1887, 12 September, Sulina – George Georgescu is born. His father, Leonte Georgescu « the tallest man from Sulina » is the customs director of this flourishing port at the mouth of the river Danube. His mother, Elena, daughter of the port’s captain, comes from a family from Kefalonia.
His talent for music shows very early in his childhood. He teaches himself to play the violin and than he accompanies his father on his business travels to Bucharest, Galati, and Giurgiu, where music teachers notice his talent. In Giurgiu he conducts the church choir and establishes himself as the school’s musical conductor.
Professor Stefan Nanulescu, with whom he forms a long attachment, encourages him to follow a musical career despite opposition of his father who used to say that « he didn’t want to see his son become a fiddler ». He decides to leave the family home.
In 1906 he joins the Bucharest Conservatory whose director Dimitrie Popovici-Bayreuth was feared for his strictness but renowned for his support to talented and studious young people.
Secretary of the Conservatory was Corneliu Moldoveanu, the future director of the National Theater. When he passes the age required for violin or cello, which were his preferred instruments, the young George Georgescu is faced with two alternatives : trombone or double bass. He chooses the double bass and joins Professor Carini’s class. After three months Carini recommends George to his colleague Constantin Dumitrescu as « the first man who plays a melodious double bass ». As a student he makes a living by playing in various orchestras in musical theatre, summer gardens like « Oteteleseanu », « Rasca », « Blanduzia » and the National Theater .
The pay, like the pay he received in the Giurgiu choir, is modest but he has the golden opportunity to meet some very famous artists of the time : Iancu Brezianu, Al. Davilla, Nottara, Demetriad, Leonard, Dimitrie Dinicu, Tony Bulandra, Aristita Romanescu. He completes the Conservatory in four years instead of the required seven and on the recommendation of his collegue Theodor Popovici, he considers continuing his studies abroad.
1911-1918, Berlin. Hochschule für Musik, perfecting his cello playing with virtuoso Hogo Becker. The « Marteau Quartet » and his first international succes. A break in his cellist career. Arthur Nikisch and Richard Strauss have an intuition about his true vocation : that of a conductor.
« I beeing Greek from my mother’s side,therefore a stubborn goat, with a few pounds in my pocket, cannot accept studying with anyone but the best »
-N. Constantinescu, with Mr George Georgescu about himself and others, interview published in « Rampa » 27 Feb 1928
Besides Hugo Becker, his new Maestros now are Robert Kahn, – a former pupil of Brahms- for composition and Arnold Kleffel for conducting classes.
Hugo Becker gives George Georgescu his place in the « Marteau Quartet’ with which he will tour intensively and begin to acquire international fame. In 1914, at the start of the war, Hery Marteau, a French citizen, is interned and than expelled. Following Romania’s entry into the war, in 1916, George Georgescu was interned in Moabit prison but then released as a civil prisoner under supervision.
He continues to give cello concerts until December 1916 when two of his left-hand fingers became paralysed thus bringing to an end a shining career. Renowned musicians of the time, Arthur Nikisch and Richard Strauss, having an intuition of his true vocation, steer him towards a career as a conductor. In 1918, he conducts for the first time the Berlin Philharmonic, with Tchaikovski’s Symphonie « Pathetique », Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Till Eulenspiegel by Strauss in the program.
His enormous succes, with both the public and the media is the start of a series of eulogies that will follow the Maestro throughout his career.
« He has made his debut (as a conductor) in Berlin, with the Philharmonic Orchestra, and although the timing and his nationality were slightly unfavourable, he conquered the Berlin public and press, who from the begining placed him on a pedestal, with Nikisch, Weingarten and Strauss….The concerts that followed did nothing more than amplify this excellent impression and this glory so effortlessly acquired » – « The Musical Courier », Paris, 15 November 1921
The echoes of his success reach Romania, from where he starts receiving concert offers.
Once the war ends, he presents himself to the Romanian military mission in Berlin where he asked to accompany the war wounded back to Romania.
4 January 1920, The first concert at the Romanian Atheneum.
1921 : Named Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Society, whose honorary president was King Ferdinand.
Other members of the Society Council were Alexandru Marghiloman, Dinu Bratianu, Prince Basarab-Brancoveanu, Anton de Mocioni etc. At the King’s request he leaves for Viena to audition for new instrumentalists for the Phlharmonic.
In the years that follow he alternates his concerts in Romania with succesful tours abroad, using both national and international material.
