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George Enescu (Conductor, Violin, Composer)

Born: August 19, 1881 - Liveni-Virnav, Romania
Died: May 4, 1955 - Paris, France

The famous Romanian violinist, conductor, teacher and composer, Georges Enesco (rean name: Georg Enescu; usually: George Enescu), began to play the piano when he was 4, taking lessons with a Gypsy violinist, Nicolas Chioru, and began composing when he was 5. Then he studied with Caudella in laşi. In August 1889, he made his formal debut as a violinist in Slánic, Moldavia. In the meantime, he had enrolled in the Conservatory of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna (1888), where he studied violin with Sigismund Bachrich, J. Glün, and Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr.; piano with L. Ernst; harmony, counterpoint, and composition with R. Fuchs; chamber music with J. Hellmesberger, Sr.; and music history with A. Prosnitz, winning 1st prizes in violin and harmony (1892). After his graduation (1894), he entered the Paris Conservatory, where he studied violin with Armand Marsick and J. White, harmony with Pierre-Max Dubois and Thomas, counterpoint with André Gédalge, composition with Gabriel Fauré and Jules Massenet, and early music with Diémer, winning 2nd accessit for counterpoint and fugue (1897) and graduating with the premier prix for violin (1899). At the same time, he also studied cello, organ, and piano, attaining more than ordinary proficiency on each.

In June 1897, George Enescu presented in Paris a concert of his works, which attracted the attention of Colonne, who brought out the youthful composer's op. 1, Poème roumain, the next year. He also launched his conducting career in Bucharest in 1898. In 1902 he first appeared as a violinist in Berlin and also organized a piano trio; in 1904 he formed a quartet. In March 1903, he conducted the premiere of his 2 Romanian Rhapsodies in Bucharest, the first of which was to become his most. celebrated work. He soon was appointed court violinist to the Queen of Romania. In 1912 he established an annual prize for Romanian composers, which was subsequently won by Jora, Enacovici, Golestan, Otescu, and others. In 1917 he founded the George Enescu symphonic concerts in Iaşi.

After the end of World War I, George Enescu made major tours as a violinist and conductor; he also taught violin in Paris, where his pupils included Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Grumiaux, Ivri Gitlis, and Christian Ferras. He made his USA. debut in the triple role of conductor, violinist, and composer with the Philadelphia Orchestra in New York in January 1923; he returned to conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra In January 1937. He led several subsequent concerts with it with remarkable success; led it in 14 concerts in 1938, and also appeared twice as a violinist; he conducted 2 concerts at the New York. World's Fair in 1939. The outbreak of World War II found him in Romania, where he lived on his farm in Sinaia, near Bucharest. He visited New York again in 1946 as a teacher. In January 1950, during the 60th anniversary season of his debut as a violinist, he gave a farewell concert with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the multiple capacity of violinist, pianist, conductor, and composer, in a program comprising J.S. Bach's Double Concerto (with Yehudi Menuhin), a violin sonata (playing the piano part with Yehudi Menuhin), and his 1st Romanian Rhapsody (conducting the orchestra). He then returned to Paris, where his last years were marked by near poverty and poor health. In July 1954 he suffered a stroke and remained an invalid for his remaining days.

Although George Enescu severed relations with his Communist homeland, the Romanian government paid homage to him for his varied., accomplishments. His native village, a street in Bucharest, and the State Philharmonic of Bucharest were named in his honour. Periodical Enesco festivals and international performing competitions were established in Bucharest in 1958. Enesco had an extraordinary range of musical interests.

As a composer, George Enescu's published output was relatively modest, though it contained some substantial works, including his masterpiece, the opera Odeipe. The fact that his three published symphonies were composed between 1905 and 1918 might suggest - wrongly - that his interest in the genre was modest and lasted for less then fifteen years. Actually, as a student Enescu was a prolific composer (nearly three hundred works date from the period up to 1900) and he completed three other symphonies (as well as a Chamber Symphony finished in 1954) and began work on another three in the years 1894-1941. His compositions include artistic stylizations of Romanian folk strains; while his style was neo-Romantic, he made occasional use of experimental devices, such as quarter tones in his opera, Oedipe.

George Enescu possessed a fabulous memory and was able to perform innumerable works without scores. Actually, this fact contributed to the loss of some of his own works which he composed but never wrote down. He not only distinguished himself as a violinist and conductor, but he was also a fine pianist and a gifted teacher.

George Enescu was one of the most prodigiously gifted musicians of the 20th century: He not only distinguished himself as a violinist, conductor and composer, but was also an accomplished pianist, able cellist and a famous violin teacher.

Source: Romanians Website (Paul Banks, 1996); Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2001, May 2005)

George Enescu: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works | General Discussions | BWV 232 - G. Enescu

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

Links to other Sites

George Enescu (Romanians)
George Enescu (Olympia)
Enescu, George (1881 - 1955) (Naxos)
Culture - Music: George Enescu

Georges Enescu - Biography and Violin Information (Violin-MP3)
Georges Enescu (Sierra Chamber Society)
Composer Biography - Enescu, Georges (San Francisco Symphony)

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