Sadly, Bucharest was deprived of a vast number of buildings during the Ceauşescu years, many of them lost in the construction of the notorious Casa Poporului, which by a piece of sublime irony, the dictator was never to see completed. Away from this monstrosity, however, the visitor can still find some delights.
There is, for example, the Ateneu Român, a lovely concert hall in Neoclassical style that is home to the George Enescu Philharmonic, which offers classical concerts throughout the year. Surpassing this, however, and with a touch of neat symmetry, is the George Enescu Museum, half a mile or so to the north of the Ateneu.
George Enescu was Romania’s finest composer, though is perhaps better known, at least in the west of Europe, as the instructor of the world’s most famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin.
The museum that bears Enescu’s name is probably the loveliest building in Bucharest. Its Art Nouveau splendour is so out of keeping with much of the city’s architecture that discovering the museum is a source of both surprise and delight. It was not, in fact, Enescu’s own house, but was built for a merchant named George Cantacuzino, in the early 20th century and is still sometimes referred to as the Cantacuzino Palace. Enescu himself did reside in the smaller pavilion behind the palace from 1937, having married Maria Cantacuzino, the widow of George’s son Mihail. The building’s architect was Ion Berindei, a Romanian who trained in Paris. The architect’s Baroque influences can also be seen, especially in the beautifully decorated interior.
The museum opened in 1956, a year after the death of Enescu, dedicated to the life and works of the composer. On display are instruments, documents, manuscripts, photographs and other memorabilia connected with Enescu.