- String quartet No.1 in E flat, Op 22/1
- String quartet No.2 in G, Op 22/2
Enescu: String Quartets 1 & 2
History will decide whether Georges Enescu belongs in the front rank of composers, but he is certainly one of the most fascinating musical figures of the past century. A conductor, violinist, and teacher as well as a composer, he almost single-handedly established Romania's place in the world of classical music. Yet, while Enescu's delightful Romanian Rhapsodies remain popular with orchestras, little else in his vast output has made its way into the standard repertory. These two string quartets are well worth hearing, however, although those who enjoy the Romanian Rhapsodies will not find the same tunefulness here. These are big, serious works. The First Quartet was composed between 1916 and '20, and if the musical language occasionally harks back to the quartets of Debussy and Ravel, it is also entirely original and intensely expressive. The Second Quartet was completed some three decades later, in 1951, and is less expansive in terms of overall structure, melodic scope, and emotional affability. Enescu obviously listened to the sounds around him and absorbed a variety of modern techniques. Yet while this latter work sometimes seems to flirt with atonality, there is nothing forbidding about it. And, in fact, its intimate tone, delicate textures, and pearlescent colors draw one in. The performances by the Ad Libitum Quartet, a Romanian ensemble, are absolutely splendid; the players' love and understanding for the music is palpable in every bar. It is discs like this -- of unusual repertory, superbly performed, beautifully recorded, and reasonably priced -- that account for Naxos' tremendous success. Collectors, rejoice!
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