Tag Archives: George Enescu

Enescu and makam

Georges Enescu’s use of elements of Romanian traditional music is well known; his most popular works today, the Rhapsodies roumaines, attest to his enthusiasm for his homeland’s music. Less known is his interest in the Turkish melodic type makam (pl. makamlar) and its influence on his masterpiece, the opera Œdipe.

In this work, Enescu used three makamlar: Müsteâr, for music associated with the characters Creon and Jocasta; Hisâr, for the motif of fate, and Nişâbûr, for the motif of justification.

This according to “Modale Strukturen in Annäherung zur orientalischen Kirchenmusik im Oedip von George Enescu” by Adriana Şirli, an essay included in Enesciana II-III: Georges Enesco, musicien complexe (Bucureşti: Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1981).

Today is Enescu’s 140th birthday! Below, an excerpt from the 1970 production of Œdipe by the Opera Naţională Bucureşti; above, the Enescu statue in front of the opera house. For more Enescu iconography, see Music on money.


Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Opera

Music on money

Like postage stamps, musical subjects depicted on money represent a type of iconography that is controlled by governmental organizations; their didactic goals are minimal, and their political role is paramount. Most often they involve the celebration of a national composer whose work embodied and enacted a national character—but their symbolism occasionally misfires.

For example, the above Romanian  50,000 lei banknote pictures George Enescu on the front alongside some recognizable musical images, but the depiction of a Bucegi-Mountains rock formation known in Romania as The Sphinx, which appears to be a reference to the character of the Sphinx in the composer’s opera Oedipe, was judged to be sufficiently puzzling to merit a redesign omitting the image.

This according to “Music on money: State legitimation and cultural representation” by Marin Marian-Bălaşa (Music in art XXVIII 1–2, pp. 173–189.

Related article: Enescu and makam

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Iconography