Plush Ensemble: Enescu - String Octet in C
Remus Azoitei and the Plush Ensemble explore the scale and ambition of an epic early work by the Romanian composer George Enescu.
Download includes HD Video & Audio files, and 24 bit audio
Filming took place on 4 July 2008 in the Church of St Jude, Golders Green, London – Sir Edwin Lutyens's first and best ecclesiastical building and the parish church of the Hampstead Garden Suburb model community, founded in 1907 by Henrietta Barnett. A magnificent Edwardian period piece, the building's superb acoustic has inspired a strong musical tradition, and it is in regular use for recordings and concerts.
George Enescu (1881-1955) – String Octet in C major, Op.7
1. Très modéré
2. Très fougueux
4. Movt de valse bien rhythmée
HD Video and Audio – 39 minutes
Lighting Cameraman – Bjorn Ventris
Cameramen – Julian Eborn and Tom Maine
Audio recorded and mastered by Eric James for URM Audio Ltd
Video editing – Emily West
Producer – Adrian Brendel
Assistant Producer – Matthew Jolly
Founded by cellist Adrian Brendel, this flexible collective of international musicians is committed to performing new programmes at the highest level, contrasting chamber music works with the most interesting music of the avant-garde. Previous programmes include Beethoven and Schubert quartets paired with modern works by Ligeti, Birtwistle and Kurtag.
Remus Azoitei, violin
The Romanian-born violinist has achieved international acclaim since his concerto debut at the age of eight. Hailed as "an uninhibited virtuoso, with soul and fabulous technique" by The Strad, he has performed in Europe, North America, Japan and New Zealand. His CD release of the entire violin repertoire by George Enescu, a world premiere project, has received international acclaim.
Ruth Rogers, violin
As a soloist and chamber musician Ruth Rogers has performed at the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, Royal Albert Hall and, between 2006 and 2008, in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. Current projects include the launch of the Aquinas Piano Trio and concerts with the Iuventus Quartet at various festivals and music clubs. Ruth has just been appointed as co-leader of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
Corinne Chapelle, violin
Born in the United States to French parents, Corinne trained with Yehudi Menuhin before entering the Juilliard School of Music to pursue her musical studies with Pinchas Zukerman. Corinne has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe, Asia and the United States. Chosen to represent the United States as an International Ambassador of Music, Corinne toured Europe, Asia and the United States, performing the Chinese premiere of Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Violin with the Shanghai Philharmonic.
Simon Blendis, violin
Alongside his work in the Schubert Ensemble, Simon Blendis regularly guest leads the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta, as well as the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa in Japan. A keen exponent of new music, he has had new pieces written for him by, amongst others, Tansy Davies, Stuart Macrae, John Woolrich and jazz legend Dave Brubeck.
Susan Knight, viola
Sue made her debut at the Purcell Room in London's South Bank Centre after completing her studies at the Royal College of Music. During the screening of "Viola Viola" by George Benjamin at the Meltdown Festival in London, Susan performed with violist Lawrence Power in the Royal Festival Hall. She is a guest of the Nash Ensemble, and she is a regular at the international musicians' seminar Prussia Cove.
Tobias Breider, viola
A native of Münster, Westphalia, Tobias has been a regular guest at the Plush Festival, as well as performing at other venues across Europe. After being a member of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for seven seasons, he recently moved to Hamburg as principal violist of the Philharmonic State Orchestra performing both Operas and Symphonies.
Adrian Brendel, cello
Adrian Brendel has been Music Director of Music at Plush since 1995. His commitment to chamber music has led to projects with Lisa Batiashvili, Imogen Cooper, Till Fellner and Paul Lewis, amongst others. He has commissioned a new work from Sir Harrison Birtwistle, to premiere at the Cheltenham festival in 2009. Adrian divides his time between Plush, London and Berlin and is Artistic Director of the music label Plushmusic.
Pierre Doumenge, cello
French cellist Pierre Doumenge was for over four years a member of the Dante Quartet, performing at most of the major venues in Europe and making regular radio and commercial recordings. Pierre is in demand as guest artist with many chamber groups including the Nash Ensemble, the Belcea Quartet and the Allegri Quartet, and has worked as guest principal cellist of the English Chamber Orchestra.
Of his epic early achievement (he was only nineteen when he wrote it) the Romanian composer and virtuoso violinist George Enescu wrote, "No engineer putting his first suspension bridge across a river can have agonized more than I did as I gradually filled my manuscript paper with notes."
The Octet, completed in 1900, was published four years later. Its expansive opening is as clear a statement of intent as one could wish for: this is music on a grand scale.
Enescu was born in Liveni, northern Romania. He entered the Vienna Conservatoire at seven, to study the violin, graduated when he was 13, and met Brahms, whose influence is clearly apparent in Enescu's early works. By his early twenties he was already a prolific composer.
The cellist Pablo Casals claimed that Enescu was, in the depth and range of his gifts, the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart. A prodigious memory enabled him to recall by heart most of the major works of Bach, Beethoven and Wagner. His generosity and affability were legendary. Between the two World Wars, George Enescu seemed to be at the height of his powers, conducting the New York Philharmonic and numbering among his pupils Yehudi Menuhin. But his long exile from Romania following the communist take-over took its toll on him, practically and psychologically, and he died in poverty in Paris in May 1955.
Enescu's posthumous reputation labours under a weight of sincere but fairly trite praises. In common with most artists whose works have much merit but few champions, he tends to be defined by his influences (Brahms, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Schoenberg – Schubert, for heaven's sake). The point is not to deny that, say, the Octet aspires to the brilliance of Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht, but to try and make clear why the Octet's distinct and original merits make such comparisons ultimately rather futile.
A more trivial difficulty is the relative popularity of Enescu's two Romanian Rhapsodies – often the only pieces people know. "I am absolutely fed up with them," the composer grumbled, in 1950, 'especially the first.'
Enescu: champion of the gipsy fiddler's art. Born of the rhapsodies, this caricature is a cruel one – but it may, after all, be of some service in our interpretation of his work. It is well known that when Menuhin studied with Enescu in Romania he fell strongly under the influence of the gypsy fiddlers of Sinaia – so strongly, indeed, that Enescu had to pack him off to Adolf Busch to straighten him out.
Enescu's fascination with the folk material of his homeland was always thoughtful, always self-aware. And it may be that his obvious intellectual gifts, coupled with the aesthetic control he brought to folk material, make his work more robust than many performers are prepared to credit.
Enescu's Octet is a case in point. Not wildly difficult to play, it is nonetheless wildly disconcerting. An explosive and massive fugue, a mysterious nocturne, a wild waltz... time and again, Enescu drives his performers pell-mell towards Sinaia. If you get totally carried away with this process, you are doing something wrong. Nonetheless, there are undeniably those moments when Enescu expects you to unleash Hell.
No wonder the Octet springs to vivid life in performance and resists, with absolute bloody-mindedness, the engineer's art. Indeed, the Plush Ensemble's relentless, powerful, sinister live interpretation makes a very good case for saying that the Octet needs the oxygen of live performance to be understood at all.
Ethan Ames, 2008