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Enescu: Piano Sonata No.1; Suite No.2

Audio Samples

>Enescu, George [Composer] : Sonata for Piano no 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 24/1
>Enescu, George [Composer] : Pieces impromptues, Op. 18
>     6. Choral
>     7. Carillon nocturne
>Enescu, George [Composer] : Suite for piano no 2 in D major, Op. 10

Album Summary

>Enescu, George [Composer] : Sonata for Piano no 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 24/1
>Enescu, George [Composer] : Pieces impromptues, Op. 18
>Enescu, George [Composer] : Suite for piano no 2 in D major, Op. 10
Performer Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This collection of piano music is a welcome reminder of the many fascinating stylistic strands that colour George Enescu's work. Seriously under-rated today, he exerted a powerful influence on all those who came under his spell, including Yehudi Menuhin, for whom Enescu remained "the greatest musician". Pianist Matei Varga is a prizewinner of numerous international competitions, among them the Maria Canals Competition in Barcelona, the Porto International Piano Competition and the George Enescu Competition in Bucharest.

'If you want to dip into just a little Enesco, the present very well accomplished recording offers an inexpensive way of doing that...Decent notes and good sound complete the picture."- American Record Guide

Fanfare - Peter J. Rabinowitz
Trained in Romania and later at Mannes, Matei Varga is a talented young pianist with a string of contest victories behind him - and he makes a vivid impression on this new Enescu recording. What's perhaps most notable is his acute sense of vertical balance, invaluable in music with such textural complexity; inner lines emerge gracefully, and there's a refreshing transparency to even the densest passages. Varga has a fine sense of the music's range of character as well, whether it be the post-Scriabinesque yearnings of the first movement of the sonata (reminiscent, in spots, of the Berg), the rather jazzy drive of the second movement, the almost FaurTen sweetness of the Second Suite's Sarabande, or the calm mystery of the Choral from the Third Suite. Colors are evocative throughout, too, especially in the quieter end of the spectrum (try the sotto voce mystery at the beginning of the sonata).

... those seeking an inexpensive one-disc introduction to Enescu's piano music, one that gives a taste of both the sonatas and the suites, should find this new release well worth consideration.

American Record Guide - Alan Becker
A few years back Romanian pianist Luiza Borac made a major contribution to the Enesco discography with two discs of piano music, both favorably reviewed by me. Her countryman, Varga, has now contributed towards this discography by offering his ideas on several of the pieces.

If you want to dip into just a little Enesco, the present very well accomplished recording offers an inexpensive way of doing that. Piano Sonata 1 (1924) compares favorably with Borac's performance. The timing is similar, and the expressionist writing is ably conveyed by both pianists. Were I to cite any differences, it would be only to note that Borac comes across in a more lyrical manner, while Varga tears into the sinew of this music with greater bite and forcefulness. Listeners weaned on the Romanian Rhapsodies would be hard-pressed to find much of a similar nature here. It might be a tough nut to crack, but well worth the effort.

Suite 2 is an altogether different story. Dating from 1903, the music's four movements hearken back to earlier baroque forms and, with an impressionist overlay, are an effective homage to the past. Varga stretches things out some five minutes longer than Borac, but manages to sustain the lines in the 'Sarabande' and 'Pavane' without any tedium.

Completing this program are the 'Choral' and 'Carillon Nocturne', VI and VII from Suite 3. Since I cannot imagine anyone being fully satisfied with this partial selection, if the Enesco bug bites, it is inevitable that you will seek out both Borac discs. If you do not succumb so readily, this will probably do the job for you. Decent notes and good sound complete the picture.

Gapplegate Music Review - Grego Applegate Edwards
Music lovers of my generation, mostly, came across the music of Romanian composer George Enescu (1881 - 1955) as the B-side of the highly acclaimed Ravi Shankar-Yehudi Menuhin album East Meets West. On the second side was a marvelous performance of Enescu's "Sonata for Violin and Piano," a work that reveled in an Eastern European tonality that made it a fitting example of the eastern-western half of the equation (the raga side of the record exemplifying the western-eastern, as it were). That record encouraged me to seek out more music by Enescu, and I found some wonderful recordings. The end of the LP era marked the end of further Enescu collecting for me. No reason, except perhaps there was less of it around on CD for a time.

