The French Literary View On Enescu's Sense Of Yearning

It has been said – for good reason – that the Romanian word dor [aprox. "yearning"] is untranslatable, which made all foreign lexicographers leave it in its original form in most literary texts. But in music there is also a "dor enescian" ["Enescian yearning"], which someone from far as far as France, the friend and blood sister of the maestro's homeland, translated faultlessly: the writer or, to be more exact, the poetess Marguerite Vessereau. It is amazing how a scholar, a historian like Vessereau, can express in words what Enescu transmitted through sounds: a sense of yearning. For 40 years I have gathered testimonies and recollections of our brilliant musician from friends, fellow musicians, disciples, and mainly from persons outside the circle of close friends at home and abroad. However, one can count on the fingers of one hand the memoirists who grasped the ineffable of the genius' artistic being. One of George Enescu's most objective spiritual witnesses undoubtedly remains Marguerite Vessereau. She wrote on several occasions about the Romanian artist in the Parisian review Le Monde Musical. She published the essay Roumanie, terre du dor, at Les Presses Universitaires (1930). She studied the Romanian booklets by N. Hodoroabă and Maximilian Costin, the musician's first biographers, before 1930. But, above all, she watched closely the violinist, pianist, conductor, composer and, mainly, Enescu the man, both on the concert podium and in private life. She fathomed "l'âme roumaine de Georges Enesco", revealing those unique characteristic features that gave the maestro that appearance typical only to geniuses. The text of the booklet L'Âme roumaine de Georges Enesco (published in French and Romanian) has exemplary literary qualities, Marguerite Vessereau being one of the most subtle of Enescu's memoirists. I think the merit of the French writer lies in the spiritual link she established between the Romanian ethos of the common man and Enescu's lofty virtues, the latter becoming a conveyor of a specific, unmistakable feeling, concentrated in a simple word, charged with the nature's charm and the peasant's sensibility: dor. Vessereau tries to figure out that sense of yearning through the man who gathered "everyone's feelings" to turn them into "a sort of melancholy smile at the infinite diversity of the world". The essay is based on a profound fathoming of the man and artist, Marguerite Vessereau decoding subtle characteristics that had been overlooked by many biographers and analysts of Enescu's work. She memorized several of Enescu's assertions, and reproduced them thus offering them to posterity as landmarks of his artistic, aesthetic and philosophical thinking. "I believe in God passionately. Those who believe like me, blindly, take in an unknown force. They rely on God and the harmony of the world, and create a flow of rays through which events are, if not influenced, at least attenuated." "When my conscience is at peace, what do I care about the Deluge?" "Have you ever made bread? No? It's a pity. But have you kneaded dough? Have you at least made small balls of soft bread? To throw them at your classmates. Well, the bow is a kind of dough. You have to work it, mix it with the same gestures." "Work for the mere joy of working, and you will suffer less because of the world's inability and indifference." "The halls where it is forbidden to applaud before the end of the concert confuse me; I keep wondering if I hadn't bored the audience." Certainly, Marguerite Vessereau has succeeded to give unexpected meaning to the Romanian master's every single gesture or word. The French historian has a unique ability, not to be found with any specialist, however gifted, to extract the pure essence of the artist, in order to transmit it in a language of admirable simplicity and literary effusion. He understood the Romanian soul because he became familiar with it at home, in the wonderful scenery of the Romanian mountains, forests, brooks, and wheat fields, grasping the strong essence of the scented atmosphere of a land blessed by God. "He likes honest men – Vessereau concludes – not just those who think and pray, but also those who struggle to make a living, dressed in rags on the outside, but having feelings inside. He loves the memories of his country, whose holidays he celebrates in his soul, while travelling across the continents. Like some time ago in Vienna, his work gives him back all that deep life, unravelling beyond Chicago's skyscrapers some mountains that resemble the Caraiman. He feels down deep the inner vibration and rhythm of this life which he is very fond of. He senses the immanent music of things, the wake during the winter nights, when the stars "absorb you", up in the Carpathians; the sky sliding down towards the horizon, following the cosmic order once revealed by the Chaldean shepherds; the fiery chromatic orchestration of autumn in his Hertza forest, the rustling silence in which the Prahova flows cold as ice. The image of the world is reflected in the sounds of his violin. The light bathing the Moldavian sky flows in his symphonies in immaculate waves; and his melodic lines superpose, combine, wave without overlapping, following the lines of his native horizons. His movements become the human rhythm, in what it has in common with the impetus and achievements of the earth." The French writer recorded in fact the destiny of a musician considered "a new Beethoven" (as the Romanian press labelled him after the premiere of the Romanian Poem in 1898!), characteristic only to geniuses who are meant to overcome time. Reading the essay, Enescu must have been happy seeing that there are writes who "understood his thinking". The lyrical tragedy Oedipus has not yet been performed when Marguerite Vessereau wrote her essay, and Enescu modestly and confidently revealed to her the grain of gold hidden in his score: "What has value now, will also be valuable over the years." It was only then that Marguerite Vessereau realized the miracle she had witnessed by the side of the Romanian master, whose work had revealed to the world not just the wonderful "land of yearning", but rather his own ineffable soul.

by Viorel Cosma (b. 1927)