Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, op. 13/George Enescu
February 10, 2015
George Enescu (1881-1955) like so many other composers was a child prodigy. He was but seven years old when he entered the Vienna Conservatory, graduated six years later and entered the Paris Conservatory in Paris to study from the famous composers Massenet and Faure. While still a teenager he had already written four study symphonies (not to be confused with his symphonies) and his very popular Poeme Roumain, a very popular work to this day. He was to spend his life between Paris and his native country of Romania for the next 50+ years. While he didn’t achieve the status of Debussy and Ravel I still consider him to be a major player in the early 20th century.
The horns call out in majestic fashion to open this assez vif et rythme (assertive lively rhythm). One can definitely hear an influence of both Wagner (dramatic) and the sound of Debussy. The call of the horns leads right into the first theme. There is a change signaled by the strings which brings on a dark yearning section which quickly ends after a struggle of conflict very much Wagnerian. It ends in a melodic uplifting fashion with a robust conclusion.
The second movement begins in a dark fashion before it settles into some very nice counterpoint as the two themes become one in a good display of orchestration. This movement for the most part is very French sounding to me. It ends as it began with a danger signal followed by a quiet moment of reflection.
The final movement, the shortest of the three movements, begins in an energetic fashion, vif et vigourex (energetic with vigor) and this is where Enescu shows off his fine orchestral mastery. Keep in mind this is from a 23 year old who has already seemed to have mastered the art of orchestration as well as counterpoint. I can hear the sound of an Eric Korngold film score along with the sound of Brahms and Debussy. Through the entire symphony you’ll hear the call from the horns which is a trademark to this fine first ‘serious’ effort of a symphony from Enescu. I say serious because he did do four study symphonies before he wrote this.
This recording will replace my 1991 Marco Polo 8.223141 recording which is still a servicable recording but can’t compare to this new release in terms of clarity, color, and improved recording techniques. As I enjoyed Lintu and the Tampere Philharmonic in their recording of the third symphony I also like this one too and I look forward to more Enescu from an orchestra and conductor who seems to have a good feel for Enescu’s music.