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George Enescu

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Tour agencies in Romania frequently refer to both this composer and his most famous composition, "Romanian Rhapsody," as national treasures. This is despite the fact that George Enescu could hardly have been considered a physical presence in Romania, since he left his native country at the end of the 19th century, settling in Paris where he launched his career. Nonetheless, the depth of feeling he had for his land of his birth was clear in many of the pieces he wrote, often utilizing themes or stylistic devices from folk music. His music was widely distributed in Romania throughout the era of dictator Ceacescu, and there are at least two dozen recordings of his music available in that country alone. His works are performed regularly not only in Romania but throughout all the countries that make up the former eastern bloc, some of which have festivals and competitions named after George Enescu. Since the end of World War II, Romania and its neighbor, Austria, have had a severe conflict regarding unwanted immigration, to the point where Austria even discourages visitors from Romania. This wasn't always the case. In 1888, the youth Enescu was able to enter the Vienna Conservatory of Music, where he won the highest awards. His studies continued in Paris under the auspices of the composers Jules Massenet, Gabriel Faure, and Martin Marsick. By 1899, he had settled completely in Paris, but never lost his Romanian heritage. In addition to his composing activities, he was a successful violin teacher, and among the ranks of his students is the name of one of the most famous violinists in history, Yehudi Menuhin, who in later years paid tribute to his teacher by performing his compositions. In addition to "Romanian Rhapsody," Enescu's compositions include "Romanian Poem," the trumpet concerto "Legend," and the opera "Oedipus," based on Sophocles with a libretto by Edward Fleg. He began the ambitious latter work in 1921 and it was first performed by the Paris Opera in 1936. His final composition was "Souvenirs" in 1955, the year of his death. A collection of his letters was published in 1974. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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