His earliest composition was written when he was 5 years old, a work for violin and piano. Much of his music uses themes from his Romanian homeland and a particularly strong influence was lăutărească music, music that was played by the Romani (formerly known as Gypsy) people that lived in Romania. This style of music is different than Romanian peasant music, as lăutărească music was a conglomeration of styles that the Romani came in contact with in their nomadic lifestyle. They derived rhythmic diversitiy from Turkish music, modal scales from church music of Byzantium as well as many other influences. Many Middle and Eastern European countries have their own specific lăutărească traditions, with one of the most well known being the flamenco music of the Romani people of Spain.
Enescu was influenced early on by lăutărească music as he was the pupil of a Romani violinist and made friends with lăutărească musicians and learned many of their songs. Enescu composed the two Romanian Rhapsodies in 1901, early in his career as a composer. Both are still popular with No. 1 more popular than No.2, and Enescu conducted them many times in his life and recorded them three times. He came to loathe both of the rhapsodies for their popularity prevented his other compositions from getting as much exposure.
The Rhapsody No. 2 is in D Major and is more subtle and reflective than No. 1 in A Major. The rhapsody begins with a short introduction before the lush first theme is quietly presented in the strings under a gently throbbing accompaniment. This theme is played a two times with different instrumentation in the same quiet dynamics until the theme is repeated the third time in a louder dynamic. A short interlude of an improvisatory nature leads to a repeat of the introduction which flows into another interlude that is given an exotic coloring by the solo cor anglaise. The first theme returns in a different guise and tempo. A solo flute plays over a timpani roll which leads to a short dance for viola solo. The music swells and leads to a solo flute that brings the rhapsody to a quiet close over hushed, tremolo strings.