Thursday, 12 November 2009
Sonata for violin and basso continuo in G minor, op. 1 nr 4, “The Devil’s Trill”
- larghetto affettuoso
- allegro moderato
- allegro assai-Andante-Allegro assai
Jan Gerard Palm (1831-1906):
- Serenada 1 (El Edén)
- Fantasía en Fa Mayor
- Marcha Unión
- Serenada 2
Sonata for violin and piano, nr. 8 in G major (Opus 30 no. 3):
- allegro assai
- tempo di minuetto, ma molto moderato e grazioso
- allegro vivace
Achille-Claude Debussy (1862-1918),
Sonata for violin and piano in G minor:
- allegro vivo
- intermède, fantasque et léger
- finale: très animé
George Enescu (1881-1955),
Second sonata for violin and piano in F minor, Op. 6.
- assez mouvemente
Sunday, 15 November 2009
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827),
Sonata for violin and piano nr. 7 in C minor (Opus 30, no. 2):
- allegro con brio
- adagio cantabile
- scherzo, allegro - trio
- finale: allegro
Jan Gerard Palm (1831-1906):
- Fantasía en La Mayor
- Marsch Curacao
- Fantasía Zaira
George Enescu (1881-1955),
Third sonata for violin and piano in A minor “Dans le caractère populaire Roumain”, Opus 25.
- moderato malinconico
- andante sostenuto e misterioso
- allegro con brio, ma non troppo mosso
CV OF JEROEN VAN DER WEL AND BAS VAN BOMMEL
Jeroen van der Wel (1987)
Jeroen van der Wel (left on the photo) finalized his studies at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, in 2008 with special distinction (summa cum laude). From 1997-2004 he studied with Herman Krebbers and Coosje Wijzenbeek. After 2004 he continued his violin studies with Vera Beths at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. In July 2005 he followed master classes by Giuliano Carmignola at the well-known Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy. He was elected to play during the final concert, and was awarded for this the ‘Diploma of Merit’. He also studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieure de Musicque in Parijs where he studied with Roland Daugareil.
Jeroen van der Wel has won several prizes. He won a first prize at the Lordens violin events in 2000 as well as in 2002. He received the first prize at the finals of the National Princess Christina Competition. August 2001 saw him winning at the “Internationale Wettbewerb für Violine of the Kulturstiftung Hohenlohe (Kloster Schöntal). In February 2003 Jeroen won the Davina van Wely competition in The Hague. In 2007 Jeroen was distinguished with the first prize at the 21st National Violin Competition known as the Oscar Back concours in Amsterdam. In March 2008 he won the second prize at the Helen Dowling violin competition.
During the last years Jeroen performed as a soloist with the Mendelssohn chamber orchestra, the Rotterdam philharmornic orchestra, the Zurich chamber orchestra, the Concertgebouw chamber orchestra and the Bombay philharmonic orchestra.
Besides as a musician, Jeroen van der Well also distinguished himself as a composer. In 2008 the Concertgebouw chamber orchestra played Jeroen’s Divertimento for strings. At present he is working together with carillon player Boudewijn Zwart on a composition for church bells. In commission of the Dutch choreographer Toer van Schayk he is composing a new ballet and Isabel Charisius, who played the viola in the Alban Berg Quartet has asked Jeroen to write a piece for six violas. Very recently (23 August 2009) the AVRO television broadcasted a documentary about Jeroen van der Wel titled “A passion for violin”.
More information about Jeroen van der Wel can be found at: www.jeroenvanderwel.nl.
Bas van Bommel (1979)
Bas van Bommel (right on the Photo) is the regular accompanist of Jeroen van der Wel. Like Jeroen Jeroen van der Wel, also Bas van Bommel has won multiple prizes. Bas van Bommel studied piano and Music theory at the Amsterdam Conservatory. He studied with Jan Wijn and finalized his study in 2002 with distinction (cum laude).
As early as 1991 Bas van Bommel won the first prize at the national Mozart competition in The Netherlands. In 1992 he won the first prize at the Steinway competition. Both in 1994 as well as 1996 Van Bommel won the first prize at the Princess Christina completion in The Netherlands. In 1999, at the age of 19, Bas van Bommel also won the first prize at the fourth international Hummel piano competition in Bratislava (Slovakia).
