Symphony No. 3/George Enescu

December 1, 2013

enescu symphony no 3


George Enescu (1881-1955) was born in Romania and like other composers was a child prodigy composing his first work at the age of five. He was enrolled in the Vienna Conservatory at the age of seven, graduating with honors at thirteen. He led a full life as a composer, conductor, violinist, and teacher. At one time in his life he was considered as a replacement for Arturo Toscanini.

The third symphony in C major, op.21 was written in the period of 1916-18 and the work was based on WWI, something which deeply affected him and you’ll certainly hear it in this work, which runs the gamut of emotions.

The ominous sound of the timpani which is the background for the introduction of the main theme is a melody you won’t soon forget. The lower register of the orchestra is allowed to develop it before the strings make their appearance along with dissonant sounding chords based on the melody with the brass entering the orchestration. The mood changes to an uplifting one with majestic horns and Debussy sounding chords. Enescu makes strong use of what Romanian musicologists call it heterophony instead of polyphony.

The second movement is of fantasy and could very well be heard as a background to a Hollywood film. Using the main theme from the first movement it builds to a rousing conclusion before it fades to fragments to your ears.

The third movement which is the same length as the first movement is one of mystery as the wordless choir and the organ makes this an angelic feeling ending. There is a return to the main theme, a brief crescendo, church bells and the ending has some sense of closure.

This is a recording not to be missed on all aspects of evaluation. Lintu and the Tampere Philharmonic are in top form playing like they know the material well. The Ondine recording team has captured the delicacy and nuances of the recording making this an easy on the ears listening experience.

“Ouverture de concert” was composed in 1948 toward Enescu’s later years in his life and instantly the sound of some of his earlier works such as the Romanian Rhapsodies come to mind. However, on further examination this piece is far more complex. The brisk opening theme with lively violins quickly turn into a slower pace with the melody being provided by the reed section. It has that somewhat dreamy sound like we’ve heard in the third symphony. I’m somewhat reminded of Prokofiev as far as the orchestration is concerned with selectively placed percussion. One could look at this piece as a folk song with the violins imitating fiddling but it is so much deeper than that.

This is a CD or digital file that is a worthy addition to your collection and is the second in a series of Enescu recordings by Ondine. The first recording (Ondine 1396) of the second symphony and chamber symphony was nominated for a Grammy and complements this one.

Track Listing:

1… Ouverture de concert sur des themes dans le caractere (9:12)

Symphony No. 3, Op. 21 (46:11)

2… Moderato, un poco maestoso (16:17)

3… Vivace, ma non troppo (13:35)

4… Lento, ma non troppo (16:17)




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