If one were to ask the average classical music lover to guess where, in the space of three weeks, she could hear orchestras of the calibre of the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Dresden Staatskapelle, and the Royal Concertgebouw, and artists of the eminence of Joyce Di Donato, Yuja Wang, Evgeny Kissin, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Iestin Davies, Bryn Terfel, Gidon Kramer, Midori, and Mitsuko Uchida, and if one could explain to her that that formidable list only barely scratched the surface of what was available to be experienced, the chances are she would plump for the Proms, followed perhaps by Salzburg or Edinburgh. She would be unlikely to guess the Enescu Music Festival in Bucharest for the simple reason that she would probably be completely unaware of its existence.
And yet the Enescu Festival, named after Romania’s pre-eminent composer, George Enescu, has been in existence since 1958. Like most artistic institutions, it has had its ups and downs, but at the moment – in the capable hands of artistic director Vladimir Jurowski and the suave Mihai Constantinescu, who has been its CEO for thirty years and has survived thirty ministers of culture – it is one of the wonders of the musical world.
The successes … were far too many to list here, so what follows is a highlight of the highlights of the first half of the festival, which is all this writer managed to attend.
It is one of the great pleasures of occasions like this to come into contact with excellent performers of whom one has never heard, to go to a concert or a recital with no great expectations and come out on a high. The young group the Monte Piano Trio provided such an experience.
They made a good case for Enescu’s second piano trio and Serenade Lointaine, but it was their performance of Steuermann’s transcription of Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht that blew this listener away.
Covering the old and the new, keeping in touch with tradition while looking to the future, the Enescu Festival is an extraordinary celebration of the power of music.