Bas van Bommel gave several performances in the United States, Venezuela, Italy, Spain, the UK and The Netherlands. Bas van Bommel has also performed with different orchestras such as the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, the Philharmonic Orchestra of North Holland and New Sinfoniëtta Amsterdam. At the age of 18, he had his debut in the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam.
Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770)
Giuseppe Tartini was born in 1692 in Piran, a town on the peninsula of Istria, in the past part of the Republic of Venice but now in Slovenia. It appears that Tartini's parents intended him to become a Franciscan friar, and in this way he received a basic musical training. Tartini studied law at the University of Padua, where he also became very good at fencing. After his father's death in 1710, he married Elisabetta Premazone, a woman his father would have disapproved of because of her lower social class and age difference. Unfortunately, Elisabetta was a favorite of the powerful Cardinal Giorgio Cornaro, who promptly charged Tartini with abduction. Tartini fled Padua to go to the monastery of St. Francis in Assisi, where he could escape prosecution; while there he took up playing the violin.
There is a legend that when Giuseppe Tartini heard Francesco Maria Veracini's playing in 1716, he was so impressed by it and so dissatisfied with his own skill, that he fled to Ancona and locked himself away in a room to practice. Tartini's skill improved tremendously and in 1721 he was appointed Maestro di Capella at the Basilica di Sant'Antonio in Padua, with a contract that allowed him to play for other institutions if he wanted to. In Padua he met and befriended fellow composer and theorist Francesco Antonio Vallotti. Tartini was the first known owner of a violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1715. In 1726 Tartini started a violin school which attracted students from all over Europe. Gradually Tartini became more interested in the theory of harmony and acoustics, and from 1750 to the end of his life he published various treatises. Tartini is credited with the discovery of “sum and difference tones”, an acoustical phenomenon of particular utility on string instruments (intonation of double-stops can be judged by careful listening to the difference tone, the "terzo suono"). He published his discoveries in a treatise Trattato di musica secondo la vera scienza dell'armonia (Padua, 1754).
Almost all of Tartini's works are violin concerti (at least 135) and violin sonatas. Tartini's compositions include some sacred works such as a Miserere, composed between 1739 and 1741 at the request of Pope Clement XII, and a Stabat Mater, composed in 1769.
Sonata for violin and basso continuo in G minor, op. 1 nr 4, “The Devil’s Trill”
Today, Tartini's most famous work is the "Devil's Trill Sonata", a solo violin sonata that requires a number of technically demanding double stop trills and is difficult even by modern standards. According to a legend Tartini was inspired to write the sonata by a dream in which the Devil appeared at the foot of his bed and asked to be his servant. At the end of their lessons Tartini handed the devil his violin to test his skill—the devil immediately began to play.
Tartini tells us:
"I heard a sonata so unusual and so beautiful performed with such mastery and intelligence, on a level I had never before conceived was possible! I was so overcome that I stopped breathing and awoke gasping. Immediately I seized my violin, hoping to recall some shred of what I had just heard - but in vain. The piece I then composed is without doubt my best, the Devil's Sonata, but it falls so far short of the one that stunned me that I would have smashed my violin and given up music forever if I could but possess it."
The Devil’s Trill Sonata is one of the hardest pieces ever written for the violin, featuring many different skills the violinist must master in order to play it skillfully
Jan Gerard Palm (1831-1906)
Jan Gerard Palm, one of the Caribbean’s most prominent 19th century composers, lived from 1831 to 1905 on the island of Curaçao. Palm is often referred to as the "Father of Curaçao’s classical music". By a relatively young age, he already directed several musical ensembles. In 1859, he was appointed music director of the citizen’s guard orchestra on Curaçao. Jan Gerard Palm played several musical instruments including piano, organ, lute, clarinet, flute and mandolin. As an organist, Palm played for many years in the Jewish Emanu-El and Mikvé Israel synagogue, the Protestant Fort Church and the Igualdad Lodge on Curaçao. Jan Gerard Palm was also a regular contributor to the widely read and influential periodical Notas y Letras (Notes and Letters). This periodical was published on Curaçao in the period 1886-1888, with numerous subscribers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
As a composer, Jan Gerard Palm can be characterised as original, bold and sometimes even brazen. The uniqueness of his creative talent was his ability to combine delicate sensitivity and forceful vitality. His waltzes and mazurkas show a rich use of harmonic variations. His polkas, marches and galop reveal his buoyant lifestyle. Palm was often progressive, in the sense of not being afraid of using chords that were (and still are) relatively unusual. The rhythms that he wrote for each of his danzas are typically complex, very Creole and sensual. In the predominantly prudish 19th century, Jan Gerard Palm was the only composer who dared to write erotic tumbas. Alongside dance music, Palm also wrote larger works for the orchestra and for piano and violin, marches and several pieces for services in the synagogue, the Protestant church and the Lodge.
