescu’s case is, for much of the time, a good deal. Fail on those two fronts and the music seems merely to meander.
Generally speaking I prefer Laura Buruiana’s cello-playing to that of Valentin Arcu with the Romanian Radio and Television Orchestra (Marco Polo – now download-only). But where the latter recording scores is in liberating some of the bigger climaxes and focusing Enescu’s accompanying lines with marginally more clarity. Neither orchestra is exactly of the front rank but for some of the time the National Chamber Orchestra of Moldova on the current release seems to be feeling its way. Best of all is Alban Gerhardt with the BBC Scottish Symphony under Carlos Kalmar (Hyperion), a more secure production on all fronts, with some superb playing from Gerhardt.
The quietly colourful little Intermezzo, Op 12, is better served but when it comes to the CD’s main course, Bartók’s Divertimento, technical and interpretative shortcomings get in the way. It’s mostly a question of balance, the foreground quartet tending to shift focus, and while Cristian Florea clearly has a view of the piece (the finale’s humour, for example), his orchestra isn’t quite up to realising it. Bite is conspicuous by its absence, although the growling spectres that dominate the Molto adagio seem real enough. But turn to any number of rivals for comparison – Fischer, Boulez, Skrowaczewski, Solti, Dorati, Barshai, Wolf and so on – and the shortcomings of this recording become obvious. No point in saying much more, save that if the often attractive Symphonie concertante is your main priority, it’s Gerhardt and Kalmar all the way.