Tammuz Piano Quartet

George Enescu: Piano Quartets Nos. 1 & 2

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Best known for his two Romanian Rhapsodies, Op. 11, Romanian composer George Enescu wrote music in every major genre aside from choral music. His chamber works are all but unknown, but the revaluation upward of Eastern European music in general has caused ensembles to take a new look. The two piano quartets recorded here were separated by an interval of more than 30 years, and they're quite different in style. But a quality of dense, overflowing melody is common to both. Neither sounds much like the Romanian Rhapsodies, and except in the long and mostly motoric finales there is little that is nationalistic about either work. It's been said that Enescu merged the French and German strands of late Romanticism in his music, and indeed the Piano Quartet No. 1, Op. 16, composed in 1909, sounds a bit like what might have happened if Richard Strauss had grown up in Paris. It's a large piece (for a chamber work), with the first two of its three movements clocking in at over 13 minutes each, but German-Austrian Tammuz Piano Quartet keeps the intensity level up. The Piano Quartet No. 2, Op. 30, is more distinctive. The work was composed at the height of World War II, at the Romanian country house where Enescu waited out the conflagration. Its opening movement is extraordinarily complex, with a kind of chilly quality, as if Enescu was trying to keep the horror engulfing Europe away by sheer force of intellectual will. But the slow movement, gorgeously played here, is warm and lyrical. Either of these works would make a good concert second half for an aspiring chamber music group, and the Tammuz players and the CPO label should be commended for unearthing them. Superior sound from the Bayerische Rundfunk studios is another plus. Notes are in English, French, and German.

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