The Jan Gerard Palm Marches
Jan Gerard Palm composed at least 25 marches. With the exception of a Wedding march and three marches written for the Protestant church, all his marches were intended for the citzen’s guard orchestra of which he was the director for many years.
- The Curaçao Marsch dates from 1863, the year that Palm dedicated two of his marches to King Willem III, the Willem III Marsch and the Curacao Marsch. The Curacao Marsch was so popular in its time that it was played during parades in the streets of Willemstad even many years after Jan Gerard Palm’s passing away. Palm made several arrangements for this march: for orchestra, for sextet and for piano and violin.
- The Marcha Unión in C major of Jan Gerard Palm has been rediscovered in 2008 in the Gil-Debrot music scores collection in Madrid.
The Jan Gerard Palm Fantasies
During the romantic period, composers often made use of the fantasy structure to obtain more freedom in alternating between themes, styles and tempi. Well known examples of fantasies are the Fantaisie Impromptu of Frédérique Chopin, the Symphonie Fantastique of Hector Berlioz and the Fantasie opus 103 in F minor for piano (quatre mains) of Franz Schubert. In most fantasies the structure is determined by a central theme, followed by parts that elaborate on this main theme or are rightly shaped to contrast with the main theme. The fantasies of Jan Gerard Palm are characterized by their surprising modulations in tonality, style and arrangements, often with a special effect as result.
Nineteenth century Curacao newspapers commented about the fantasies that Jan Gerard Palm wrote. The Curacaosche Courant mentions a performance on 11 November 1882 with a first and second fantasy in Salon Capriles. And on 25 January 1885 a concert in the Fort church with three fantasies composed and arranged by Palm in a version for sextet. The Curacaosche Courant reviewer reports that “Style, taste and arrangement of the fantasies are wonderful and that the surprising modulations create an outstanding effect”. In the review Palm is called "The best musician that Curacao has ever produced”.
- The Fantasía en fa mayor consists of only one part but with two connected themes. The first part is in F major while the second theme is in its subdominant, B-flat major. After the second theme, the first theme is repeated. The composer’s background as director of the citizen’s guard orchestra is beyond doubt recognizable in this composition. Both themes, but especially the first theme has an indisputable martial character.
- After a short introductory Adagio, a lyric, melodious theme is presented in the Fantasía en la mayor, followed by a variation on this theme in which a remarkable effect is created through a deep bass (the piano left hand) accompanying a soprano (the violin) with the same melody, but two octaves and one third lower.
- The Fantasía Zaíra is the longest preserved fantasy composed by Jan Gerard Palm. In this fantasy eleven different themes can be distinguished, not including the variations and elaborations on the themes. When excluding the introduction and final part of this fantasy, one may divide the eleven themes in two main groups. First a soldier like group, introduced by clarion calls and a second group with a bolero and exotic rhythms.
The Jan Gerard Palm serenades
A serenade (also serenata or serenada) is a vocal or instrumental composition. In its oldest usage, which survives in informal form to the present day, a serenade is a composition performed for a lover, friend, or other person to be honored, typically in the evening and often below a window. Serenades are often written in a light, cyclical form and are closely related to the dance suite. Frequently the serenades began and ended with movements of a marchlike character since the instrumentalists often had to march to and from the place of performance. Famous serenades by Mozart include the Haffner Serenade and one of his most famous works, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. By the 19th century, the serenade had transformed into a concert work, less associated with outdoor performance for honorary occasions, and composers began to write serenades for other ensembles.
The serenade was also popular in 19th century Curacao. Jan Gerard Palm wrote two serenades for violin and piano.
