George Enescu was just 20 when he composed his two Romanian Rhapsodies (1901), after completing his studies in Paris. Although this was not his debut as a composer, the two rhapsodies would prove to be a milestone on his path to fame. They delighted the audience at their first performance with their fiery stylisation of the folklore of itinerant musicians (lăutari) and remain among Enescu’s most frequently played works.
Karol Szymanowski’s fascination with the beauty and history of the Mediterranean gave rise to a number of masterworks, composed during the difficult time of war, when he had to give up travelling. One of the most significant among them is Myths for violin and piano, inspired by the performance art of Paweł Kochański. In our concert, we will be hearing an orchestral version prepared by the Dutch composer Willem Strietman, who excellently brought out the timbral and expressive qualities of these three miniature pieces.
The Concerto for Orchestra by Béla Bartók, a contemporary of Enescu, was written in 1943 to a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation. The first performance, on 1 December 1944, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Koussevitzky’s baton, was a success, but the Concerto proved to be one of the last – and at the same time most popular – works by Bartók, who died in 1945. Here the composer toned down his musical language, veering towards symmetry, a quasi-Classical form and a euphonious sound, while retaining most of the features of his earlier style, including references to folklore, the supremacy of rhythm and colourful orchestration.