Mr. Peabody Says:
This first symphony is called a “study” symphony, but it is unclear exactly what that means. It appears to have been a school project, and there is a 4th mentioned, which has also been recorded. I can find no recordings of the 2nd and 3rd. Regardless, this is very impressive music from a very young composer.
- I: Maestoso 13:13
- II: Andante scherzando Bb major 13:14
- III: Scherzo D major 5:05
- IV: Allegro con fuoco 7:59 (End 39:42)
- 3 flutes (third doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, cor anglais, Eb clarinet, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon
- 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 cornets, 3 trombones, tuba
- timpani, triangle, tambourine, cymbals, bass drum, 2 harps
Enescu was born August 19, 1881. He composed this for school by May 3, 1895. He would not be 14 for about three and a half months. There were three others, all composed before the mature opus numbering began. But it had to wait until 1934 for its first performance. He was a composer, violinist, pianist, conductor, and teacher. And that’s just the start of a story that blows my mind.
His idol was Brahms:
You can hear it in this early symphony. I wonder if Brahms heard this. If he did, he would have been extremely impressed, because he did not write his 1st symphony until age 40.
He was the 8th child, and all of his first seven siblings all died in infancy. At the age of seven, he became the youngest student ever admitted to the Vienna Conservatory. There was a regulation that stipulated that no person younger than 14 years could study at the Vienna Conservatory, but that rule was waved. He graduated at the age of 12, earning the silver medal. In 1891, the ten-year-old Enescu gave a private concert at the Court of Vienna, in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph.
Conservatoire de Paris and first premiere:
Enescu then studied from 1895 to 1899 at the Conservatoire de Paris. On 6 February 1898, at the age of 16, Enescu presented in Paris his first mature work, Poema Română, played by the Colonne Orchestra, then one of the most prestigious in the world, and conducted by Édouard Colonne.
Romanian folk music:
Many of Enescu’s works were influenced by Romanian folk music, his most popular compositions being the two Romanian Rhapsodies (1901–02)
He was also a noted violin teacher. Yehudi Menuhin, Christian Ferras, Ivry Gitlis, Arthur Grumiaux, Serge Blanc, Ida Haendel, Uto Ughi, Joan Field and Saul Houben were among his pupils.
Enescu took the young Yehudi Menuhin to the Colonial Exhibition in Paris, where he introduced him to the Gamelan Orchestra from Indonesia.
Pablo Casals described Enescu as “the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart” and “one of the greatest geniuses of modern music”.
American debut and violinist:
On 8 January 1923 he made his American debut as a conductor in a concert given by the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and subsequently visited the United States many times. It was in America, in the 1920s, that Enescu was first persuaded to make recordings as a violinist.
He lived in Paris and in Romania, but after World War II and the Soviet occupation of Romania, he remained in Paris.
He also appeared as a conductor with many American orchestras and, in 1936, was one of the candidates considered to replace Arturo Toscanini as permanent conductor of the New York Philharmonic.
Enescu considered Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin as the “Himalayas of violinists”. An annotated version of this work brings together the indications of Enescu regarding sonority, phrasing, tempos, musicality, fingering and expression.