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A structural analysis of George Enescu’s Piano sonata in D major, op. 24, no. 3 Kvarnstrom, Jonas Erik


George Enescu (1881-1955) is known primarily today in conjunction with the world of violin playing. Celebrated as a violin virtuoso throughout the capitals of Europe and North America in the first half of this century, and later admired as a teacher of luminary talents such as Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Grumiaux, and Ida Haendel, Enescu exerted a considerable influence on the developments of the international music scene. This was nowhere more apparent than in Paris and Bucharest, cities in which Enescu spent most of his life active as performer, conductor, and composer. As his career progressed, Enescu dedicated an increasing amount of time and energy to composition, producing an impressive list of works, many of which were of monumental proportions. Contemporary with Bartok and Kodály, Enescu found himself caught in the current of nationalism that asserted itself in Europe during the first decades of the twentieth century. Seeking a personal, expressive idiom in which he could fuse the musical elements of both Western tradition and his native Rumanian folk heritage, Enescu experimented with diverse compositional trends and styles. Expanding the reaches of tonality with heightened chromaticism, in which microtonal as well as modal inflections were both to play significant roles, Enescu’s idiom evolved into a highly plastic language, comprising a great variety of stylistic characteristics. In order to assimilate the heterogeneous elements into one unified expression, Enescu relied on traditional compositional techniques such as sonata form, cyclic thematic structure, and motivic development. The focus of this paper is to examine to what extent these compositional techniques are incorporated into his work and to direct attention to those elements, i.e., both structural and non-structural, that were most distinctive of Enescu’s musical style. Owing to its concentration of key stylistic elements and its stature as perhaps the most accomplished piano composition in Enescu’s output, the Sonata for Piano in D Major, Op. 24, No. 3 (1934) will serve as model for this analytical study. Chapter One provides by way of an introduction a brief overview of the formative years in Enescu’s life and defines the position of the Sonata within the complete ceuvre. Chapters Two, Three, and Four constitute the main body of the paper and contain analyses of each of the Sonata’s three movements. In these chapters discussion revolves around the more significant structural features of the work such as the overall cyclic design, simultaneously examining the methods Enescu employs to integrate folk inflection throughout the Sonata. Chapter Five comprises the summary. The most significant features of the Sonata are recapitulated and parallels to numerous other works are drawn, in an attempt to present the Sonata as a culmination of Enescu’s compositional style.

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