An outstanding work. A musical language of his own. Meditative, upbeat, shades of grey contrasting with flamboyant red and orange – perfect metaphors for my mood in late autumn. A joyful reminiscence of the thousand colours of the falling leaves, that I love to watch. The vision of the cold, bare, misty landscape I have to expect. In such situations, I draw a lot of energy from memories of moments I enjoyed. And George Enescu’s Sonata for Cello No. 2 in F Minor (op. 26) is perfectly illustrating this.
Enescu started to write this piece most likely in June 1935, and finished it the following November. The first and second movements were completed in Bucharest on 8 August and 12 September, respectively. The third and fourth movements were completed in Vienna, on 27 September and 30 November. The Romanian composer dedicated the work to Pablo Casals, a legend in his days. The premiere took place at the École Normale de Musique in Paris on 4 March 1936. The composer himself played the piano part, the cellist was the Armenian Diran Alexanian.
Enescu was one of the most eminent violinists of his time, in a league with the cellist Casals. He had started to play the instrument at the age of four; nevertheless it was the piano that triggered his passion to compose. “As soon as I had a piano at my disposal, I started composing”, he wrote in his memoirs. “I changed with a profound joy the monody instrument I had been playing at until then with a polyphonic instrument; it was so good to revel in strains after I couldn’t do anything else but play some songs without any accompaniment at all! […] And, without any hesitation, I started composing.”
Composing became a passion during and after his studies in Vienna and Paris. “I wasn’t thinking too much about violin. I was drunk with music and not with giving performance on an instrument. I dreamt only about composing, composing, and again composing.” The sonata is a clear testimony for this. The liberty of expression, the choice of unusual harmonies, the very individualistic language show fearlessness and passion, the lust for experiments and an incredible talent. Enescu made a difference, his music expressed things in a new way. Sure, the influence of late Romanticism is palpable, but Enescu moves into uncharted territories, neither explored by Brahms or Mahler, nor by Schönberg and his followers. Enjoy!
Sonata for Celo and Piano No. 2 has been recorded by Valentin Radutiu (cello) and Per Rundberg (piano).
© Charles Thibo