- Serenada El Edén begins with a short andante, followed by a first theme (moderato) in C major. This is a theme that reminds us to fiery and passionate arias from Italian operas. The first theme is followed by a second theme in F major, after which the main theme returns. After a short Lento and Adagio the serenades ends pianissimo.
- The First part of Serenade (2), written in Allegro moderato in C major, belongs to the type of marchlike music, with which Jan Gerard Palm had great affinity. With some imagination one may hear the old military band marching through the streets of Otrobanda and Punda. This marchlike introduction is followed by a somewhat slower part (moderato), written in the style of a heroic aria from an opera. This first theme is contrasted later on by a tender, second theme after which the first theme returns. The serenade moves to its Finale, through a passage full of chromatics (Allegro) after which the serenade ends in a pianissimo lento.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Born in the small
German city of Bonn on or around December 16, 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven
received his early training from his father and other local musicians.
Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 to study with Haydn. His subsequent teachers
in composition were Johann Georg Albrechtsberger
and Antonio Salieri. In
1794, Beethoven began his career as a pianist and composer. Around 1800,
Beethoven began to notice his gradually encroaching deafness. In later years,
Beethoven was also plagued by personal difficulties, including a series of
failed romances and a nasty custody battle over a nephew, Karl. Yet after a
long period of comparative compositional inactivity lasting from about 1811 to
1817, his creative imagination triumphed once again over his troubles.
Beethoven died in Vienna on March 26, 1827.
Beethoven's epochal career is often divided into early, middle, and late periods, represented, respectively, by works based on Classic-period models, by revolutionary pieces that expanded the vocabulary of music, and by compositions written in a unique, highly personal musical language incorporating elements of contrapuntal and variation writing while approaching large-scale forms with complete freedom. Though certainly subject to debate, these divisions point to the immense depth and multifariousness of Beethoven's creative personality. Beethoven profoundly transformed every genre he touched, and the music of the nineteenth century seems to grow from his compositions as if from a chrysalis. A formidable pianist, he moved the piano sonata from the drawing room to the concert hall with such ambitious and virtuosic middle-period works as the "Waldstein" (No. 21) and "Appassionata" (No. 23) sonatas. His song cycle An die ferne Geliebte of 1816 set the pattern for similar cycles by all the Romantic song composers, from Schubert to Wolf. The Romantic tradition of descriptive or "program" music began with Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony No. 6. Even in the second half of the nineteenth century, Beethoven still directly inspired both conservatives (such as Brahms, who, like Beethoven, fundamentally stayed within the confines of Classical form) and radicals (such as Wagner, who viewed the Ninth Symphony as a harbinger of his own vision of a total art work, integrating vocal and instrumental music with the other arts). In many ways revolutionary, Beethoven's music remains universally appealing because of its characteristic humanism and dramatic power.
The Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano Opus 30
Beethoven’s three sonatas for Piano and Violin Opus 30 were dedicated to Tsar Alexander 1st. He had been educated by his grandmother Catherine the Great and was considered to be a true child of the Enlightenment. The three manuscripts of the Op. 30 sonatas are among the most expressive of the surviving original material of Beethoven’s chamber music. These works were a direct result of the collaboration with Beethoven’s violin teacher, Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Beethoven composed the Sonatas for Violin and Piano, Op. 30 in 1801-1802, completing most of the work between March and May of 1802, after moving to Heiligenstadt in an attempt to improve his hearing. The Opus 30 sonatas developed during a traumatic period in Beethoven's life when he was forced to admit to himself that he was losing his hearing.
The Violin Sonata No. 7 in C Minor by Ludwig van Beethoven, the second of his Opus 30 set, has four movements: Allegro con brio; Adagio cantabile; Scherzo, allegro – trio; and Finale allegro. The Allegro con brio is built upon an initial theme that is simultaneously dramatic and defiant. Contrast comes through a lighter but still minor march-like subject. All this drifts into a pianissimo development of primarily the first subject (Beethoven's developments were often lopsided). This theme, in its original form, returns to launch a long coda that struggles to climb into C major before lapsing roughly back to C minor.
