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George Enescu

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George Enescu
Enescu in 1930
Born(1881-08-19)19 August 1881
Died4 May 1955(1955-05-04) (aged 73)
Paris, France
Burial placePère Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France
Other namesJurjac, Georges Enesco
Occupation(s)musician, composer
Notable workRomanian Rhapsodies
Maria Tescanu Rosetti
(m. 1939; div. 1955)
  • Costache Enescu (father)
  • Maria Enescu (mother)

George Enescu (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈdʒe̯ordʒe eˈnesku] ; 19 August [O.S. 7 August] 1881 – 4 May 1955), known in France as Georges Enesco, was a Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor, and teacher and is regarded as one of the greatest musicians in Romanian history.[1]


Young George Enescu

Enescu was born in Romania, in the village of Liveni (later renamed "George Enescu" in his honor), then in Dorohoi County, today Botoșani County. His father was Costache Enescu, a landholder, and his mother was Maria Enescu (née Cosmovici), the daughter of an Orthodox priest. Their eighth child, he was born after all the previous siblings had died in infancy. His father later separated from Maria Enescu and had another son with Maria Ferdinand-Suschi: the painter Dumitru Bâșcu.[2]

A child prodigy, Enescu began experimenting with composing at an early age. Several, mostly very short, pieces survive, all for violin and piano. The earliest work of significant length bears the title Pămînt românesc ("Romanian Land"), and is inscribed "opus for piano and violin by George Enescu, Romanian composer, aged five years and a quarter".[3] Shortly thereafter, his father presented him to the professor and composer Eduard Caudella. On 5 October 1888, at the age of seven, he became the youngest student ever admitted to the Vienna Conservatory,[4][5] where he studied with Joseph Hellmesberger Jr., Robert Fuchs, and Sigismund Bachrich. He was the second person ever to be admitted to the Vienna Conservatory by a dispensation of age, and was the first non-Austrian (in 1882, Fritz Kreisler had also been admitted at the age of seven; according to the rules, nobody younger than 14 years could study there).[6]

In 1891, the ten-year-old Enescu gave a private concert at the Court of Vienna, in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph.[7]

Joseph Hellmesberger Sr., one of his teachers and the director of the Vienna Conservatory, hosted Enescu at his home,[when?] where the child prodigy met his idol, Johannes Brahms.[8]

External audio
audio icon You may hear George Enescu playing Johann Sebastian Bach's Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 with Yehudi Menuhin and Pierre Monteux conducting the Symphony Orchestra of Paris in 1932 Here on archive.org

He graduated at the age of 12, earning the silver medal. In his Viennese concerts young Enescu played works by Brahms, Sarasate and Mendelssohn. In 1895, he went to Paris to continue his studies. He studied violin with Martin Pierre Marsick, harmony with André Gedalge, and composition with Jules Massenet and Gabriel Fauré.[citation needed]

Enescu then studied from 1895 to 1899 at the Conservatoire de Paris. André Gedalge said that he was "the only one [among his students] who truly had ideas and spirit".[This quote needs a citation]

On 6 February 1898, at the age of 16, Enescu presented in Paris his first mature work, Poema Română, played by the Colonne Orchestra, then one of the most prestigious in the world, and conducted by Édouard Colonne.[9]

Many of Enescu's works were influenced by Romanian folk music, his most popular compositions being the two Romanian Rhapsodies (1901–02), the opera Œdipe (1936), and the suites for orchestra.[citation needed] He also wrote five mature symphonies (two of them unfinished), a symphonic poem Vox maris, and much chamber music (three sonatas for violin and piano, two for cello and piano, a piano trio, two string quartets and two piano quartets, a wind decet (French, "dixtuor"), an octet for strings, a piano quintet, and a chamber symphony for twelve solo instruments). A young Ravi Shankar recalled in the 1960s how Enescu, who had developed a deep interest in Oriental music, rehearsed with Shankar's brother Uday Shankar and his musicians. Around the same time, Enescu took the young Yehudi Menuhin to the Colonial Exhibition in Paris, where he introduced him to the Gamelan Orchestra from Indonesia.[10]

The Cantacuzino Palace on Calea Victoriei (Bucharest, Romania), built in the Beaux Arts style, which is now the George Enescu Museum

On 8 January 1923 he made his American debut as a conductor in a concert given by the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and subsequently visited the United States many times. It was in America, in the 1920s, that Enescu was first persuaded to make recordings as a violinist. He also appeared as a conductor with many American orchestras and, in 1936, was one of the candidates considered to replace Arturo Toscanini as permanent conductor of the New York Philharmonic.[11] In 1932, Enescu was elected a titular member of the Romanian Academy.[12] In 1935, he conducted the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris and Yehudi Menuhin (who had been his pupil for several years starting in 1927) in Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major. He also conducted the New York Philharmonic between 1937 and 1938. In 1939, he married Maria Tescanu Rosetti (known as Princess Maruca Cantacuzino through her first husband Mihail Cantacuzino), a good friend of Queen Marie of Romania.

