Peter Quantrill travels to London’s Romanian Cultural Institute for the performance of Tartini, Kreisler, Enescu, Dvořák, Elgar, Moszkowski and Dediu on 5 October 2023

Gabriel Croitoru

Gabriel Croitoru

One of many such enlightened national institutes operating in the smarter districts of London, the RCI opened its annual season of concerts with a recital where the celebrity on show was the instrument rather than the musicians: the ‘del Gesù’ violin (c.1725) which belonged to George Enescu for half a century.

Enescu traded in a Stradivari to buy it, but after his death in 1955 the violin gathered dust in the composer’s home-turned-museum in Bucharest. In 2008 Gabriel Croitoru won a competition which gave him the right to play the instrument, and 15 years on he knows how to draw from it an uncanny, almost baritonal sweetness of tone.

The programme of miniatures, like the Belle Epoque salon of the RCI, was a throwback to Enescu’s own era. This was no place for 18th-century authenticity in Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata: Croitoru lavished as much vibrato on it as he did Kreisler’s Sicilienne and Rigaudon. He spun a bewitching line in Enescu’s Ballade with the aid of a G-string sound that conjured up smoky campfires and caravans on the edge of a wood outside Cluj.

Dvořák’s Humoresque, Elgar’s Salut d’amour and Moszkowski’s Guitare all cast their brief spell of escapist nostalgia in turn, with Horia Mihail rolling chords on the piano like it was 1923 all over again. A Moldavian Dance by Dan Dediu (b.1967) supplied a fittingly anachronistic finale, in an idiom Enescu himself might have thought old hat.