Famous Romanians: George Enescu

The renowned Romanian musician George Enescu was equally remarkable as a violinist, composer, conductor, pianist and violin teacher. He is best known for bringing the sound of the Romanian traditional folk songs into classical music.

By Alexandra Fodor

George Enescu was born in 1881, in the village of Liveni, in Northeastern Romania. Influenced by the folk music of his region, he began composing at the age of five. In 1888, his parents enrolled him in the Vienna Music Conservatory where he studied alongside Maurice Ravel and Jean Roger-Ducasse. He quickly becomes famous, interpreting Brahms, Saraste and Vieuxtemps compositions, all these when he was only 12 years old. After graduating in 1893, he moved to Paris where he continued his studies at the Music Conservatory in Paris.

His debut as a composer took place on February 6, 1898, at the Colonne Concerts Orchestra, in Paris, with the musical work Poema Romana (Romanian Poem).

Many of Enescu’s works were influenced by Romanian folk music such as Ciocarlia (The skylark) or Perinita (Little Pillow). His most popular compositions were the two Romanian Rhapsodies (1901–1902), the opera Oedip (1921-1931) and a symphonic poem Vox maris. He also wrote 5 symphonies, 3 orchestral suites, 2 piano quintets and quartets, 2 string quartets and piano trios, 3 suites for piano.

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In 1923, he made his debut as a conductor in a concert given by the Philadelphia Orchestra in New York City. Other prestigious orchestras that he conducted were the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris, Boston Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Chicago Symphonic Orchestra.

In 1939, he married Maria Rosetti (known as the Princess Cantacuzino from her first marriage) who bought him the Cantacuzino Palace on Calea Victoriei in downtown Bucharest. (Today, the Palace houses the George Enescu National Museum)

He was an excellent violin teacher. His top students were the violinists Christian Ferras, Ivry Gitlis, Arthur Grumiaux, the Romanian Dinu Lipatti and the well-known Yehudi Menuhin.

George Enescu died on 4 May 1955, and was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. After his death, his hometown of Liveni was renamed George Enescu.

In 1958, the George Enescu Festival was inaugurated. The festival is held every two years in Bucharest and includes symphonic and chamber concerts, recitals, opera and ballet performances. The next edition of the festival will be held in 2011

Recently, Bacau International Airport was renamed George Enescu International Airport.

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