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The 18th “George Enescu” International Festival and Competition, Bucharest, September 2007

Accession and ascension

With the recent accession of Romania to the European Union, this year’s “George Enescu” International Festival and Competition – embracing over 100 events and involving over 3,000 performers – acquires a particular cultural importance. Launched in 1958, the festival continues to draw its inspiration from the eponymous composer, who died in 1955 but remains an icon for his homeland. As the festival’s [job title] Mihai Constantinescu says: “When we speak of Romania’s musical personality, we think of Enescu. It was he who gave value to Romanian music. His music can be complex, but its beauty and charm are rooted in the country’s folk traditions.”

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(businesspress24) - The Artistic Director of the Festival is Ioan Hollender, born in Romania, but long resident in Austria and now Director of the Vienna State Opera. This places him at the centre of the expanded European community and at the heart of Europe’s tradition of classical music. Suitably enough, the festival programme strikes a balance between asserting Romanian pride and identity – not least in the form of many works by Enescu – and welcoming music and performers from around the world, including many of today’s leading names.

The opening gala, with the Orchestra of the Bucharest National Opera, features a number of Romanian singers with established and growing reputations in the world’s opera houses; they include Nicoleta Ardelean, Roxana Briban (a former winner of the Enescu Competition), Doina Dimitru, Elena Mosuc, Adina Nitescu, Liliana Nikiteanu, Carmen Oprisanu and Alexandru Agache. The gala is followed by several days of concerts in Bucharest and other Romanian cities which emphasise Romanian musicians and modern Romanian music; among the performers are orchestras from Bucharest, Iasi and Cluj, the principal city of Transylvania. September 6th brings the first concert by a major visiting orchestra: l’Orchestre de Paris (Bucharest was, of course, known as the ‘Paris of the East’ between the Wars) under its music director, Christoph Eschenbach with Steven Isserlis as soloist. The programme comprises two works by Debussy and Enescu’s Symphony concertante for cello and orchestra. The following day the OdP and Eschenbach are joined by Pinchas Zukerman for a programme that includes Bruch Concerto No 1.

Visiting from neighbouring Hungary for just one concert is the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Budapest under Zoltán Kocsis – they bring a striking programme of Enescu, Janáček and Bartók – but all the other symphonic visitors to the festival are committed to two concerts. The Oslo Philharmonic under Jukka-Pekka Saraste plays Sibelius and Grieg (the piano concerto with Boris Berezovsky) and Debussy, Enescu, Bartók and Ravel. An international ensemble in the line of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Parma-based Arturo Toscanini Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Lawrence Foster and Emmanuel Krevine in Brahms and a pairing of symphonies by Enescu (No 3) and Beethoven (No 5). Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducts the Dresdner Philharmoniker in Mahler’s Symphony No 8 with a multinational line-up of solo singers, including several Romanians; this is followed by a concert performance of Falla’s opera La vida breve (cast to be confirmed), preceded by Enescu’s Suite No 1. The Russian National Orchestra visits with Charles Dutoit and Marta Argerich in a programme of Stravinsky, Beethoven (Piano concerto No 1) and Prokofiev – Argerich will also appear in recital at the festival with fellow-pianist Nelson Freire; the orchestra’s second programme, conducted by Cristian Mandeal, comprises a Russian take on French music (the Carmen Suite made by Rodion Shchedrin), a French arrangement of Russian music (Ravel’s version of Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition) and Liszt’s Piano concerto No 1 with Polina Lischenko. (Bucharest-trained Mandeal is Principal Conductor of the city’s “George Enescu” Philharmonic Orchestra; at this year’s festival he directs the orchestra’s chamber formation in Bach scores arranged by the Romanian-born conductor Erich Bergel.) The inexhaustible Valery Gergiev visits with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, first performing Messiaen and Mahler and then Enescu, Sibelius (the Violin Concerto with one of its leading exponents, Leonidas Kavakos) and Wagner. Katia and Marielle Labèque are soloists in Mendelssohn with the Basel Chamber Orchestra – the concert also features Enescu and Beethoven – while the Swiss ensemble’s second concert brings more Enescu and Beethoven, this time with the Romanian pianist Viniciu Moroianu as soloist. Two of the world’s highest-profile soloists join the London Symphony Orchestra: Maxim Vengerov plays the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, which is followed by Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique – conductor Horia Andreescu, while Yevgeny Kissin is under the baton of Sir Colin Davis in an all-Beethoven programme. The final modern-instrument orchestra to appear at the festival is the Münchner Philharmoniker, which Ion Marin conducts in Mahler and Strauss and then, to close the festival, Enescu’s Symphony No 1 and Orff’s Carmina Burana, with its climactic address to Fortune.

A late-night series brings a focus on historically-informed performance with Europa Galante and Fabio Biondi (who also travel to Cluj and Timisoara), La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Hespèrion XXI under Jordi Savall, and the Freiburger Barockorchester under Gottfried von der Goltz.

Among the other groups and instrumentalists appearing over the course of the festival are Ensemble Contemporain with Susanna Malkki, the Beaux Arts Trio, Zukerman Chamber Players, Camerata Lysy, Murray Perahia, Lebanese pianist Abdel-Rahman El Bacha (who takes on a demanding programme of Prokofiev, Ravel, Enescu and Balakirev), Viktoria Mullova and cellist Han-Na Chang.

Singers in recital include Michael Schade and Camilla Tilling, while the operatic programme, presented in conjunction with the Romanian National Opera, brings: Carmen with Hadar Halevy and José Cura; La traviata with Stefania Bonfadelli (whose appearances as Violetta include a Zeffirelli production in the Verdi’s birthplace, Busseto), and Tosca with mezzo-turned-soprano Nadja Michael. Dance is represented with an evening of three sumptuously-scored ballets – Le Sacre du printemps, Boléro and L’Oiseau de feu, performed by the Béjart Ballet Company.

New talent will be nurtured and discovered by the "George Enescu" International Competition, which offers prizes for piano, violin and composition and which gives rise to several gala concerts around Romania over the course of the festival.

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Company information / Profile:

“The reasons and of this edition of the Festival is to promote Romanian - and her most important composer – George Enescu’ s music al around the world. Our target is represented on the one hand by the most important and well know artists and ensembles - to (re) discover our music Romanian music an on the other hand, to offer to the (young) Romanian audience the values of the word culture. The festival is also concerned to promote new names in music, like we did every edition with the winners of the previous competitions.” With the special support of the most important media channels – CNN, Euronews, Mezzo and RFi - we hope that this edition of the George Enescu International Festival and Competition will have a important impact on the Romanian and international musical and cultural life.

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Date: 06/13/2007 - 14:55
Language: English
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