Saturday, August 28, 2021

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

The 25th George Enescu Festival runs until September 26. The scale of the event, established biennially in 1958, is staggering, as much for the quantity of Enescu’s music in all mediums as the nightly presence of so many world-class orchestras, conductors and soloists. One can only begin to imagine the planning, logistics and funding involved. Stratospheric.

Europe, the dawning of the twentieth-century. Britain, the German-speaking lands, absent. France/Romania 1901, Finland 1904-05, Russia 1906-07. Setting the scene, the Second, more introverted, of Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsodies, Opus 11/2. D-major, fireside reminiscence, Balkan/Black Sea exoticism. With a knack to frame such pieces into smoky landscapes, it ideally suited Paavo Järvi, romancing us with a lingeringly water-coloured, flower-scented panorama of songs and folk roulades, bardic tales and interleaved woodwind, dying away in the briefest of droned folk skirt/bare heels/tossed hair dances, viola shyly flirting in slurs, staccatos, accents and tenutos. Crotchet 160 vite says the score. Crotchet 124 not too gaiement is what we got. Twelve minutes of heaven.

Hilary Hahn’s Sibelius is one of her strengths. And with Järvi – a reassuring glance working wonders, eye contact at a premium, the perfect Concerto partner – she relaxes. Maybe the heat and humidity of the day got to her. Whatever, her energy levels didn’t kick in until the Finale. The first movement cadenza erred on the thin side. The middle movement tired, missing the concentrated, intense voice we admire her for. Graciously, a pair of Bach encores – C-major Sonata BWV1005, Largo; E-major Partita BWV1006, Gigue – delighted the room (the Grand Palace Hall seats over 4,000).

With the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra led in style by Sarah Nemțanu, joint concertmaster of the Orchestre National de France – a Franco-Romanian player of strong temperament and body language – Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, uncut and including first movement repeat, unfolded spaciously, with authority. Järvi isn’t one to labour a point or over-do emotions, preferring rather to balance the orchestra, massage tempo, and let the music speak for itself. Once a line, a paragraph, a climax is under way, he leaves it to flow, accelerate or decelerate naturally, shape before incident. Ensemble was a touch frayed in the Scherzo. Some of the percussion detail generally might have been crisper and less abruptly damped. But that said, there was much to take from this performance – a symphonic poem of an Adagio, time soaring then suspended – plus oddly unexpected nuances. Bringing out the second horn in the moderato of the first movement seven bars after figure 7, correspondingly elsewhere, particularly illumined the picture. Nemțanu’s characterful solos stood out, likewise her fiery attacks, colleagues following suit.

The webcast varied in quality, 720p not providing the sharpest image. Audio similarly was irregular, faders moving a little too obviously. That the twelve-hour replay facility oddly broke-up or truncated passages, effectively rendered it useless. Gremlins that will need fixing.

Celibidache Christmas Cheer: Let’s lighten the mood and scintillate to Celibidache conducting Enescu’s First Romanian Rhapsody: now republished as a regular tonic.