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At the start of the recital with the first Impression d'enfance (a solo 'Fiddler') Azoitei's 'Balkan' nuances and dazzling technique lend striking vitality to Enescu's childhood vignette. Indeed throughout this opus the composer's imagery is both beautiful and arresting with the ten brief portraits of a Romanian village conjured into indelible kaleidoscopic life by Hänssler's partnership.

As the miniatures progress, the violin is called upon to tackle a taxing range of harmonic effects, notably during 'The Bird in the Cage and the Cuckoo on the Wall', solely in harmonics but for the strident chordal cuckoo clock, calling seven. Requiring even greater delicacy, insect-weight harmonics are central to Enescu's fleeting 'Cricket'.

Between these two impressions Enescu displays a stroke of creative cunning, as he offsets the 'cage and cuckoo' with his 'Lullaby' [listen -- track 5, 0:51-1:20]; bearing a striking resemblance to one of Bartok's Six Romanian Folk Dances. In the accompanying notes pianist Stan singles out this one minute 44 second item as the 'philosophical core' of the ten childhood memories.

Another bold stroke is used when 'Wind in the Chimney' features what appear to be rarely used but miraculously effective sul ponticello harmonics.

The 'impressions' are from 25 seconds to 3' 33" in duration yet each one is masterly in its construction. Most of all Enescu's craftsmanship is distinguished by it's inescapable poetic unity. Items meld into one another and Azoitei with Stan reveal the genius of this sadly neglected work with undivided artistry.

In 1911, Enescu began work on what was intended to be his third violin sonata but he abandoned the piece after completing a lengthy (sixteen minutes plus) first movement. The result -- we're left with the truncated Sonata in A minor (aptly named Torso).

Torso has been previously recorded just twice; by the Oprean (Helios, 2002) and New York's Orfeo (Marquis Classics, 2005] duos. Fortuitously, like Azoitei, Adelina Oprean was born in Romania and studied under Stefan Gheorghiu (Bucharest), Yehudi Menuhin (Gstaad), and Sändor Végh (Salzburg). Consequently the pedigree and mentoring of both Romanian violinists has uniquely equipped them as Enescu advocates.

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Copyright © 9 May 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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