George Enescu after the performance of his 1st Symphonie, on the 25 November 1925 :
« Dear Georgescu
For the third or fourth time in my life as a composer, which started 24 years ago, I experienced a true emotion, very sweet, similar to that felt by an author who is finally understood and whose work is performed convincingly …may I say, with love ! Thank you from my heart and thank all the comrades from the orchestra. Bless you for our happiness as Romanians and musicians. »
Between 1922-1926 he becomes for the first time also director of the Romanian Opera (he will repeat this role between 1930-1940) He succeeds in bringing to Bucharest some of the greatest singers of the time- Tito Schipa, Chaliapin etc. and organises the first Romanian School of Ballet. But this is where he encounters the first conflicts and disappointments in his career, which will determine him to go into exile. During 1926 he finds himself in Paris, where he is adopted by « Le Groupe des six », a group of brilliant musiciens which include Georges Auric, Arthur Honegger, Francis Poulenc and Darius Milhaud.
« Mr Georgescu posseses in the bud or even well developed all the
qualities needed by a big leader : natral authority, ascendancy -over the orchestra- ease, elegant gestures : he is neither sparing nor over generous with the latter, and has just the amount of exuberance needed to impress an audience which is already favorably disposed »
Robert Brussel « Le Figaro » 30 March 1926
1926-1927, conducts the New York Philharmonic and the Opera Orchestra in Washington, taking over the conductors’s baton from Arturo Toscanini. Returns to Romania and continues, uninterupted until 1944, the directorship of the Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra. At the same time he is again director of the Romanian Opera (1930-1940)
This is a splendid period, both for George Georgescu’s personal career and for the Bucharest Philharmonic, which achived the rank of one of the best orchestras in the world.
Due to his international fame and his relationship and friendship with some great musicians, Bucharest sees a parade of impressive composers and instrumentalists : Strauss, Ravel, Mascagni, Stravinski, Thibault, Rubinstein…In addition, George Enescu Dinu Lipatti, Paul Constantinescu, Marcel Mihalovici and later Ion Dumitrescu, are all Romanian musicians that he would promote whenever possible. He is invited and celebrated everywhere as one of the greatest orchestra leaders of his time : Florence (Maggio Musicale), Viena, Berlin, Barcelona where he receives an « Honorary Diploma » as the « greatest conductor ». In Bucharest he conducts a grand ensemble,composed of one thousand instrumentalists and many choirs who perform Beethoven’s 9th symphonie in Carol Park. The French government bestows on him the title of « Chevalier of the Legion of Honour »
In autumn of 1944 George Georgescu is « banned for life », accused of the « crime » of interpreting German music. In 1947, after the authoritative intervention of George Enescu, he conducts again, not the Philharmonic, but the Radio Orchestra. Between 1954-1964 he becomes director of the Philharmonic Orchestra again. First versions of the George Enescu Festival.
Sensitive but also strong by nature, and at the same time lucid and optimistic, he manages to overcome the excesses and injustice of the communist regime, dedicating himself, when permitted, to music as a perennial value, transcending politics and ideologies.
This is the time for new friends, new discoveries : Sviatoslav Richter, David Oistrach, Yehudi Menuhin, Lola Bobescu, Ion Voicu, Valentin Gheorghiu and Vladimir Orloff. The Romanian political regime allows him gradually to accept invitations from all over the world but forbids him from accepting the distinction of the « Commander of the Legion of Honour » conferred by the French government.
He tours Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, France and the United States, and together with the Philharmonic Orchestra, he travels to Berlin, Dresden, Vienna and Athens where ha has an overwhelming succes in the huge Herod Atticus amphiteatre. In London his performance of the Berlioz Symphonie « Fantastique » marks an important musical event and despite his fatigue, he consents to conduct a few concerts in Germany. Sadly, in Berlin, where he started his musical career, George Georgescu will perform his last concert. He dies in Bucharest on 1 September 1964.
« George Georgescu was a great musical orator in a tumultous key…The conductor dominates and inspires, posseses the orchestra, being its active conscience. George Georgescu was, without doubt, a great conductor and I can not imagine the Philharmonic Orchestra without him ; the least I can say is without him they would have not have become such an established body »
G. Calinescu, The genial conductor, in « Contemporanul » No. 37, 11 September 1964
The opinion of the critics, musical interpreters and the public is that there is a convergence, rarely seen, characterising the two great qualities of the conductor George Georgescu. He had the capacity to establish himself, and then to draw the orchestra after him, in the emotional flux of the musical works. On the other hand, his unusual charisma would create in the orchestra and the public a state of maximum receptivity and communion.
“We step each week under the arches of the Athenaeum. We follow new generations of musical interpreters. The memory of George Georgescu will be forever with us. His concerts remain moments of reference in the history of the century”
Iosif Sava, Remember Gerge Georgescu, in “Ora”, 29 September 1993
Books dedicated to George Georgescu
“George Georgescu”, Tutu Georgescu, Editura Muzicala, Bucharest 1971
Second edition, revised, Editura Muzicala, 2002
“The conductor George Georgescu”, Comtemporary testimonies. Texts and documents.
