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If Enescu Festival can afford champagne stars, can’t it save composer’s home?

The campaign we launched earlier this week to save the tumbledown house where George Enescu was raised has gathered momentum with a slot on Rumanian TV and signs of growing public interest.


The Enescu Festival, which takes place in September, is the hottest music date in the Rumanian calendar, replete with top talent. We’ve just heard that the Pittsburgh Symphony will visit this year with a programme that includes Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. Ms. Mutter solos in Dvorak’s Violin Concerto, Ms. Wang Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Mr. Grubinger Corigliano’s “Conjurer” concerto.

Ms Mutter’s single concert fee is about ten times the average Rumanian annual income. If the Pittsburg visitors were to donate an equivalent sum, it would save not only the Enescu House but also the Bucharest building that bears his name.

They might even rename one of them the Pittsburgh Enescu House…

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  1. The Enescu festival is a two-edged sword in the Romanian arts circuit – the fees paid in this festival are so exorbitantly high (especially for Romanian standards, as you said), that there is almost no money left for the radio orchestra, Enescu Philharmonic, etc. (not to mention the many orchestras and operas outside of Bucharest) to invite non-Romanian artists for decent fees throughout the year.
    The big stars show up for the festival every few years, and then wonder why they don’t get offered the same fees when the (same) orchestras that play in the festival invite them for the regular season. (We are talking about not being able to offer more than 10% of the fees of a Mr. Vengerov or Ms. Mutter, including flights and accomodation!)
    Is it better to have one big festival and a stagnating couple of years in between, or would it be better to spend less money on the festival and have more left in the budget for the rest of the season?

  2. Graf Nugent says:

    A house museum which ticks both boxes is surely that of Liszt’s in Bayreuth. It’s a bachelor-sized flat situated next door to Wahnfried which manages to tuck hundreds of fascinating items of memorabilia into its more or less 80 – 90 square metres. I love it. Bayreuth also looks after it…

  3. Don Ciccio says:

    A small correction. Ms. Mutter will not perform in Bucharest. Here’s the complete program of the festival: – subject to change, of course!!! :-)

    Of course the main point of the article remains.

    One thing however to keep in mind is that the Enescu Festival is one of the very few occasions for a music lover in Romania to hear world class performers. And while indeed Romanian musicians do deserve better pay, the notorious Romanian corruption makes me skeptical that even a budget increase for the orchestras and opera companies would mean that much of these monies would go to the musicians…

  4. Stephen Carpenter says:

    The little bit that I know of Enesu’s music is how particular it is in sound. That particularity comes from someplace- as geographical and familial as it does from the way he arranged the sounds.
    This should be saved for the sake of Romanian culture, for its educational possibilities, and for the ability of musicians and composers to stand on the ground that Enescu stood on, to see the landscapes that he saw, to get a sense of what inspiration is to the artist.
    That it had devolved into a utility shed is as much a part of the story of the arts today is an important part of the story. All of us in the arts realize how fragile the whole idea of cultural production and education is, and how important it is for everyone to get an inkling of what it takes to be in that arena. If everyone, touched by this story and by Enescu’s music were to pitch in a penny, it would be a done deal, corruption or no.

  5. Anyone who has an interest in saving houses and those that belongs to composers, then saving this house would be more significant to you. For those who doesn’t see any point to this restoration, well, most probably that person doesn’t know much or hasn’t been educated to care for stuff like this.

  6. Victor Eskenasy says:

    I understand your question like a rhetoric one! Of course, we could know, it depends on what will be done with the house. Otherwise, one cannot compare Moscow and its museums with a village in today Moldova region of Romania. Would you abandon Tchaikovsky House and Museum in Klin, only because you have already one in Moscow ???

    Otherwise, well-done, Norman, knowing what means in terms of money a Ms Mutter’s concert! But in the past she contributed to improve the situation of the abandonned children in Romania and I suppose she could be sensitive to Enescu question.

    It would be interesting to hear Mr. Holender’s opinion, the president and main organizer of the Festival. Not to talk about the new minister of Culture who declared two days ago that his Ministry’s top priority for 2013 is the… the Enescu Festival.

  7. Nora Haidu says:

    This is not a matter of convincing educated people of the importance of a- for them- well known composer. As you write, you are visiting museums, you know whose house you are visiting and you have the knowledge to compare and estimate the exhibits. But a lot of ordinary people don´t , because their interest became less and less due to the poor education in schools and in their family. This must be seen as an action that brings this precious composer back at all into the consciousness of the increasing amount of ignorants.

  8. Graf Nugent says:

    Mozart’s famous flat in Vienna doesn’t offer much in the way of enlightenment, either, but that’s not really the point. The important thing is the connection to that artist and the knowledge that it was a living person – not just a name printed on a piece of paper and eulogised in the press – that you can stand in their former property and imagine them going about their everyday lives. Otherwise, you might just as well have a purpose-built museum. I love going to house museums and just soaking up the atmosphere and letting my imagination run riot, wondering what inspired these people at any given juncture.

    A propos that, here’s a funny little story. Years ago, I went to an evening with Manuel Rosenthal at the Sorbonne. I can’t remember the exact context, but he was talking about the composition of Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faun and that Debussy had been asked where he was when he composed it. The enquirer imagined he’d been sitting on the terrace of a house situated in beautiful woodland, type of a thing. Apparently not. Debussy had written it in a dingy hotel room behind Gare St. Lazare in Paris, overlooking the railway tracks. I found that more enlightening than many a tome I’ve ever read about the compositional process.

    What Debussy, Meyerhold, Enescu et al probably all had in common is a transcendental genius which operated independently of their physical environment. That may sound glib, but it’s witnessing the mundane side of their lives that highlights their achievements that much more. Much more than seeing Napoléon’s tomb in the Invalides or the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington, DC.

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