Remember when you were a child and everyone would ask what do you want to be when you grow up? Most of us didn’t have a definite answer at the time, yet I am here to tell you the story of a child who found his dream when he witnessed his first folk band concert. Born in the summer of 1881, in a small village of Romania, the 5 year old went home and tried to reproduce the sounds he had heard with a “sewing thread on a wooden board” as a violin, two sticks for the cimbalom and his lips for the pan-pipe. And despite his age, he then realized his dream was to become a composer.
Back in 1886 the technology was not as advanced as today to be able to provide a recording, but I will leave it to your imagination to figure how brilliant the 5 year old could be and that the great composer and Conservatory teacher, Eduard Caudella, took him under his guidance. At the age of 7, George Enescu was the youngest student ever admitted at the Vienna Conservatory, where he studied with Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr., Robert Fuchs, and Sigismund Bachrich. Three years later, he gave a private concert at the Court of Vienna, in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph. After graduating with a silver medal in this teens, George continued working for his dream and started classes at the Paris Conservatory under the guidance of José White and Martin-Pierre-Joseph Marsick (violin), Jules Massenet and Gabriel Fauré (composition), Ambroise Thomas and Théodore Dubois (harmony), as well as André Gédalge (counterpoint) who mentioned George to be “the only one [among his students] who truly had ideas and spirit”.
February 6th, 1898 is the date of George Enescu’s debut as a composer. He presented in Paris his first mature work, “Poema Româna”, played by the Colonne Orchestra one of the most prestigious in the world at that time. In the same year, he started giving violin classes in Bucharest while holding recitals that caught the attention of Queen Elizabeth of Romania. He was often invited to Peles Castle to perform for the Queen, widely known by her literary name of Carmen Sylva, where he also met Maria Cantacuzino-Rosetti, whom he later married.
The Romanian artist left us with symphonies, suites, the opera Œdipe – lyrical tragedy in 4 acts, dedicated to his wife to be, Maria Rosetti, sonatas, quartets and several major works for both orchestra and chamber music that included songs on verses by Carmen Sylva.
“In the world of music I’m five in one: composer, conductor, violinist, pianist and teacher. I cherish the most the gift of composing music and no mortal can possess greater happiness” – George Enescu
He lived in both Paris and Romania; however he traveled the world and conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as the New York Philharmonic in the United States.
During the World War II, George Enescu remained in Bucharest and lived in the Cantacuzino Palace on Calea Victoriei (now the George Enescu Museum, dedicated to his work). He supported the work and creations of young Romanian musicians while proving, once more, his speechless talent as a conductor. During the communism era that followed the WW2, George Enescu left Romania to live in Paris until his death in 1955.
His native village, a street in Bucharest, and the State Philharmonic of Bucharest were named in his honor. Periodical Enescu festivals and international performing competitions were established in Bucharest in 1958 and are still organized today in honor of George Enescu, one of the most prodigiously gifted musicians of the 20th century.
Photo source: http://festivalenescu.ro/en/