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Rhapsodie Roumaine
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A major, Op. 11 (1901) (arr. piano quartet, Thomas Wally) [12:51]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 25 ‘dans le caractčre populaire roumain’ (1926) [24:05]
Nocturne for piano quartet ‘Ville d’Avrayen’ (c. 1930s) [5:56]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
‘An Evening in the Village’ for violin & piano [2:24]
8 Duos for 2 violins, Sz. 98 (1931) (arranged for 2 violas) [8:08]
6 Romanian Folk Dances for violin & piano, Sz. 56 [6:41]
Ensemble Raro (Gilles Apap (violin), Diana Ketler (piano), Christian Naș, Razvan Popovici (violas))
rec. 2017 at Studio 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich
SOLO MUSICA SM277 [61:26]

One of my 2017 Records of the Year was Ensemble Raro’s album Being Earnest comprising of Dohnányi’s Piano Quintet No. 2 and Piano Sextet, two undervalued works that deserve a wider circulation (review). Also on Solo Musica, Ensemble Raro has now turned its attention to a collection of chamber works from Moldavian George Enescu and Hungarian Béla Bartók, both born the same year.

The title of the album ‘Rhapsodie Roumaine’ refers to the opening work, Enescu’s famous Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 for orchestra, played here in arrangement for piano quartet prepared by Austrian composer Thomas Wally that Ensemble Raro commissioned. Clearly relishing the score, Ensemble Raro provide a rare blend of seductively expressive and stylish musicianship with exciting results. Regarded by many as Enescu’s greatest work is the Third Sonata for violin and piano titled ‘dans le caractčre populaire roumain’ from 1926, performed here by Gilles Apap (violin) and Diana Ketler (piano). The duo sagaciously brings out the Romanian inspiration, heady perfumes and vivid colours of this sensuous score. Recently rediscovered Nocturne ‘Ville d’Avrayen’ for piano quartet from the 1930s was written in honour of Yehudi Menuhin, a friend and former student of Enescu, and the Menuhin family. In this attractive, short work taking around six minutes to perform here, Ensemble Raro produce a heavily poignant and reflective atmosphere.
 
Bartók is represented by three works. The first is the very brief ‘An Evening in the Village’ for violin and piano, composed in 1908 as the fifth of the ‘Ten Easy Piano Pieces’. With the two themes in the style of Hungarian-Transylvanian folk tunes, the work is played by Gilles Apap (violin) and Diana Ketler (piano) who create an agreeably sultry mood. Next comes a selection of eight of the forty-four Duos for two violins from 1931, performed in the arrangement for two violas by Christian Naș and Razvan Popovici, who play with colourful expression and zest in the spicy folk rhythms. The six Romanian Folk Dances comprise a suite of short piano pieces given by the duo in the version for violin and piano, which I guess is the Zoltán Székely arrangement. Apap and Ketler easily communicate the folk-dance character and essence whilst accentuating the infectious, foot tapping rhythms.

No problems whatsoever with the satisfying sound, recorded at the studios of Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich. Dan Pârvu has written an interesting essay that provides some context of the era in which these Enescu and Bartók scores were written. There is also a small amount of information specific to the works.

Throughout this Enescu and Bartók programme there is outstanding playing by Ensemble Raro, both characterful and constantly stylish, marked by impeccable unity.

Michael Cookson




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