Things mellow out in the Adagio cantabile, with the singing main melody first taking on elaborate ornamentation, then stripping down to its most essential notes, dissolving into a scalar passage, and returning in essentially its original form on the violin, while the piano generates a restless accompaniment. Such light variations continue at length, never really altering the tranquil character or melodic shape of the basic material
The short Scherzo, in which C major at last asserts itself, dances to playfully rough rhythms. The trio section is an overbearing, little canon for the violin and the left hand of the piano.
The Finale allegro, takes a sonata-rondo form. The recurring main theme isn't melodic at all; it's more the sort of suspenseful harmonic sequence that accompanies a rising curtain. The contrasting episodes are more earnest in their melodies and have a generally positive nature, except for a dramatic moment midway through and the striving (though not defeated) character of the last interlude. The sonata end with a furious coda.
The Violin Sonata No. 8 in G Major by Ludwig van Beethoven, the third and last one of his Opus 30 set, has three movements: Allegro assai; Tempo di minuetto, ma molto moderato e grazioso and the; Allegro vivace. In the first movement of the Sonata in G Major, the Allegro assai, surprises abound, including tiny touches such as the squeaky violin punctuation at the end of the opening four-measure phrase, and the much more significant move to the dominant minor for the second theme. After the development section, which is dominated by the first theme and a trill figure drawn from the closing material, the recapitulation resolves the second theme to the tonic, but Beethoven retains the minor mode. The second movement, marked Tempo di Minuetto, is in E-flat major. The outer sections of the ABA'(coda), song-like movement vacillate between E-flat major and G minor, while the contrasting central section spirals into E-flat minor shortly before the return of A. The subdued warmth that permeates this movement is unusual in Beethoven's music. Humor seems to be the main ingredient in the finale, the Allegro Vivace which is like a rondo but with an important exception: there is only one theme for both the episodes and the rondo. The theme has two elements, one consisting of rapid sixteenth-notes and the other of repeated eight-notes. The theme appears in several harmonies, including the distantly related E-flat major, the key of the second movement. As in the first two movements, an arpeggioed figure is an important part of the main theme of this last movement.
Achille-Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Achille-Claude Debussy was born in Saint-Germain-en Laye in France, in 1862. Debussy began piano lessons when he was seven years old with an elderly Italian named Cerutti; In 1871, the young Debussy gained the attention of Marie Mauté de Fleurville, who claimed to have been a pupil of Frédéric Chopin, and Debussy always believed her, although there is no independent evidence that she was. His talents soon became evident, and in 1872, at age ten, Debussy entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he spent eleven years. During his time there he studied composition with Ernest Guiraud, music history/theory with Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, harmony with Émile Durand, piano with Antoine-François Marmontel, organ with César Franck, and solfège with Albert Lavignac.
From the start, though clearly talented, Debussy was also argumentative and experimental, and he challenged the rigid teaching of the Academy, favoring instead dissonances and intervals which were frowned upon at the time. Like Georges Bizet, Debussy was a brilliant pianist.
From 1880 to 1882, he lived in Russia as music teacher to the children of Nadezhda von Meck, the patroness of Tchaikovsky. Despite von Meck's closeness with Tchaikovsky, the Russian master appears to have had little or no effect on Debussy.
As the winner of the Prix de Rome with his composition L'Enfant prodigue, he received a scholarship to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which included a four-year residence at the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, to further his studies (1885-1887). In June 1885, Debussy wrote of his desire to follow his own way: “I am sure the Institute would not approve, for, naturally it regards the path which it ordains as the only right one. But there is no help for it! I am too enamoured of my freedom, too fond of my own ideas”. According to letters to Madame Vasnier, he found the artistic atmosphere in Rome stifling, the company boorish, the food bad, and the monastic quarters "abominable". Neither did he delight in the pleasures of the "Eternal City", finding the Italian opera of Donizetti and Verdi not to his taste.
In his visits to Bayreuth in 1888-1889, Debussy was exposed to Wagnerian opera, which had a lasting impact on his work. Richard Wagner had died in 1883 and the cult of Wagnerism was still in full swing. Debussy, like many young musicians of the time, responded positively to Wagner's sensuousness, mastery of form, and striking harmonies, but ultimately Wagner's extroverted emotionalism was not to be Debussy's way either. Wagner's influence is evident in La damoiselle élue and the 1889 piece Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire. Around this time, Debussy met Erik Satie who proved a kindred spirit in his experimental approach to composition and to naming his pieces. During this period, both musicians were bohemians enjoying the same cafe society and struggling to stay afloat financially.
