In performance: Romanian duo Azoitei, Stan
Romanian duo showcases Enescu, Brahms
by Charles T. Downey
Violinist Remus Azoitei and pianist Eduard Stan gave a concert in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Wednesday night. The Romanian Cultural Institute has taken this program of violin sonatas by George Enescu and Johannes Brahms on an international tour, concluding Thursday night at Carnegie Hall. The influence of Brahms, whom Enescu met and worked with during his student years in Vienna, was only one of many that Enescu would absorb and synthesize in his own unclassifiable style.
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Azoitei and Stan released an exemplary two-disc set of the complete works of Enescu for violin and piano a couple of years ago, on the Hänssler Classic label, and the musicians' long collaboration made for an easy rapport in performance. Azoitei, a Romanian trained at Juilliard and now teaching in London, played with a fluid melodic sensibility and sparkling technique. His not always expansive tone could be submerged beneath the broader gestures of Stan, who was not afraid to unleash the Steinway's power, sometimes pushing the violin to the background.
Their Brahms was seething in its dynamic contrasts, especially a slightly overbearing Third Sonata, while the calmer Second Sonata was more amiable. The Enescu pieces bookended the Brahms, with the A minor "Torso" Sonata showing thematic kinship with Brahms as well as the harmonic influence of Massenet and Fauré from Enescu's time in France. The bends and blue notes in Enescu's epic Third Sonata, titled "In Romanian Folk Character," could be traced to either Romanian folk music or the jazz Enescu heard in Paris. Two encores, Enescu's youthful "Ballade" and Brahms's crowd-pleasing Hungarian Dance No. 1, rounded out this compelling program.
-- Charles T. Downey
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