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George Enescu Festival

Be Part of the George Enescu Festival in Bucharest

Apr 13, 2018 | Travel guide

George Enescu Festival Bucharest

One of the biggest events you should consider visiting while in Bucharest is the George Enescu International Festival and Competition, held in honor of the celebrated Romanian composer George Enescu. It is a truly unique experience, especially recommended for all of the culture buffs out there, and excellently paired with Bucharest’s architecture and remarkable buildings in the city. Simply get a taxi online and you can be there in minutes. Having in mind the importance of this event, here are the most important things you should know about it.

What you should know

The George Enescu Festival (also known as George Enescu International Festival and Competition), is held in honor of the celebrated Romanian composer George Enescu and is the largest classical music festival and classical international competition held in Romania and one of the biggest in Eastern Europe. Enescu's close associate George Georgescu organized the first festival in 1958, where the highlights included a performance of Bach's Concerto for Two Violins with Yehudi Menuhin and David Oistrakh as soloists and a staging of Enescu’s sole opera, “Œdipe”, with Constantin Silvestri conducting.

The official opening day of the Enescu Festival took place on 4 September 1958, merely three years after George Enescu’s passing. Among the music world’s personalities that were present for this first edition of the festival were performers such as David Oistrah, Halina Czerny-Stefanka, Nadia Boulanger, Monique Haas, Iacov Zak or Claudio Arrau, and conductors such as Sir John Barbirolli, Carlo Felice Cillario or Carlo Zecchi. On 22 September of the same year, the national premiere of George Enescu’s lyrical tragedy "Oedipe" took place, starring a young David Ohanesian in the lead role. This role was going to mark out the rest of his career as a soloist (with conductor: Constantin Silvestri, directed by: Jean Ranzescu and scenery: Roland Laub).

George Enescu was a violinist, teacher, conductor and composer, worldwide known for his lush opera composition Oedipe, presented his first work as a composer with the Collonne Orchestra in Paris, 1898. Additionally, he also performed as a conductor at prestigious Carnegie Hall (NY). George Enescu was the teacher of one of the greatest violinists of the past century, Lord Yehudi Menuhin. Their bond was so strong that in 1995, Menuhin accepted the invitation to come to Romania to open the George Enescu International Festival. Menuhin also accepted to be the President of Honor of the Enescu Festival in 1998, though his schedule as a soloist was full up to 2003.

Today, an average of around 20 works by Romanian composer George Enescu are interpreted in the Enescu Festival each edition. The 2015 edition of the Enescu Festival (held 30 August – 20 September 2015 in Bucharest) brings on stage interpretations from Enescu’s works by record-breaking German violinist David Garrett, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (awarded with a Pulitzer Prize for Music), or Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta. Highlights of this edition of the Festival also include violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Liverpool Symphony Orchestra.

The concerts are held in three different venues in Bucharest, Iaşi and Sibiu. The 2007 presentations for example, ended with a performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana before an audience of over 4,000 at the Sala Palatului. The competition portion of the Festival lasts about a week, and it consists of three different categories: composition, piano and violin with a varying, yet growing number of participants every coming year. In the 2005 and 2007 presentations, a daily open-air concert was added to the festival program. It is known as the Festival Piazza and features 3 and a half hours of classical music, in addition to movies about the life of George Enescu.

A symphonic experience

The debut at the end of August was a premiere for 2009 edition, which introduced seven musical themed directions (Romanian Contemporary Creation, Enescu and His Contemporaries, Midnight Concerts, Classical Themes in Modern Interpretation, Opera and Ballet, Great Orchestras and Chamber Concerts) and a consistent program. The complexity of the repertoire, a feature of the previous festival editions, is reaching a new peak every year.

In 2013, the 21st edition of the festival brought together in Bucharest many famous artists and orchestras like Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Staatskapelle Berlin, London Philharmonic, Münchener Philharmoniker, Royal Philharmonic London, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Academy Saint Martin in the Fields. Some of the most important personalities of the international classical music were present on the Festival scene, including the conductors Daniel Barenboim and Mariss Jansons, the pianists Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Pinchas Zuckerman, Maxim Vengerov and Evgeny Kissin.

The 2015 edition: a magical medley

From Sunday, the 30th of August to Sunday, the 20th of September, the 22nd edition of the festival gathered a total of 58 spectacular events, filling the Romanian capital with magic and enchantment. The festival absolutely delights with an abundance of graceful artistic moments and pure musical joy. Among the special guests the festival was proud to announce the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta, Murray Peraha and Staatskapelle Dresden, Elisabeth Leonskay, Christian Zacharias, Maria Joao Pires, Anne Sophie Mutter, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Royal ConcertGebouw Orchestra Amsterdam and many more.

Needles to explain further, if you are a classical music lover, the George Enescu Festival is something you should see at least once in your lifetime. And if you are looking for an overall classy experience, book your stay at one of the top luxury resorts in Bucharest and enjoy being spoiled. This way, your transfer from Bucharest airport to city will be a piece of cake.