Gennady Rozhdestvensky: Enescu Symphony 2

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Apple iTunesGeorge Enescu - Symphony No. 2 (1912)
Conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky with the BBC Philharmonic.

I. Vivace - Ma Non Troppo - 00:00
II. Andante Giusto - 19:15
III. Un Poco Lento - Marziale - 35:30
IV. Allegro Vivace - Marziale - 40:06

Enescu wrote four "school" symphonies, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, compositions he regarded as mere exercises. His earlier orchestral successes were with works of an overtly national kind, the Romanian Poem of 1897, played under Edouard Colonne in Paris in 1898, and the two popular Romanian Rhapsodies of 1901. The first of his five numbered symphonies was written in 1905. The second, the Symphony in A Major, Opus 17, was composed during the years 1912 to 1914 and was only performed once in Enescu's life-time.

It seems that Enescu intended to make further revisions in the second symphony, probably with the idea of simplifying what is a very complex score. The form in which we now have the work contains relatively few of these changes but is perfectly accessible to modern orchestras and proves, indeed, to represent an important stage in the composer's development, coming, as it does, at the threshold of his maturity as a composer. There is here a wide romantic sweep and melodic flow, coupled with intensity of contrast and a masterly use of polyphonic and heterophonic techniques.

The three movements of the symphony are broadly in traditional sonata-form, with cyclic ideas ensuring the organic unity of the whole work. The first movement, marked Vivace ma non troppo, contains four cyclic ideas, an impetuous and vigorous first subject, that introduces the work with all the restless energy of a Richard Strauss, a transitional idea, the Romanian inspired second subject and the French horn signal theme that leads into the development.

The slow movement adds two further melodic elements, the first adding a mood of serene lyricism and the second plaintive in character. The following movement, written as war swept Europe, opens with a long introduction suggesting danger to come, with its distant drum-beats, leading to the outburst of the Allegro vivace, also marked Marziale. The symphony ends, as symphonies had traditionally tended to, with a mood of triumphant optimism, bringing to an end a work that is a further musical demonstration of Enescu's musical principle of continual action.

Gennady Rozhdestvensky: Enescu Symphony 3