Enescu – Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A Major, Op. 11

by Max Derrickson

Georges [born George] Enescu     (Born Liveni Vîrnav [now renamed George Enescu], near Dorohoi, August 19, 1881; died Paris, May 4, 1955)

Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A Major, Op. 11

The written history of Romania, like that of many European countries, began with the Romans.  After they left, Romaniawas overrun by a series of invaders – the Goths, Huns, Avars, and others.  Even into the 19th Century the provinces were being fought over and their rulers kept changing, and not until 1881 was Romaniafinally declared its own kingdom.  Also in that fabled year was born the musical prodigy, Georges Enescu.  By age 8, he had learned violin, developed some considerable composing skills, entered the Vienna Conservatory, and given his first recital.  At 14, he continued his violin and composition studies at the Paris Conservatoire (with classmate Maurice Ravel).   By 17, he was hailed in Romania as a figure of national importance and the nationalism that accompanied Romania’s long-sought autonomy set the tone for Enescu’s greatly beloved Poème Roumain, Op. 1, for Orchestra, Chorus, and Bells (1897), and then, at the ripe old age of 21, Enescu created the masterpieces, the Romanian Rhapsodies 1 & 2 (1901).

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The First Rhapsody is without apologies the unabashed creation of a young man full of a love of country and the joy of music.  Not to mention an uncanny sense of understanding orchestration for a large ensemble.  The opening moments quote a beloved Romanian folk song called “I have a coin, and I want a drink,” which is ingeniously shared by the clarinet and oboe, which finish each others’ phrases, duet together, and bond over the grand notion of a good libation.  This delicious conceit
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, and a natural quickening of the tempo ensues.  Most superbly, this musical energy creates an engulfing desire to dance and enthralls the audience until the last note.  The First Rhapsody became an overnight sensation from its very first performance, and has always been so.