Saturday, September 2, 2023

Radio Hall, Bucharest, Romania

This early-afternoon concert (if not the first of the day during this jam-packed four-week Festival – that was given by the Fine Arts Quartet and friends playing chamber music by George Enescu in Bucharest’s National Museum of Arts) opened with Nymphea by, born 1951, “Romanian composer Doina Rotaru [who] often works with archetypes and symbols that she carefully weaves in her liquid-like heterophonies, blending archaic Romanian influences (particularly in the type of ornamentation or the frequent use of the flute) with contemporary techniques and structures.” This current piece, active from the off with piano and percussion colour, plus note-bending, is certainly atmospheric (wind-through-the-trees sounds, a trifle sinister) and includes a bluesy trumpet solo, a gathering of suspense, and filmic effects, ending with disembodied textures.

Founded in 1955, the Transylvania State Philharmonic Orchestra of Cluj-Napoca (Gabriel Bebeşelea, principal conductor; Lawrence Foster, principal guest) came across as very assured under the going-places Jonathon Heyward,, and they went on to Benjamin Britten’s Piano Concerto (1938) with Andrei Gologan, the solo part finding him to be a dynamic pianist, sporting a flawless technique, a range of touch, and a wholly musical approach to the score, not least suggesting any influences that Prokofiev may have had on the then-young composer and pianist (he gave the first performance) and in a searching assumption of the first-movement cadenza. Gologan and Heyward, supported by the excellent Cluj-Napoca players, caught well the music’s tension (World War II not far away) and – in the replacement, 1945, third movement – melancholy, mirrored by the soulful lower-strings. This was a revealing exploration of a piece that can seem showy above anything else. The Finale marched with determination if crossed with shadows (jackboots perhaps) and ended with bravura. Gologan’s deserved encore, which I cannot name, was witty, jazzy and capricious, and given with relish.

Sadly, the webcast signal now gave out and refused to return (no radio back-up this time). A shame, for I imagine Shostakovich’s First Symphony could have been quite something … expectations were high anyway…