He was also renowned as a violin teacher. He began teaching at the Mannes School of Music in 1948. His students included Yehudi Menuhin, Christian Ferras, Ivry Gitlis, Arthur Grumiaux, Serge Blanc, Ida Haendel, Uto Ughi, and Joan Field. See: List of music students by teacher: C to F#George Enescu.

Grave of George Enescu -Père Lachaise Cemetery

He promoted contemporary Romanian music, playing works of Constantin Silvestri, Mihail Jora, Ionel Perlea and Marțian Negrea.[citation needed] Enescu considered Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin as the "Himalayas of violinists". An annotated version of this work brings together the indications of Enescu regarding sonority, phrasing, tempos, musicality, fingering and expression.[13]

Enescu died on 4 May 1955.[14] On his death, he was interred in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.


A violin owned by George Enescu in a museum in Bucharest, Romania

Pablo Casals described Enescu as "the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart"[15] and "one of the greatest geniuses of modern music".[16] Queen Marie of Romania wrote in her memoirs that "in George Enescu was real gold".[17] Yehudi Menuhin, Enescu's most famous pupil, once said about his teacher: "He will remain for me the absoluteness through which I judge others", and "Enescu gave me the light that has guided my entire existence."[18] He also considered Enescu "the most extraordinary human being, the greatest musician and the most formative influence" he had ever experienced.[19] Vincent d'Indy claimed that if Beethoven's works were destroyed, they could be all reconstructed from memory by George Enescu.[20] Alfred Cortot, one of the greatest pianists of all time, once said that Enescu, though primarily a violinist, had better piano technique than his own.[21]

Enescu's only opera, Œdipe (Oedipe), was staged for the first time at the Royal Opera House in London in 2016, 80 years after its Paris premiere, in a production directed and designed by La Fura dels Baus which received superlative reviews in The Guardian,[22] The Independent,[23] The Times[24] and other publications. An analysis of Enescu's work and the reasons why it is less known in the UK was published by musician Dominic Saunders in The Guardian.[25]


Enescu founded the Enescu Prize in composition, which was awarded from 1913 to 1946, and afterwards by the National University of Music Bucharest.[citation needed]

Eugène Ysaÿe's Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, subtitled "Ballade" (composed in 1923), was dedicated as an act of homage to fellow-violinist Enescu.[26]

While staying in Bucharest during the 1930s, Enescu lived in the Cantacuzino Palace on Calea Victoriei and married its then owner, Maruca Cantacuzino, in 1939. After the Communist takeover, the couple occupied a part of it briefly before moving to Paris in 1947. Following Enescu's death in 1955, Maruca donated the palace to the Romanian state in order to organize a museum [1] in memory of the great musician.[27] Likewise, the Symphony Orchestra of Bucharest and the George Enescu Festival—initiated by the musicologist Andrei Tudor[28] [2] and supported by his friend, musical advocate, and sometime collaborator, the conductor George Georgescu—are named and held in his honor,[29] and the composer's childhood home in Liveni was inaugurated as a memorial museum in 1958.[30]

Earlier still, in 1947, his wife Maruca donated to the state the mansion near Moinești where Enescu had lived and where he completed his opera Oedipe, provided that a cultural centre be built there.[31] In Moinești itself there is a street named after the composer,[32] as well as a middle school.[33] In addition the renamed George Enescu International Airport at Bacău is some twenty miles away.[34] Then in 2014 the home of Enescu's maternal grandfather in Mihăileni, Botoșani, where the composer spent part of his childhood, was rescued from an advanced state of dilapidation by a team of volunteer architects and now houses a centre of excellence for the study of music.[35]

Enescu's portrait appeared on the redesigned 5 lei Romanian banknote in 2005.[36]

Selected works[edit]

Filarmonica "George Enescu" – Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest
External audio
audio icon You may hear George Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A major, Op. 11 and Romanian Rhapsody No. 2 in D major, Op. 11 Here on archive.org


  • Œdipe, tragédie lyrique in four acts, libretto by Edmond Fleg, Op. 23 (1910–31)


Other orchestral works[edit]

Chamber works[edit]

String quartets[edit]

Queen Elisabeth of Romania with George Enescu and Dimitrie Dinicu at Peleș Castle


Other chamber works[edit]

Piano music[edit]


