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violinist, pianist, composer, conductor
George Enescu was born in Liveni-Vîrnav, Romania, on August 19, 1881. He began learning the violin at the age of four, entered the Iasi Conservatory at age five, and moved to the Vienna Music Conservatory at age seven. At Vienna he studied violin with Josef Hellmesberger, piano with Ernst Ludwig, and composition with Robert Fuchs, and graduated with great honors in 1893. Wanting to further his composition education, he entered the Paris Conservatory, where he studied under Jules Massenet and then Gabriel Fauré. As a first-place graduate of the violin class in 1899, Enescu was awarded a Bernardel violin.
Enescu was still at the Paris Conservatory when he wrote his only opus, the Poème Roumain (Romanian Poem), which was performed in Paris at the Concerts Colonne in 1898. He made his first appearance as a conductor that same year, performing that same work at the Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest.
Already a celebrated violinist, composer, and conductor when he graduated from the Paris Conservatory, Enescu continued to build his reputation throughout the rest of his life. He formed a piano trio with Louis Fournier and Alfredo Casella in 1902, and in 1904 the Enescu Quartet, each of which performed to great acclaim. On March 8, 1903, he conducted the premiere of his two "Romanian Rhapsodies" in Bucharest, the first of which was to become his most celebrated work. In 1904 he became a member of the examining jury at the Paris Conservatory, and began composing pieces meant to be played at the examining competitions.
In addition to composing and playing, Enescu also did much to further Romanian music in general, forming a Philharmonic Orchestra and a Composers' Society in Iasi and helping to establish the Romanian State Opera in Bucharest, where he established a series of concerts meant to familiarize the Romanian public with the international repertoire.
Enescu made his first appearances in the United States in 1923, as violinist and guest conductor with the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1927 he established a second home in Paris, where began giving violin classes at the École Normale de Musique. Yehudi Menuhin, Dinu Lipatti, Arthur Grumiaux, Christian Ferras, and Ida Haendel were just some of the many violin virtuosos he taught while in Paris. France conferred the title of Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur upon him in 1936, the same year his opera Oedipe debuted at the Grand Opéra Paris.
In 1939, Enescu married Marie Cantacuzino-Rosetti, in Bucharest.
When World War II broke out, Enescu was at his country estate in Romania, and was more or less stuck there for the duration. After the war ended, he went to New York, where he watched a Soviet-backed government take over his country. He remained in New York, increasingly incapacitated by arthritis. He gave a farewell concert with Menuhin in 1950, then returned to Paris. He suffered a stroke in 1954, and died in his suite at the hotel Atala in Paris on May 5, 1955. He is buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
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This page was last updated on 05/04/2017.