|About this Recording
8.223145 - ENESCU: Suite No. 3, 'Village' / Suite chatelaine
The Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu may now be seen as the most important figure in the musical history of his country. He was born in Moldavia in 1881 and had violin lessons there with a pupil of Vieuxtemps, before moving, at the age of seven, to the Conservatory in Vienna, where he studied with Joseph Hellmesberger. In 1893 he went to Paris for further study with Marsick and took composition lessons at the Conservatoire from Massenet and Fauré. In 1897 a concert of his work was given in Paris and by 1899, when he won the first violin prize of the Conservatoire, he was already known as a composer, his Poéme roumain having proved particularly successful. His subsequent career brought him similar distinction both as a performer and as a conductor.
Although Enescu's career was centred on Paris, with the formation in 1904 of the Enescu Quartet, and increasing commitments both as an unwilling virtuoso and later as a teacher, he retained his connections with Romania and did much to encourage music there, through the Bucharest Conservatory and through the Conservatory at lasy, where he established the George Enescu Symphony Orchestra in 1917. His influence on younger Romanian composers was to remain considerable.
Yehudi Menuhin, in his autobiographical Unfinished Journey, has described the powerful impression that Enescu made on him, when, as a small child, he first saw him at a concert in San Francisco. He was later to become Enescu's pupil in Paris, and has given testimony to the strong influence that Enescu had on his musical development. Other pupils included Arthur Grumiaux, Christian Ferras and Ida Haendel.
Enescu was a remarkably versatile musician. He was a competent pianist, accompanying Thibaud in the first performance of his own second Violin Sonata, and able to play all of Wagner from memory at the keyboard. In his phenomenal memory he held the complete works of Bach, and Menuhin describes how he was able to play Ravel's new Violin Sonata from memory after two brief readings with the composer. His natural ability as a small child had led him to become a virtuoso violinist, but his interest was always rather in composition than performance, the second providing the means for the first. His life was divided between Paris and Romania, his character and his music presenting a similar contrast between cosmopolitan urbanity and the more passionate elements that were part of his Moldavian inheritance.
Enescu was never able to give as much time as he wished to composition, a fact that must explain the fact that of his five mature symphonies, after the four early "school" works in the form, two remained unfinished and another, the Second, unrevised. For ten years he worked intermittently on his opera, Oedipe, which was performed for the first time in Paris in 1936. The Suite Villageoise of 1938 represents his first purely orchestral composition for some years, or at least the first completed work of this kind, since the Fourth Symphony of 1934 remained unfinished.
The Suite is national in inspiration and is based on Enescu's memories of his childhood in Moldavia. The opening movement, Renouveau champêtre, celebrates the renewal of spring and provides the thematic material on which the following movements are based. Children play happily in the second movement, while the third offers a series of pictures – the old childhood house at dusk, the shepherd, migrating birds and blackbirds, the bells for Vespers, one merging into the other. The brook that ran through his father's garden shines in the moonlight, in the fourth movement, and the suite ends with peasant dances.
The Suite Châtelaine, a work of 1911, remains unfinished, as do a number of other compositions by Enescu, testimony to the necessary activity of performance that largely dominated his life. The opening movement, Entrée, in E Flat major, provides a majestic enough start to the work, leading to more lyrical episodes one of which is dominated by woodwind and another by a solo cello. The second movement, Chasse, is a scherzo, relying, appropriately in view of the title, on the French horns, leading to a calmer section, a possible Trio, if the work had been completed.
Voix de la nature carries the explanatory sub-title Nuages d'automne sur les forêts and it has been suggested that it might have been intended as part of a cycle of symphonic poems, following the course of nature, a thesis to which the existence of the title Soleil dans les plaines among other unfinished sketches adds credence. The music, expansive and evocative, must very largely speak for itself, in all its variety of orchestral texture.
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