Edition supervised by Viorel Cosma, Editura Muzicala, Bucharest 1987
“ I played under the baton of Maestro George Georgescu”, Mircea Opreanu
Editura Muzicala; Bucharest, 1993
“The Magic Baton”, Mircea Opreanu,
House of Scientific Books, Bucharest 1994
Articles, studies, interviews
A selective bibliography, covering period 1910-1987 and containing approximately 200 titles, were assembled by Viorel Cosma for his volume The Conductor George Georgescu.
Viorel Cosma mentioned the recordings in the above quoted work. George Georgescu did not agree with the mechanical charcteristics of recording and preferred, like Sergiu Celibidache in later years, the authentic and unrepeatable ambience of the concert hall.
• Integrala Simfoniilor Beethoven edited by Electrecord in 1960, 12 volumes.
• ELCD106, Sviatoslav Richter/George Georgescu, Burlesca pentru pian de Richard Strauss, 1961
• EDC 605, Simfoniile Nr1 si Nr 2 de L. van Beethoven 1961
• EDC 606, Simf. Nr 3 si Uvertura Eleonora, L. van Beethoven, 1961
• EDC 540, Rapsodia I- Rapsodia II-a- Simfonia I de G. Enescu, anii 1950
• “Arta lui George Georgescu” Vol I, Colectia Maestro, 2 CD, R. Strauss Moarte si Transfiguratie; P.I. Ceaikovski, Simf. A VI-a, Patetica; R. Strauss, Till Eulenspiegel; S. Prokofiev, Simf I-a –Clasica; J.Brahms, Concertul nr 2 pentru pian , solist S. Richter
• “Arta lui George Georgescu Vol 2, 2 CD
• C. Franck, Simf. Re minor; C. Debussy, Preludiu la dupa-amiaza unui faun; A. Roussel; Simf a IV-a, J. Brahms; Concertul pentru vioara, solist Yehudi Menuhin, Simf. Nr 2 J. Brahms
• “Arta lui George Georgescu”, Muzica Romaneasca, Colectia Maestro
M. Jora; Th Rogalski; P. Constantinescu; C. Silvestri; G. Enescu
• Festivalul “Enescu” 1958, 2 CD; – A. Haciaturian, Simf Nr 2 “with bells”; J. Brahms Concerto for Violin, soloist Yehudi Menuhin ;J. Sebastian Bach Double Violin Concerto soloists Yehudi Menuhin and David Oistrach; C. Silvestri Toccata
France, Dante-LYS. 1999.
• “L’Art de George Georgescu” – Vol. 1, L. van Beethoven, Les Neuf Symphonies, LYS 485-490
Ouvertures Egmont, Coriolan et Leonore III
• “L’Art de George Georgescu” Vol. 2 ,
Un Concert à Moscou,
R. Strauss, Don Juan et Till Eulenspiegel; Paul Dukas, L’Apprenti Sorcier; Mikhaïl Glinka, Ouverture de Rousslan et Ludmila; G. Enescu, Rhapsodie Roumaine Nr.1
Orchestre Symphonique d’Etat d’URSS.
• “L’Art de George Georgescu Vol.3, La collaboration avec la Philharmonie Tchèque, LYS 544-545
L. van Beethoven Symphonie N° 7; R. Strauss, Tod und Verklärung; F. Liszt, Concerto pour piano nr 1; S. Rachmaninoff, Rhapsodie sur un theme de Paganini, solist, Valentin Gheorghiu
• Georges Enesco, LYS 313, Rhapsodie N° 1, Rhapsodie N° 2, Symphonie N°1
Japan, Tobu Recordings. 2013/2014
• George Georgescu L. van Beethoven Complete Symphonies, with Filarmonica “George Enescu”, ERT 1001/1005-2 (5CD). Licenced by ELECTRECORD, manufactured, digital Remastering and Distribution by Tobu Recordings
• George Georgescu Complete Supraphon Recordings
Czech Philharmonic, TBRCD0023-2(2CD)
L. van Beethoven Symphonie N°7; R. Strauss, “Death and Transfiguration”; F. Liszt, Piano Concerto N° 1; S. Rachmaninov, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, soloist, Valentin Gheorghiu. 2014.
• George Georgescu Edition , Filarmonica “George Enescu”
César Franck, Symphonie in D. Minor; R. strauss, Till Eulenspiegel.
• George Georgescu Edition, Filarmonica “George Georgescu”
J. Brahms, Symphony N°3; Variation on a theme by Joseph Haydn
• George Georgescu Edition, Filarmonica “George Enescu”
F. Schubert, Symphony N°8, “Unfinished”; Symphony N°9, “The Great”