ENESCU Symphony No 4. Chamber Symphony
Peter Ruzicka follows his pioneering disc of Enescu’s Fifth Symphony and Isis (10/14) with the earlier of the Romanian’s unfinished symphonies, realised by composer and musicologist Pascal Bentoiu. Likewise fully drafted, albeit with only its first movement and a third of its successor orchestrated, the Fourth Symphony (1934) yet inhabits a vastly different emotional domain – its initial Allegro evincing a visceral anguish for the most part amply conveyed by this powerful if slightly too broad reading. With its martial undertones and haunted progress, the central Andante is one of Enescu’s most distinctive creations; after which the energetic final Allegro brings an emotional release that avoids any hint of triumphalism – not least in the stark defiance of its climactic bars. Ruzicka and his Hanover players assuredly have its measure, confirming the work’s place among the most vital symphonies of its era (Vaughan Williams’s Fourth makes for a telling comparison), though future recordings will hopefully uncover even more of the intricately heterophonic writing which is a hallmark of this music.
As to the couplings, the eight-minute fragment of Nuages d’automne sur les forêts is all that Enescu wrote (in the early 1930s) for seemingly the first part in a trilogy of which only Vox maris saw completion. There have been earlier recordings, but Ruzicka’s astute handling of its sombre expression and swirling textures is demonstrably superior. Nor is his account of the valedictory Chamber Symphony (1954) to be found wanting, even though Hannu Lintu’s recording captures more of the suffused radiance that makes it such an affecting swansong.
CPO’s sound is admirably detailed if lacking in the last degree of immediacy, and there are informative booklet-notes. Hopefully Bentoiu’s own music will be gaining greater exposure during the run-up to his 90th birthday in 2017; for now, this is a self-recommending release.