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A composer’s house is scheduled for demolition…. another one

Some months ago, we reported on the plight of the Charles Ives House in Redding, Connecticut, sold to developers with a knock-down plan. The same fate awaits the home of George Enescu, the great Rumanian composer, violinist and conductor.

In a specially commissioned article for Slipped Disc, the Rumanian pianist Raluca Stirbat brings the state of Enescu’s childhood house at Mihaileni to world attention. We are asking readers with government contacts in Bucharest and Brussels to use their best efforts to save this national and international heritage site. Please…. there’s no time to lose.

SAVE ENESCU’S MEMORIAL HOUSE IN MIHAILENI, ROMANIA!

– by Raluca Stirbat, Pianist, President of the International George Enescu Society in Vienna

– 13 January 2013

 

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The research for my dissertation on the life and work of the brilliant Romanian composer, as well as the endless search for the “Inefable of Enescu” brought me to one of the most northern parts of Romania: the small idyllic village of Mihaileni, in the county of Botosani, Moldova.

 

George Enescu (1881-1955) was born in Liveni-Dorohoi (county of Botosani, today George Enescu) but he spent many happy hours of his childhood, youth and adulthood in his mother’s house in Mihaileni (at a distance of only 30-40 km from Liveni). This is proved by biografical documents and numerous letters to his mother Maria and his favourite aunt, the „precious“ Tinca – she was Costache Enescu’s (the composer’s father) sister, a very musically talented woman, who had a striking resemblance to her nephew George and who stayed with Enescu’s mother in Mihaileni to look after her. Enescu spent the summer months for years in his beloved Moldova and divided his time between his father’s house in Cracalia (which was burnt down in the late 1940s – a sad and mysterious story, still remained unclarified) and that of his mother’s family in Mihaileni.

 

Maria Enescu, the composer’s mother, was born in 1839 here on the banks of the small river Molnita, as the daughter of the priest Ioan Cosmovici and his wife Zenovia, née Vogoride. After “Jorjac’s” departure to study in Vienna, her illness and life-saving operation in the Austrian capital, the separation from her husband and the dramatic attempt at retiring to the monastery Varatec, she went back to her parents’ house, where she passed away in 1909.

 

Enescu was in Paris when he received this sad news, but he was unable to get back in time to accompany his beloved mother on her “last journey”. He returned  every year to Mihaileni to pay his respects according to the Greek Orthodox religious practice (in Romanian: pomenire) to his mother and grandparents, who lay togheter in the old cemetery of the village. He always spent a few days within his childhood walls, where he used to compose and happily made music with his mother and aunt. It was here that – among other great works – the Sinfonia Concertante Op. 8 for Cello and Orchestra originated while he was looking after his sick mother in November 1901.

George-Enescu-1943-240x-A2F55EB4

All this must be reason enough to save this house and to turn it into a museum – one stage on a cultural-tourist route: „Enescu’s way in the north of Moldova: Liveni, Cracalia, Dorohoi, Tescani, Iasi“. But one needs a wellthought-out strategy as well as political will and honest interest, so that the responsible Romanian authorities from Bucharest immediately co-ordinate a conservation/renovation plan of action!

 

Unfortunately the last informations are that Enescu’s house from Mihaileni is used as a barn and the local owner intends to demolish it as soon as possible…

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Comments

  1. José Bergher says:

    Damn outrageous! Georges Enescu was one of the greatest geniuses in so many areas of music, as a violinist, pianist, conductor, composer and teacher. The Rumanian government must do all it can to protect everything related to a fellow citizen who contributed so much to beauty.

  2. A house of no architectual significance should be conserved just because it was a composer’s house? Yes, he was a genious, but the place where he was born doesn’t seem relevant to him. What matters is his work and what help us to udnerstand better his works. I don’t think this small house does anything. I say :take the content out and tear it down!

    • Nora Haidu says:

      Well, to bad for Enescu, that he wasn´t born in a palace, isn´t it? This house has a historical and spiritual value. It´s true, his work is significant anyway, but in a society where people hardly know any more who Enescu was, there is need to preserve his memory by all means.

      • Well, his birthplace or the place where he died, does it matter? His memory is preserved through his compositions, letters etc. This building is not needed.

        • Nora Haidu says:

          Well..as a matter of fact it matters! .I´m sure you know that it´s not only about the house. At least it´s nice to know that there are people like you, who are familiar with his music and letters, who keep his memory in their minds and souls. If there would be more people like you, this house wouldn´t be subject of an argument and it would have become a memorial place since ever.

          • Right, Nora – it DOES matter. Memorial houses in Romania are becoming fewer and fewer far between because of opinions such as Alan B’s… There is so much that could be done to preserve it, use it as you say as a museum, a centre for music, for learning, master classes perhaps. The people of Moldova are a proud bunch. I can’t believe they would let this happen, but… it seems that they have. The owner is a mitocani like so many others, blind to heritage and culture – and he is representative of a growing majority… :(

  3. Maestro Flash Montoya says:

    Even by Romanian standards, the house is a wreck. Better to use the money for scholarships in his name, or other efforts to promote his music. But don’t waste money fixing up the house in order to make a museum that is too far off the beaten path for people to visit it.

