Constantin Silvestri – A Bournemouth Love Affair

0 of 5 stars

Slavonic Dances, Op.46 – Nos.3, 4 & 5
Symphony No.1 in E flat, Op.13
First Orchestral Suite, Op.9
Second Orchestral Suite, Op.20
Die Zauberflöte – Overture
Symphony No.29 in A, K201
Symphony No.1 in D, Op.25 (Classical)
Three Pieces for Strings, Op.4

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Constantin Silvestri

Recorded between 1963 and 1967 in Colston Hall, Bristol (Enescu Symphony No.1) and Winter Gardens, Bournemouth

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: July 2010
NI 6124 (2 CDs)
Duration: 2 hours 32 minutes



One might reasonably have thought that BBC Legends has given us all of the archive material that survives of concert performances by Constantin Silvestri and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Obviously not, as this well-filled, George Enescu-dominated (90 minutes’ worth of his music), 2-CD set demonstrates, and which has been produced at the instigation of Romanian Musical Adventure in conjunction with the Wyastone Estate while acknowledging both the BBC (which made and broadcast the original recordings) and BBC Legends.

The stirring and swashbuckling Enescu Symphony (in the heroic key of E flat – as for Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony and Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben) is placed as the first item, its unexpected harmonies and filigree details welded into one by Silvestri who drives the music to some crunching climaxes without neglecting silky lyricism. The balmy slow movement brings welcome contrast. Enescu’s debut Symphony emerges here as passionate and winsome, the members of the Bournemouth Symphony possessed of their task. For all their designation as Suites, the other pieces by Enescu (1881-1955) presented here are both substantial in form and content, Silvestri (1913-69) alive to the intense expression and indigenous subtleties that this music contains – from one Romanian musician to another, an embrace, a heartbeat – sometimes forlorn, sometimes bittersweet, sometimes exuberant, always imaginative, expressive and unpredictable; so many traces leave in no doubt Silvestri’s innate appreciation of this music and also Enescu’s sophistication in achieving it.

As an example of Silvestri’s own composing, and in direct descent to Enescu, the Three Pieces for Strings are Romanian-folksy in style, pleasant to listen to, and throw numerous challenges to the players, happily accommodated by these dedicated musicians under the composer’s direction.

Of the ‘other’ music here, the Overture to “The Magic Flute” is nimble and frisky, and the Mozart Symphony somewhat elegant within Silvestri’s nifty tempos, a concentrated performance emphasised by the outer movements bereft of repeats; the slow movement is rather pastoral, but the Minuet plods. Prokofiev’s take on the ‘classical’ symphony – indebted to Haydn rather than Mozart – belts along in the outer movements with little charm, harried if neat and disciplined, but the slow movement is given with tenderness and affection. The three Dvořák Slavonic Dances have their fair share of fire and also an unusual degree of introspection.

The annotation is quite detailed as to the music and about Silvestri himself, and includes anecdotes, but there are some bizarre printed timings – some of which declare that there are more than 60 seconds to a minute! The recorded (mono) sound is quite acceptable if a little rough and emaciated at times and has been well transferred with the avoidance of (further) discolouration; but most importantly this is a treasure-trove for admirers of both Silvestri and Enescu.

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