Beginning in the 1890s, Debussy developed his own musical language largely independent of Wagner's style, In contrast to the enormous works of Wagner and other late-romantic composers, Debussy chose to write in smaller, more accessible forms. The Deux Arabesques is an example of one of Debussy's earliest works, already developing his musical language. Suite bergamasque (1890) recalls rococo decorousness with a modern cynicism and puzzlement. This suite contains one of Debussy's most popular pieces, Clair de Lune. Debussy's String Quartet in G minor (1893) paved the way for his later, more daring harmonic exploration. In this work he utilized the Phrygian mode as well as less standard scales, such as the whole-tone, which creates a sense of floating, ethereal harmony. Debussy was beginning to employ a single, continuous theme and break away from the traditional A-B-A form, with its restatements and amplifications, which had been a mainstay of classical music since Haydn.
Influenced by Mallarmé, Debussy wrote one of his most famous works, the revolutionary Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, truly original in form and execution. In contrast to the large orchestras so favoured by late-romanticism, Debussy wrote this piece for a smaller ensemble, emphasizing instrumental colour and timbre. Despite Mallarmé himself, and colleague and friend Paul Dukas having been impressed by the piece, it was controversial at its premiere. Prélude subsequently placed Debussy into the spotlight as one of the leading composers of the era.
In his late works, Debussy's harmonies and chord progressions frequently exploit dissonances without any formal resolution. Unlike in his earlier work, he no longer hides discords in lush harmonies. The forms are far more irregular and fragmented. These chords that seemingly had no resolution were described by Debussy himself as "floating chords", and were used to set tone and mood in many of his works. The whole tone scale dominates much of Debussy's late music. The last orchestral work by Debussy, the ballet Jeux (1912) written for Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, contains some of his strangest harmonies and textures in a form that moves freely over its own field of motivic connection. At first Jeux was overshadowed by Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, composed in the same year as Jeux and premiered only two weeks later by the same ballet company. Decades later, composers such as Pierre Boulez and Jean Barraqué pointed out parallels to Anton Webern's serialism in this work.
Debussy was for the most part enthusiastic about Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky, worshipful of Chopin, Johann Sebastian Bach and Mozart, and found both Liszt and Beethoven geniuses who sometimes lacked "taste".
The Violin Sonata in G minor, for violin and piano was composed by Claude Debussy in 1917. It would be the composer's final composition before his death in 1918 from colorectal cancer, forming the third work in what had originally been conceived as a cycle of six sonatas for various instruments. The work is notable for its brevity; a typical performance lasts about 13 minutes. The premiere took place on 5 May, 1917, violin part played by Robert Godet, piano by Debussy. It was his last public performance.
Debussy planned a set of six sonatas, but this plan was cut short by his death in 1918 so that he only completed three (cello, flute-viola-harp and violin sonatas) sonatas. If compared with his other works, there is a shift in the style of the sonatas with leaner, simpler structures. However, despite the thinner textures of the Violin Sonata there remains an undeniable richness in the chords themselves. This shift parallels the movement commonly known as neo-classicism which became popular after Debussy’s death in 1918.
George Enescu (1881-1955)
Romanian composer George Enescu is one of the neglected giants of modern music.
Prodigiously gifted, he became best known in America as a conductor (where he
was considered as a successor to Toscanini in New York) and in Europe as one of
the greatest violinists of the century. But he was first and foremost a
composer; and, tragically, his mature works - works of extraordinary emotional
depth and intricate beauty - remain virtually unknown outside Romania.
George Enescu was said by Pablo Casals to be "the most amazing musician since Mozart", a statement which in many respects was true. He achieved international renown as a violinist, pianist, conductor, teacher and composer and he displayed genius in each of these disciplines. He possessed a phenomenal memory and knew the entire repertoire of classical and romantic music by heart, in addition to many works of the twentieth century, with which one of his generations might well have been though unsympathetic. Apart from these superlative gifts, Enescu was a man of humility; he was a profound teacher (counting Yehudi Menuhin and Dinu Lipatti amongst his pupils) who impressed every musician who met him.
