‘Strigoii’ by Enescu: a long-lost masterpiece

Enesci Strigoii

Strigoii (Spirits) is a totally unknown oratorio by George Enescu; really no one ever knew it existed. Enescu composed it in 1916 and the – unfinished – manuscript was then lost! In the 1970s it surfaced in the Enescu Museum and it was subsequently completed by Cornel Ţăranu. A few performances by the Ars Nova Ensemble followed, but it was only very recently that the work finally gained an orchestration, namely by the composer Sabin Păuta.

George Enescu

One can consider the Ghosts as the missing link between Enescu’s early songs and his great opera, Oedipe. The musical language of the composition is close to Schönberg and his Gurre-Lieder, but Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle is also somewhat similar. And yet the work cannot really be compared to anything else; it is so very individual and special!

Enescu Eminescu
Mihai Eminescu

The three-part oratorio is based on a dramatic poem by Romania’s best-known poet Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889). It is a very mysterious poem that tells of the untimely death of the bride of King Harald, of whom it is not clear whether she has become an innocent ghost or a dangerous vampire.

Strigoii reminds me most of an old-fashioned radio play. This is not only because of the narrator but also because of the way the music is built around the (difficult to follow) story. It is also terribly exciting and that is mainly due to the ominous music. And suddenly I think: who needs words when the music itself really tells it all? Superb. And irresistible.

The performance is excellent. The story is told/sung in a very exciting way by the bass Alin Arca and the soprano Rodica Viva sings a beautiful queen. The tenor Tiberius Simu (Arald) and the baritone Bogdan Baciu (Der Magus) are also first-class.

The recording was made in Berlin in December 2017. The beautifully playing Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin was conducted by Gabriel Bebeselea, the conductor of the National Romanian Opera and the Transylvanian State Orchestra.

The ‘encore’, a 10-minute Pastorale Fantaisie für kleines Orchester from 1899, is nothing less than a precious gift. Thank you Capriccio!