Eight is Enough
Gidon Kremer records George Enescu's Octet and String Quartet in A Minor
In its concise description of violinist Gidon Kremer, The Concise Grove Dictionary of Music quips that the 54-year-old Latvian violinist shows "a rare command of the concerto repertory and a sympathetic approach in chamber music." You have to love the Grove's command of understatement.
Of late, Kremer has shown all of that and a strong commitment to modern music as well. Kremer—both as a solo artist and as conductor of his Kremerata Baltica chamber ensemble comprised of young players from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—has released a string of widely acclaimed recordings on the Nonesuch label. That association began two years ago with the Eight Seasons (which alternated each of Vivaldi's famous Four Seasons concertos with movements from Argentinean tango master Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires suite) and continued with last year's Grammy-winning After Mozart, which brings together the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (and his father Leopold) and works by 20th-century composers inspired by Mozart.
In this stunning new recording (Nonesuch 79682), Kremer turns to the modernism of the great 20th-century Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu (1881–1955), who taught Christian Ferras, Arthur Grumiaux, and Yehudi Menuhin, among others. In her liner notes, writer Julia Bederova points out that "in French and Romanian cultural spheres, Enescu was seen as both weak and uncivilized." The Octet, Op. 7 (for four violins, two violas, and two cellos) with its complex sonic and emotional texture reveals Enescu's formidable compositional power. It also underscores his love of German romanticism, French impressionism, and Romanian folklore, the latter of which is heard ever so subtly. The playing on the Octet is bold throughout. The Quintet, Op. 29 (with piano), further showcases Enescu's compositional strength and the ensemble's depth. This is heartfelt modern music at its best, filled with bravura performances, adventurous harmonies, and rich melodies that glow with an old-world charm beneath a veil of modernism.
This article, "Eight is Enough," is part of the Strings Archive, which you can access with a paid site subscription.
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