Enescu: Suites For Piano / Luiza Borac
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George Enescu was a musical genius of Mozartean universality and range, and the only reason his music isn't better known is because it's terribly difficult to play, not just technically but emotionally and stylistically. Despite the neo-classical patterning of such works as the first two suites on offer here, there's really no such thing as a chaste, "classical" approach to these, or any other of his works. Either you're a full-blown Romantic virtuoso in the "golden age" sense of the term, or you'd better not waste your own (or the listener's) time. In particular, Enescu's subtle approach to tempo requires the most sensitive use of rubato and the ability to play whole phrases and paragraphs across the bar lines as if in a single breath. Add to this the composer's exquisite sensitivity to matters of tone color and his sheer love of rich textures--of writing music with "lots of notes" but in which every one of them matters--and the result requires a very special sort of artistry in performance.
On evidence here, Romanian pianist Luiza Borac makes a very worthy exponent of her countryman's music. The First Suite, composed at the ripe old age of 15, is Bach on steroids, and Borac's playing perfectly conveys its gusto and enthusiasm. She projects the second-movement fugue with effortless insouciance and makes a thing of poetry of the Adagio, one of Enescu's first essays in the sort of endlessly flowing river of melody that later became so characteristic of his style. In the final Presto, Borac unleashes a torrent of sound and sustains it from the first bar to the last.
The Second Suite, which dates from 1901/03, begins with a jubilant Toccata, played here with the necessary freedom of tempo and uninhibited sense of abandon. Listen to the way Borac caresses the gorgeous third-movement Pavane, her fingers scarcely seeming to touch the keyboard as she spins out its gentle trills and decorative filigree. Captivating! In the concluding Bourrée Enescu turns to Romanian folk music, and Borac captures both the music's rustic charm as well as its evident desire to break out of the simple rhythm of its initial accompaniment and become something altogether more sophisticated (an apt musical illustration of the composer's personality).
Dating from 1913-16, the Third Suite consists of individual pieces later collected together in a single volume, and so it completely lacks the neo-classical formal outlines of the previous two. It also contains some of Enescu's most remarkable piano music now in his fully mature style. Voix de la steppe perfectly illustrates his "parlando-rubato" melodic style, as does Borac's presentation of it. Burlesque recalls many a similar moment in Bartók, with its nose-thumbing humor and deliberate grotesquerie. The most remarkable movements, though, are the finale pair, a chorale shot through with mysterious modal harmony, and a remarkable Carillon nocturne whose chiming dissonances and evocative use of piano resonance sound like some early work of Messiaen.
It's very instructive to compare Borac's performances of these last two pieces to those of Aurora Ienei (last on Olympia). Borac takes a full three and half minutes longer over both movements but plays with such dynamic sensitivity and breadth of phrasing that Ienei sounds quite prosaic by comparison. Borac also is much better recorded; the silken tones she conjures from the keyboard are very naturally captured in a lively acoustic that coveys optimal warmth and clarity. Even were this not the only show in town in this repertoire, it's obvious that Borac has a special affinity for the composer's elusive idiom, and that makes this disc an outstanding contribution to the still far-too-small Enescu discography.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: AV0013
Composer: George Enescu
Performer: Luiza Borac