George Enescu - Vox Maris, op.31; Poeme roumain, Op.1; Voix de
la Nature. "George Enescu" Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra; c.
Cristian Mandeal. (Arte Nova 7432165425 2)
The Bucharest Symphony Orchestra and Cristian Mandeal's odyssey through
the shoals and reefs of Enesco's incomparable orchestral oeuvre has been
a marvellous one. It reaches a stormy climax with their heroic navigation
of "Vox Maris", the master's maritime tone-poem and perhaps his most
awesomely difficult score to bring off.
Largely written in 1929, between the twin peaks of his 3rd Symphony and
the 3rd Orchestral Suite, "Vox Maris" is a seascape, but quite without the
glinting sunlight of "La Mer" or the yearning beauty of Bax's "Garden of
Fand". Enescu's sea is a devouring horror, a nightmare force which is not
neutral, but maliciously inimical to mankind.
The virtuosic power of Enescu's orchestration, bells, wind-machine,
tuned gongs et. al. has never been so well caught on record. The heave
and swell of his awesome grey storm-troughs never been so graphically
presented. Andreescu's comparatively restrained and smoothly played
account on Olympia still commands respect, but when it comes to visceral
impact, clarity of structure and musical thought, Mandeal's new account is
clear first choice.
"Vox Maris" is grimly awe-inspiring, a deeply pessimistic vision of the
tragedy of humanity, but there is nothing else in music quite like it and
it is a must for anyone interested in the music of the last century.
The rest of the programme is equally thrilling, and much less daunting.
We get the 9 minute, sumptuously lyrical torso of the unfinished "Voix de
la Nature" - not a CD world premiere as claimed as it's already on Marco
Polo. Best of all, we get a high- voltage account of the symphonic "Poeme
roumain", Enescu's Opus 1, written at the age of 16 when the prodigiously
gifted composer already had four "Study Symphonies" behind him.
This is another piece of tremendous sweep and power, remarkably free of
unabsorbed influences, lyrically inspired and without a dull bar in its
half-hour course. Pictorially nationalist through and through, it ends
with a huge apotheosis of the Rumanian National Anthem and will appeal
to anyone who finds the two, later "Rumanian Rhapsodies" to their taste.
Mandeal makes sure of its structural cogency, at the same time as
encouraging his players to exploit the rough-edged folk-visions of the
score. This is an imaginative, direct and anything but homogenised reading
which is once again simply the best so far committed to disk. Altogether,
at less than 5 Pounds Sterling there will be no better bargain this year
than this red-blooded Arte Nova production.
Christopher Webber, Blackheath, London, UK.