Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Georges Enesco

Georges Enesco was a virtuoso Romanian violinist, composer, conductor, and teacher. He was born on August 19, 1881 (Brahms was 48 years old.) He is best remembered for his two Romanian Rhapsodies for orchestra (1901-1902), although there are piano versions of these works as well. He composed quite a number of other pieces (symphonies and a lot of chamber music but no violin concertos) which are now seldom performed by anyone. He entered the Vienna Conservatory at age 7 where he studied with Robert Fuchs, among others. In 1895, he traveled to Paris to continue his studies. As a teacher, he is famous for having taught Ivry Gitlis, Yehudi Menuhin, Christian Ferras, Ida Haendel, and Arthur Grumiaux, among many others. His conducting debut came in 1923 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Although he continued to conduct until very late in his life, he retired from playing at age sixty nine, due to physical ailments. In the U.S., he spent a season as conductor of the New York Philharmonic (1936-37), gave innumerable concerts, and taught (in New York) for about five years. He famously said that he was not so much interested in perfection as in emotionally reaching his audience. In 1939, he married a princess, a friend of Queen Marie of Romania. His recording legacy extends to not only conducting, but to recording on the violin and piano. He may very well have been the first to record the complete violin solo works of Bach. That recording was not treated kindly by some critics. In Enesco's case, he had the bad luck to reach his violinistic prime when recording technology was virtually nonexistent and to reach old age just as the recording industry was beginning to make progress (1950). An interesting story about Enesco has been told many times though I'm not certain if it is factual or not.  It is said that Enesco once arranged a recital at the Salle Gaveau in Paris, as a favor to a good friend, who was the father of a young violin student who was not terribly gifted and who was not quite ready to play in public.  However, nobody bought a ticket to the recital because the young violinist was completely unknown.  The young boy's father persuaded Enesco to accompany the student on the piano so that the concert would sell out. Reluctantly, Enesco agreed and the concert was sold out quickly. An excited audience gathered on the night of the concert. From the stage, before the concert began, Enesco asked the audience if someone might not volunteer to come up and turn pages for him.  Alfred Cortot, the famous pianist, was in the audience and came up to turn pages for Enesco. The soloist was of a low quality so the following morning the critic of Le Figaro wrote: "There was a strange concert at the Salle Gaveau last night. The man whom we adore when he plays the violin played the piano. Another man whom we adore when he plays the piano turned the pages. But the man who should have turned the pages played the violin."  Enesco died on May 4, 1955, at the age of 74. 

No comments:

Post a Comment