With the Naxos (8.572120) release of Piano Music, performed in lovely fashion by Matei Varga, we get another side of the composer. This is more the Enescu as international stylist than it is Enescu the nationalist composer. The "Piano Sonata No. 1," "Pieces Impromptues, Op. 18," and the "Suite No. 2, Op. 10" are worthy examples of Enescu's art. There is a Ravellian glimmer in much of this music. It is delightful, as are the performances by Matei Varga.

Enescu needs to be heard more often. You can do that with this one and be assured that it is good Enescu music, not just any old Enescu music.

Allmusic.com - James Manheim
The rediscovery of Eastern European repertoires from the first half of the 20th century continues to yield treasures, and here is a new set. Romanian composer George Enescu remains mostly known for his Romanian Rhapsodies (2) for orchestra, but between the world wars he was known, respected, and followed all over Europe, by Ravel among others. Enescu's little-heard piano music has been recorded in toto by Luiza Borac, but those wanting a single disc at the attractive Naxos price would do well to pick up this selection of diverse works recorded by the young Romanian American Matei Varga. Enescu's models were the French impressionists, but his voice is unique, with a dedication to sheer knotty complexity that was alien to French music. The Choral from the PiFces Impromptues, Op. 18, makes a good place to start: it develops a large structure in an unbroken arc from the chorale-like material stated at the beginning. The same sense of the long line is present in the first movement of the Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 24/1, composed in 1924; its tempo indication, Allegro molto moderato e grave, gives an idea of its constantly shifting harmonies and tempi. It's an extraordinary piece that copies no school, constantly surprises the listener, and yet seems to hang ineluctably together. The Suite No. 2 in D major, Op. 10, partakes of the neo-Baroque strain present in the music of Debussy and Ravel, but again is entirely different in effect, with dense harmonic complications enveloping the stately Sarabande and Pavane. The folk strain in Enescu's music is only hinted at (in the sonata's last two movements), but it is well known from elsewhere, and this fine recording, with a pianist fully on top of the rather punishing and never showy virtuosity required by Enescu's music, is likely to whet the listener's attention for more of it. With top-notch engineering from New York's Patrych Sound Studios, this is a standout among Naxos' discs seeking the revival of lost national repertories.

David's Review Corner - David Denton
Violinist, pianist, conductor, teacher and composer, George Enescu was one of the most gifted and complete musicians in the first half of the 20th century.
So why do we know so little about him today? Maybe he spread his immense gifts over too great a musical area. Born in Romania in 1881, he learned to play the violin by ear at the age of four. Entered into the Vienna Conservatoire when seven he was moved to study at the Paris Conservatoire at the age of nine, continuing his violin studies and entering the composition class of Massenet. Performing and using his teaching skills provided the wherewithal to allow him time to begin composing. Chamber music featured in a substantial output, the present disc covering his younger years, and came at a time when the melodic style he used was becoming unfashionable. Yet he was never afraid to experiment, as in his attempt to recreate a carillon in the second of his PiFces impromptus. The Second Suite dates from his twenty-second year, its four movements meeting every convention of the early Romantic era in France. But it is the three totally different moods of the First Piano Sonata that proves so irresistibly fascinating. The young Romanian pianist, Matei Varga, won a first prize performing the work at the George Enescu Competition in Bucharest, and you can feel throughout the disc his empathy with the music. His technical qualities are impeccable and his clean and clear playing is captured in recorded sound that could not be bettered. An outstanding release of neglected music.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Patrych Sound Studios, New York, USA (09/25/2008-09/30/2008).



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Works Details

>Enescu, George [Composer] : Sonata for Piano no 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 24/1
  • Performer: Matei Varga (Piano)
  • Notes: Patrych Sound Studios, New York, USA (09/25/2008-09/30/2008)
  • Running Time: 24 min. 50 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic

>Enescu, George [Composer] : Pièces impromptues, Op. 18 :: 6. Choral
  • Performer: Matei Varga (Piano)
  • Notes: Patrych Sound Studios, New York, USA (09/25/2008-09/30/2008)
  • Running Time: 7 min. 7 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1913-1916

>Enescu, George [Composer] : Pièces impromptues, Op. 18 :: 7. Carillon nocturne
  • Performer: Matei Varga (Piano)
  • Notes: Patrych Sound Studios, New York, USA (09/25/2008-09/30/2008)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 33 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1913-1916

>Enescu, George [Composer] : Suite for piano no 2 in D major, Op. 10
  • Performer: Matei Varga (Piano)
  • Notes: Patrych Sound Studios, New York, USA (09/25/2008-09/30/2008)
  • Running Time: 26 min. 3 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic