Analysis: Enescu Festival brings music magic back to Bucharest

Oana Vasiliu 05/09/2017 | 15:22

Each September brings the magic of national composer George Enescu to Bucharest, this time with the festival itself. The spirit of George Enescu is celebrated through his works and the younger generations of performers he inspired, enlivening Bucharest with the beauty of his magnificent music.

In the introduction to his festival review in September 2011, James Jolly, Gramophone’s editor-in-chief, wrote, “Bucharest is also, as I’m discovering, a veritable Mecca for great music-making. Think Romania, and think classical music, and the names that will probably slip easily into the mind are Dinu Lipatti, Radu Lupu, Angela Gheorghiu, Constantin Silvestri and maybe a couple of others. Come to Bucharest and the Main Man is, without a doubt, George Enescu. He gives his name to streets, to orchestras and to a music festival of commendable ambition.”

I still believe that nothing has changed since then – except that more and more Romanian classical musicians are conquering the world’s famous concert halls, while more and more foreigners are working to understand Enescu’s works to play them during the festival or the competition.

What’s new

With a new first-class international directing team – Zubin Mehta, Honorary President and Vladimir Jurowski, Artistic Director, the Enescu Festival 2017 will put the music and creation of George Enescu in a new light, as well as classical and contemporary music in general. As part of this endeavor, the Festival will put technology to the service of classical music and creativity, presenting famous works in a new approach, giving the audience the chance to enjoy a record number of works by George Enescu (37) – two of which will be presented at the Festival for the first time.

Another novelty of this edition is the series of 21st Century Music concerts, organized at Radio Hall. It will include performances of works by some of the most important contemporary world composers . Thirty of them, including Rodion Shchedrin, Jorg Widmann and Eliot Goldenthal (winner of an Oscar for the best original music score for Frida, starring Salma Hayek) will take part in dialogues with the audience in Bucharest during the International Composers’ Forum, another event organized for the first time at the Festival. For six days, composers will discuss the role of contemporary music in the current society. Access to this event is free, based on prior registration.

Magnus Lindberg (Finland), Iain Bell (Great Britain), George Balint (Romania), Nimrod Borenstein (USA), Zygmunt Krauze (Poland), Adrian Pop (Romania), Dmitry Sitkovetsky (Russia/USA), Sir James MacMillan (Great Britain), Rodion Shchedrin (Russia), Tod Machover (USA), Jörg Widmann (Germany), Dan Buciu (Romania), Thierry Huillet (France), Viorel Munteanu (Romania), Octavian Nemescu (Romania), Vladimir Cosma (France), Elliot Goldenthal (USA), Thomas Larcher (Austria), Doina Rotaru (Romania), Cornel Țăranu (Romania), François Nicolas (France), Detlef Glanert (Germany), Adrian Iorgulescu (Romania), Rumon Gamba (Great Britain), Sven Helbig (Germany), Valentin Gheorghiu (Romania), Ari Ben-Shabetai (Israel), Mihaela Vosganian (Romania), Ulpiu Vlad (Romania) and Rolf Martinsson (Sweden) will discuss the main directions in contemporary composition, reconnecting with the audience, as well as the relationship between film and composition in the 21st century in a series of conferences and round tables. The debates are open to the general public interested by the current state of music in the international cultural space, as well as to the specialized audience and young musicians all over the world.

Grand opening

This year’s opening night features the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the wand of Vladimir Jurowski, interpreting Enescu’s Oedipe, the most timeless story ever told, an opera in four acts. Romanian soprano Ruxandra Donosie and Romanian operatic tenor Marius Vlad Budoiu will also be staged in Oedipe. In a review from The Guardian in May 2016, Andrew Clements describes Enescu’s composition as “Enescu’s treatment of this part of the story is almost ritualized, sometimes more oratorio-like than operatic. But his churning, dark-hued orchestral music, with its stylistic roots in a range of late-Romantic composers, as well as in Debussy and early Bartók, really comes into its own in the second half, which abandons any sense of distance and detachment. It depicts Oedipe’s final realization of the horror of what he has done, his self-blinding and exile from Thebes accompanied by his daughter Antigone, and the resolution and peace he eventually finds at Colonus, with extraordinary warmth and tenderness. It’s not a score in which set-pieces figure prominently, but Oedipus’s assertions of his own innocence in the final scene, and his absolution by the furies, are spellbinding.” We will see if this kind of magical atmosphere will be revealed on the Romanian scene at the grand opening on September 2nd at Sala Palatului.

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