Bacewicz, Ysaye, Enescu: Music for Strings

When I first received this release, I tried to guess the theme. Grażyna Bacewicz was Polish, George Enescu was Romanian. So an album of Eastern European music, then? But Eugène Ysaÿe was Belgian, so no.

As the liner notes point out, all three composers were also virtuoso violinists. And all three were part of the Franco-Belgian school of string playing. While they may have all had common training, they had very different ideas of how to use it.

Ysaÿe’s “Harmonies du Soir” seems a celebration of string sounds. With resonant harmonies supporting beautifully-turned melodies. The work demonstrates just how emotive strings can be, and how much joy that can give the listener.

The string orchestra version of the “String Octet in C major, Op. 7” was authorized by Enescu. It has a more full-bodied sound than the original, of course. But there’s more to it. The extra instruments allow a greater contrast between melody and harmony. This makes the work a more dynamic piece, especially as played here.

Bacewicz’s “Concerto for String Orchestra” is just that. Big demands are made on the players (especially the first desks). And the Sinfonia of London delivers. 

This is an SACD release. If possible, listen to this through an SACD player. Or choose the highest resolution digital files available. It will make a difference. You’ll hear greater detail. And you’ll also have a better sense of space.

That three-dimensional sound stage really makes these works come alive. It also highlights the interplay between instruments, something key to all three works. 

Top-flight recording, and top-flight performances.

Bacewicz, Enescu, Ysaÿe: Works for Strings
Sinfonia of London; John Wilson, conductor
Chandos CHSA 5325

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