    • Nora Haidu says:

      Sorry, maestro, but have you ever been there??? I agree that there is need for education, but as far as I´m concerned as a native romanian, this would be part of the education!!!!

  4. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Restore the house (yes, just because it is an important composer’s house) create a summer music camp for kids on the grounds and/or a retreat for composers and artists. Roumania needs to preserve its own culture, and Enescu and his music (the violin sonatas are very impressive http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzxsEN-rEwo ) remain an important part of that heritage. A summer project for university music students who could rebuild the place…c’mon, think positively.

    • Lord Montague says:

      Great idea for restoring his mother’s house (it wasn’t his), but would be hard to motivate the students. This place doesn’t have Internet access. :)

    • Nora Haidu says:

      YES!!! This would be a great thing! I´m positive that dedicated students would love to take advantage of a internationally renowned summer camp!!!

    • Victor Eskenasy says:

      Grateful for your comments, Robert Fitzpatrick! Yes, Romania needs to preserve and spread universally its culture as Enescu did it all his life.

  5. Steven Honigberg says:

    Has anyone ever heard Enescu’s Symphonie Concertante 1939 live broadcast with the New York Philharmonic, Felix Salmond, cello with Georges Enescu conducting? Marvelous…

  6. José Bergher says:

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=enescu+%2B+sinfonia+concertante&page=1
    This page has many recordings of Enescu’s works.

    http://www.toccatapress.com/book/george-enescu-life-music-malcolm.html
    Enescu was once described by Pablo Casals as “the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart”,

  7. I’ve just read your post with my heart in my boots… one sees this more and more – the destruction/demolition of houses/properties that, in any other country would be loved, cherished and a centre for culture, learning and national pride – Muzeul Spiru Haret, the home of A. Rosetti, the chemist Nenitescu’s house, the home of Cella Delavrancea and so many others come to mind. No need to even begin with historic monuments such as Hala Matache.

    I do not know HOW this can be stopped for it seems that in Romania no one cares enough apart from a very select few who really DO try so hard but cannot be everywhere at once…

    This evening, I have seen a poster for Enescu’s Oedipus Rex at the Opera on Jan 27th. Perhaps the performance could be opened with the director making a public speech on the situation? But then what? Demolitions that are rarely legal happen all the time all over Romania for money is more important these days than culture, memory, patrimony and heritage. Mitocani fever…

    Would you please give me permission to copy and paste your post onto my blog linking it back to you of course, so that I may distribute this outrageous situation easier? Do contact me either by email or via my blog to let me know. I’ll wait til I hear from you.

    Thank you for waving the flag – I had had no idea and have not read about this anywhere else in the Romanian press.

    Numai de bine,
    Sarah

    • Dear Sarah
      Please post it wherever you can and, if you have access. ask the director of the opera to read it out before Oedipus Rex.
      best wishes
      Norman

      • Hi Norman – I don’t know the director but I’ll get the email and leave a message – will also put it on the ONB facebook page – you never know – someone may transfer the info. In the meantime, i’ll blog this and come back to you with the link.

        All the best

  8. Will send it to as many architects, associations and foundations for saving patrimony I know… but we’re mice in the face of a tsunami of greed… watch this space. Here’s the link to my blogpost: http://sarahinromania.canalblog.com/archives/2013/01/14/26155817.html

    Fingers and toes crossed.

  9. I’ve had a little bit of feedback and am told that this house wasn’t Enescu’s birthplace and was in fact the home of his mother. He didn’t actually grow up there as such and the general opinion is that there are higher priorities and that Enescu already has the Casa Enescu/Cantacuzino in Bucharest and another in Sinaia (I thought that no longer existed, but…)… Well, waiting for more news but it doesn’t sound very promising, Norman.
    best, Sarah

  10. In Bucharest, to the ministry of culture, that wouldn’t be considered dilapidation. There is far, FAR worse :( but I agree with you – it’s quite dreadful and of course it’s a significant site. Raluca is perfectly right. Anything related to the national composer should be considered significant. Oh dear…

    • Victor Eskenasy says:

      That’s not a reason, Sarah, that one can see „far worse”. Go inside the Museum Enescu in Bucharest and see the rain water on the paintings ! Coming from the roof… And do a photo for us, maybe you’ll have more chance. I was told that photos are forbidden…

      • Everything is ‘nu se poate’, ie. it can’t be done – very Romanian-administration-minded. What that actually means is ‘yes you can if you grease my palm’ or ‘I can’t be bothered’.

        No, Mr Eskenasy, I know ‘there is far FAR worse’ is not a reason and I don’t say I think that it is. I’m saying that that is the mentality. Sadly.

        I haven’t been to Palatul Enescu/Cantacuzino for a while now. Next time I am in Bucharest (probably March) I shall definitely go. No photos… like everywhere else. Nu se poate…

  11. ps. Mr Eskenasy, please have a look at this on ‘nu se poate’ :) http://sarahinromania.canalblog.com/archives/2012/01/03/23157495.html

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