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George Enescu: Early Chamber Music

Born in Romania in 1881, George Enescu went to the Paris Conservatoire as a 12-year-old to study with Massenet and Fauré. He was soon composing prolifically and part of that early output was featured in a concert held in June 1897. The programme included his Piano Quintet, which was subsequently lost for many decades, but was then happily rediscovered. The quintet is the main work on this new release; all the items are early pieces, composed within a period of five years and cast in intriguing instrumental combinations.

George ENESCU (1881–1955)
Early Chamber Music
Piano Quintet 1 • Prélude et Gavotte 2
Aubade 3 • Pastorale, Menuet triste et Nocturne 4
Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A major 5

Fine Arts Quartet –
Ralph Evans 1, 2, 4, 5, Efim Boico 1, 3, 5, Violins
Gil Sharon, Viola 1, 3, 5• Niklas Schmidt, Cello 1–3, 5
Alexander Bickard, Double bass 5
Gisele Witkowski 1, 2, 4, Fabio Witkowski 2, 4, 5, Pianos

It was in Paris just before the end of the 19th century that George Enescu began to compose prolifically, but it is only in recent years that a number of these scores have emerged. The Piano Quintet in D major is one such work, lost for decades, but which proves to be a robust and elaborate piece reflecting the influence of Brahms. Enescu’s liking for unusual instrumental combinations is another theme of this album, such as the Prélude et Gavotte for violin, cello and two pianos, and the eloquent Pastorale, Menuet triste et Nocturne for violin and piano four hands. Aubade is Enescu’s only string trio, and the ever-popular Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in the arrangement for piano and string quintet ends the programme with a flourish.

Listen to an extract from Piano Quintet in D Major:
IV. Allegro con spirito
About the Artists

Founded in Chicago in 1946, the Fine Arts Quartet, ‘one of the gold-plated names in chamber music’ (Washington Post), ranks among the most distinguished ensembles in chamber music today, with an extensive legacy of over 200 recorded works. The Quartet’s renowned violinists, Ralph Evans (prizewinner in the International Tchaikovsky Competition) and Efim Boico (former concertmaster of the Orchestre de Paris under Barenboim) are joined by two other eminent musicians, violist Gil Sharon (founder of the Amati Ensemble) and cellist Niklas Schmidt (co-founder of the Trio Fontenay).

From left to right: Ralph Evans, Efim Boico, Gil Sharon and Niklas Schmidt

Bassist Alexander Bickard serves as assistant principal bass of the New Jersey Symphony, principal bass of Opera Philadelphia, acting principal bass of the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, and performs regularly with the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has collaborated with the Ariel and Fine Arts Quartets, including on recordings for the Naxos label, and is principal bass of the International Sejong Soloists.

Brazilian pianist Fabio Witkowski performs regularly in North and South America, Asia and Europe both as a soloist and a chamber musician. He has collaborated with the Emerson, Guarneri, and Fine Arts String Quartets, the Amerigo Trio, cellist Robert deMaine and pianist Gisele Witkowski, in addition to numerous orchestras on several continents. He is head of the music programme at The Hotchkiss School and directs its summer festivals in Connecticut and Madrid.

Born in Brazil, pianist Gisele Nacif Witkowski has performed extensively throughout the United States, South America, Asia and Europe, including concerts at the gardens of Villa Rufolo in Ravello, Italy, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Shanghai Symphony Hall, Villa Musica in Germany and Carnegie Hall, New York City. She has collaborated with several chamber groups, including the Fine Arts Quartet, and regularly appears with her husband, pianist Fabio Witkowski, as the Witkowski Piano Duo.

More albums by the Fine Arts Quartet
Piano Quintets

Fine Arts Quartet • Ortiz
‘Simply the best: An unrivalled version, a cornerstone of the catalogue. A real gem!’
‘The Fine Arts musicians sustain a remarkable degree of corporate tonal accuracy in both works. In the Quintet they are joined by the gifted Brazilian virtuoso Cristina Ortiz to stunning effect.’
The Strad
‘The performances are excellent, as is to be expected from these seasoned and sensitive musicians … Very strongly recommended.’
‘ … sensitive, well-balanced, and timbrally vibrant playing … I can recommend this release without hesitation.’

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