George Enescu was born on 19 August 1881 in Liveni, Romania. A child prodigy, Enescu created his first musical composition at the age of five. Shortly thereafter, his father presented him to the professor and composer Eduard Caudella. At the age of seven, he entered the Vienna Conservatory, where he studied with Joseph Hellmesberger Jr., Robert Fuchs, and Sigismund Bachrich, and graduated before his 13th birthday, earning the silver medal. In his Viennese concerts young Enescu played on the first desk of an orchestra under Brahms in the latter's C minor Symphony and accompanying Brahms in his First Piano Concerto. Brahms was a lifelong hero, as was Wagner (indicating Enescu's broad sympathies) who became, as he sad, "part of my vascular system". Enescu was at the Vienna premiere of Massenet's Werther and he entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1895, studying composition with Jules Massenet and Gabriel Fauré, harmony with André Gédalge and violin with Martin Pierre Marsick.
When Enescu was only 13, Massenet wrote to Enescu's father: "Your son is an exceptional individual; his is the most interesting musical constitution there can be".
In 1939 he married Maria Rosetti (known as the Princess Cantacuzino through her first husband Mihail Cantacuzino), a good friend of the future Queen Marie of Romania. While staying in Bucharest, Enescu lived in the Cantacuzino Palace on Calea Victoriei (now the Muzeu Naţional George Enescu, dedicated to his work).
He often lived in Paris, travelling widely, but returned to Romania for several lengthy periods, remaining there throughout World War II. But after World War II and the Soviet occupation of Romania, he remained in Paris. On his death in 1955, George Enescu was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. His hometown Liveni in Romenia was renamed George Enescu.
Enescu displayed a command of large-scale form: by the age of 16 he had written four Study Symphonies and had also given the premiere of his Violin Concerto in Paris in 1896. Amongst a distinguished orchestral output, Enescu left eleven symphonic works: four Study Symphonies written between 1895-1898 and five mature symphonies (the Fourth and Fifth are unfinished) plus a Concert Symphony for cello and orchestra and a Chamber Symphony. Many of Enescu's works were influenced by Romanian folk music, his most popular compositions being the two Romanian Rhapsodies (1901–1902), the opera Œdipe (1936), and the suites for orchestra. He also wrote five symphonies (two of them unfinished), a symphonic poem Vox maris, and much chamber music such as: two for cello and piano, a piano trio, quartets with and without piano, a wind decet (French, "dixtuor"), an octet for strings, a piano quintet and a chamber symphony for twelve solo instruments and three sonatas for violin and piano.
The Second sonata for violin and piano in F Minor, Opus 6 was completed in 1899. It was dedicated to and premiered by the French violin virtuoso Jacques Thibaut. Enescu played the piano part. Enescu considered the sonata the first work in which he freed himself from all influence and found his own voice. In the sonata, Enescu fused Romanian folk elements into the classical structure of the sonata. The first movement, Assez mouvemente, is in the form of a fantasia. Its lovely chromatic melodies and rhythms flow in and out and through each other with an extraordinary plasticity. The main theme of the second movement, Tranquille, is a melody whose chromaticism gives it an air of melancholy. In the finale, Vif, we hear several folk motifs which are used, to create a series of interlinked dances
The Third sonata for violin and piano in A Minor, Opus 25 “Dans le caractère populaire Roumain”, is a mid-career work, completed (or at least published) in 1926. Two things are apparent in this sonata: Enescu's constant pushing at the boundaries of established forms and his incorporation of folk music into his work, a characteristic he shared with so many composers of the time. After early works that were little more than "settings" of Romanian folk tunes, Enescu gradually began incorporating the structures and motifs into his work, finally developing a true synthesis of the concepts of folk music and the demands of symphonic writing, much as Bartók had done with Hungarian folk sources. Enescu, by his own account, was reaching for a sense of immediacy, a recollection, perhaps, of childhood, which is brought home in the intimacy of his chamber music. This third sonata is filled with dark tonalities as well as passages of ethereal grace. The opening of the second movement, for example, labeled andante sostenuto e misterioso embodies breathtaking otherworldliness, exotic, strange, almost frightening but at the same time captivating. The exotic quality, almost an orientalizing effect, carries through into the final movement, which progresses through a full range of moods but keeps returning to a kind of minor Weltschmerz resolved in a catharsis in the last measures.