As a composer, Enescu’s published output was relatively modest, though it contained some substantial works. The fact that the three symphonies were composed between 1905 and 1918 might suggest - wrongly- that his interest in the genre was not great and lasted for less than fifteen years.
As a student he was a prolific composer and began work on his first symphony (unnumbered) in 1894; two more followed in 1896 and 1898. Three movements of another survive from 1895. His first numbered symphony (Op 13) was not completed intil 1905. By the 1920s the mature synthesis of sophisticated chromaticism and thematic transformation of Romanian folk inflections had emerged. It is to this period that the Third Symphony, completed in 1921, belongs.
Although he was profoundly influenced by European art music, Enescu never lost touch with Romanian musical traditions, and in a series of works not only evoked that tradition, but went beyond it to produce a unique fusion of two cultures. The two Romanian Rhapsodies of 1901 are by far the best known of Enescu’s orchestral works in this style. Although they are immensely attractive, he found them somewhat irritating and tended to disparage them. Some of the themes are folk songs and others are Enescu’s own invention, drawing on modal scales and the typical melodic patterns of his native music.