Three songs setting Lemaitre and Prudhomme Four songs setting Fernand Gregh In German: Various settings of Carmen Silva (Queen Elisabeth of Romania) In Romanian – 3 songs

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pascal Bentoiu, Masterworks of George Enescu, Scarecrow Press, 1910, p.v
  2. ^ Cosma, V, "George Enescu: Simfonia iubirii" Archived 9 July 2019 at the Wayback Machine, Formula AS, 2011 issue 982
  3. ^ Voicana 1971, 52; Malcolm 2001.
  4. ^ "ICR Viena vine la Budapesta - ARADON". aradon.ro. 9 December 2011. Archived from the original on 15 April 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Romanian Achievements and Records: Part 15 | Romania In Our Hearts". romaniainourhearts.wordpress.com. 16 September 2013. Archived from the original on 16 April 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  6. ^ Anon. "George Enescu, fața nevăzută a unui geniu" [George Enescu, the Unseen Face of a Genius], Historia Special, 2, no. 4 (September 2013): 55. ISSN 1582-7968.
  7. ^ Anon. "George Enescu, fața nevăzută a unui geniu" [George Enescu, the Unseen Face of a Genius], Historia Special, 2, no. 4 (September 2013): 10. ISSN 1582-7968.
  8. ^ Anon. "George Enescu, fața nevăzută a unui geniu" [George Enescu, the Unseen Face of a Genius], Historia Special. 2, no. 4 (September 2013): 9. ISSN 1582-7968.
  9. ^ Anon. "George Enescu, fața nevăzută a unui geniu" [George Enescu, the Unseen Face of a Genius], Historia Special, 2, no. 4 (September 2013): 11. ISSN 1582-7968.
  10. ^ Liner notes - Angel/EMI Lp 36418 (1966)
  11. ^ Malcolm 2001.
  12. ^ (in Romanian) Membrii Academiei Române din 1866 până în prezent Archived 2 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine at the Romanian Academy site
  13. ^ "Sonatas and Partitas : Educational Edition". Archived from the original on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  14. ^ Randel 1996, p. 248.
  15. ^ "George ENESCU Part I: Enescu the composer Evan Dickerson - May 2005 MusicWeb-International". musicweb-international.com. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  16. ^ "EXCLUSIV VIDEO Documentar inedit despre George Enescu: "A fost cel mai măreț fenomen muzical, de la Mozart încoace"". adevarul.ro. 4 September 2013. Archived from the original on 5 November 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  17. ^ Anon. "George Enescu, fața nevăzută a unui geniu" [George Enescu, the Unseen Face of a Genius], Historia Special, 2, no. 4 (September 2013): 14. ISSN 1582-7968.
  18. ^ "Yehudi Menuhin, aproape romān". georgeenescu.ro. Archived from the original on 15 April 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  19. ^ "The Romanian Cultural Centre in London". Archived from the original on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  20. ^ "Radio Romania Muzical". en.romania-muzical.ro. Archived from the original on 15 April 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  21. ^ "ENESCU piano music Vol 2 Borac AVIE AV2081 [GF]: Classical CD Reviews- March 2006 MusicWeb-International". musicweb-international.com. Archived from the original on 17 July 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  22. ^ Clements, A, "Oedipe review – spellbinding staging of a 20th-century masterpiece" Archived 4 July 2019 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 24 May 2016
  23. ^ Chanteau, C, "Oedipe, Royal Opera House, review: 'A masterpiece'" Archived 4 July 2019 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 24 May 2016
  24. ^ Morrison, Richard. "Opera: Oedipe at Covent Garden". www.thetimes.co.uk. Archived from the original on 1 August 2019. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  25. ^ Saunders, Dominic (25 October 2002). "The Mozart we missed". www.theguardian.com. Archived from the original on 4 July 2019. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  26. ^ Timothy Judd, "Augustin Hadelich Plays Ysaÿe: Sonata No. 3", The Listener's Club
  27. ^ Muzeul George Enescu
  28. ^ Cosma, Viorel (2006). "Andrei Tudor". Muzicieni din România (in Romanian). Vol. 9. Bucharest: Music Publishing House. p. 114. ISBN 978-973-42-0441-0.
  29. ^ Alain Chotil-Fani, "Un voyage dans la Roumanie musicale: George Georgescu", Souvenirs des Carpates blog site (6 December 2007, accessed 14 July 2014)
  30. ^ Muzee de la sat
  31. ^ Muzee de la sat
  32. ^ Strada George Enescu
  33. ^ Scoala George Enescu
  34. ^ Closest Airport
  35. ^ Pro Patrimonio
  36. ^ "5 Lei 2005, Romania" Notescollector


External links[edit]