In Bucharest on today’s date in the year 1903, a 21 year-old Romanian composer named Georges Enescu conducted the premiere of two “Romanian Rhapsodies” he had written. These flashy orchestra showpieces quickly became his most popular works—a little to the composer’s later chagrin. He came to feel—and quite rightly—that the HUGE success of these toe-tappers had come to overshadow all his other compositions and accomplishments.
Enescu had good reason to be proud: In addition to being a fine composer and conductor, he was one of the great virtuoso violinists of his day. As both a conductor and violinist, he appeared with most of the great orchestras of Europe and America. For his 1923 American debut he appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the triple role of conductor, violinist, and composer. Enescu wrote impressive symphonies, chamber music, and even an opera based on the Greek legend of Oedipus. As a teacher and general musical mentor, Enescu could count the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin as one of his star pupils and most devoted admirers.
Enescu died in Paris in 1955. Even though he had severed relations with his now Communist homeland, the Romanian government revered him as their great national composer: His native village, a street in Bucharest, and the State Philharmonic were all renamed in his honor.
Despite all that, for most music lovers, sad to say, the name “Enescu” equals “Romanian Rhapsodies” and little else.
Music Played in Today's Program
Georges Enescu (1881 - 1955)Romanian Rhapsody No 1Dallas Symphony; Eduardo Mata, cond.RCA/BMG 63586