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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55103
Recording details: February 1991
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Stephen Johns
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: November 1991
Total duration: 22 minutes 2 seconds

'An unqualified recommendation' (Classic CD)

'Exemplary performance … An important release, much to be recommended' (CDReview)

'Un disque splendide, qui espérons-le, ouvrira d'autres horizons à cette oeuvre attachante' (Disques Compactes)

'La précision et la sensualité du jeu d'Oprean font merveille' (EcouterVoir, France)

Violin Sonata No 2, Op 6

Assez mouvemente  [7'38]
Tranquillo  [6'51]
Vif  [7'33]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Enescu was still at the Paris Conservatoire when he wrote his Second Violin Sonata in April 1899. Listening to it, one would hardly guess that it was a student work, though one could not fail to notice the influence of Gabriel Fauré, who had taught Enescu composition. Certainly this work represents a huge stylistic advance on Enescu’s First Violin Sonata (1897), which was written in a much more foursquare classical style dominated by Schumann, Brahms and Saint-Saëns. From Fauré, evidently, Enescu had acquired devices of musical suppleness, complexity and elegant understatement: a sense of linear fluidity, sonorous but delicate keyboard textures, and an elliptical harmonic language combining modal progressions with hints of chromatic voluptuousness. This sonata was dedicated to the young French violinist, and fellow student at the Conservatoire, Jacques Thibaud (and to his pianist brother, Joseph). Enescu was entranced by the passionate delicacy of Thibaud’s style as a violinist and evidently tried to capture something of that elusive musical quality in the writing of this work.

Interviewed late in his life, Enescu described the genesis of this sonata as follows: ‘At the age of fourteen, when I was walking by myself in Prince Maurouzi’s garden, a theme came into my head. I carried it inside me for three years; then, at the age of seventeen, I wrote my Second Violin Sonata in the space of a fortnight.’ The work does have an extraordinary unity, mainly because of the way in which it is pervaded by the long, mysterious, harmonically suggestive and rhythmically disorientating theme which opens the first movement. Elements of this theme are developed throughout the work, in ways which not only vary the rhythmical pattern but also compress or expand the intervals between the notes, until one is left with a sense of a powerful but indeterminate musical shape behind the theme itself.

Two of Enescu’s most enduring characteristics as a composer can be noticed in this work. One is his development of an ‘organicist’ structure in which everything is related to everything else. Enescu had a deep-rooted preference for cyclical form, especially for that version of cyclical form which not only re-states the themes of earlier movements in the finale, but also piles them one on top of another, using the device of cumulative superimposition to reveal their hidden affinities. The other characteristic is his love of harmonically ambiguous modes which shift from major to minor: this technique derives ultimately from the chromatic modes of Romanian folk music, with their ‘mobile’ major-minor thirds, and it is put to use with touching simplicity in the slow movement of this sonata.

from notes by Noel Malcolm © 1991

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