There was a perfect Sunday afternoon with Enescu at the Bozar, in Brussels. Under the direction of Lawrence Foster the National Orchestra of Belgium offered a programme, which included the two Romanian Rhapsodies of George Enescu. The programme was sponsored by the Romanian Cultural Institute in Brussels.
From my earlier years Enescu fascinated me with his rhapsodies. There were many moments when the two masterpieces were played on different occasions and perhaps my ears got familiar with the sound, which is a mixture of songs and dances performed in a village.
I must admit that my entire life I felt a bit far away from the other musical pieces of Enescu. I always found them above my level of understanding and feeling the music. I probably had neither the right education nor the needed knowledge to get on with them.
However, some years ago I understood why the two rhapsodies mean so much to me. The first rhapsody sums-up the most representative Romanian folkdances in a nutshell while the second one tells a story about the Romanian rural life.
Enescu wrote both rhapsodies when he was 19. In addition to certain traditional musical elements they feature motives of both peasant and “lăutărească” music. Experts distinguish between the two kinds of music. While peasants perform the peasant music, “lăutari”, perform the “lăutărească” music.
The peasant music, which is rarely heard in the Romanian villages nowadays, is a form of entertainment specific to the rural areas, with variations from one region to another and even from one village to another.
The style of the “lăutărească” music is complex and embeds unusual harmonies, with enhanced sound combinations. The “lăutari” master the performance and are famous for their perfect technique.
Enescu’s first teacher was a “lăutar”. He probably was fascinated by the music richness, which may explain why so many “lăutărească” features are the drivers of the two rhapsodies.
The “lăutărească” music is deep, with strong emotional accents, moving from sorrow to joy, from solitude, melancholy, to longing and love for nature. The “lăutărească” music heritage mirrors the musical chronicles of the rural culture, where the major events of the community life are portrayed.
Enescu actually brought in key community moments and arranged them in sequences to tell a meaningful story about Romanian culture and Romanians. The two outstanding pieces of music have been surviving together for more than 100 years.
One can easily perceive the freshness of the village life of those times and the colour brightness of the Romanian landscapes while listening to the two rhapsodies. I find myself re-discovering scenes from my village while hearing the music and closing my eyes. The music emotion and the energy come out from the ancient dance rhythm and song harmonies. Jumping easily from major to minor is the backbone of the Romanian “lăutărească” music, which Enescu adopted successfully in his masterpieces.
I would lie if I would say that I was not moved during the performance. I saw people around me, not necessarily Romanians, with tears in their eyes. Once more I understood that music is a universal language. We can all understand it no matter which language(s) we speak.