Lawrence Foster: “Enescu is no longer an unknown or exotic name”.

“You are not going to empty the concert hall, should you schedule one of his works”

There are few great musicians of the world so fond of Romania, of Bucharest and of the ‘George Enescu’ International Festival. Not necessarily because his parents were Jews from Romania, because he was an artistic manager in 1998, because he knows all the greatest Romanian conductors, singers and instrumentalists or because he is married to a Romanian lady. Lawrence Foster’s love for us must be sought first of all in Enescu’s scores. And thanks to him, Romania’s fetish composer rejoices an international appreciation.


You are one of the pioneers of Enescu’s work all over the world, if not even the first of them. When did you become aware of its value?

I don’t think I am exactly the first one, maybe the first one outside Romania, though my parents were Romanians. But this doesn’t have anything to do with my love for Enescu, born out of my love for Bartok. I’ve always adored him, and the more I conducted his works, the more I discovered that he had a wonderful relationship with Enescu. I realized that everyone was conducting Bartok – not exactly a popular composer, but, in any case, a respected one – , while no one would come close to Enescu, at least for the America of those times. In Europe people would not crowd either, not even for his Rhapsodies. Then I said to myself: ‘Why shouldn’t I do it?’. The more I studied his compositions, the more I discovered how remarkable they were. It was a great pity that they were not scheduled to be played. At the time when I was a music director of the Monte Carlo Orchestra, I was looking for an interesting musical project, and Erato (today’s Time Warner) decided record as much Enescu as I could. We imprinted a lot and when the time came for Oedipus…

… as for EMI…

Yes, because Erato did not have the necessary money for this kind of a recording. I called Alain Lancerot from EMI and I asked him whether he wanted this project. ‘Let me think about it’ was his answer. It was a huge expense. He needed… 45 minutes. He called me back and told me: ‘We’ve got a deal’. We were supposed to record in 1987 with Samuel Ramey as the protagonist. He liked the part a lot, but he had a debut at the same time in Don Giovanni with Herbert von Karajan in Salzburg. He told me that if he recorded Oedipus in June, he would have no voice left for Don Giovanni, and so he cancelled it. We had been thinking who could have replaced him and we decided to wait for two years. José van Dam had told us that if we would wait for a while, he would sing it. We lost Samuel Ramey, but we won van Dam, we lost Marilyn Horne, but we won Marijana Lipovsek.

Marilyn Horne was supposed to be the Sphinx?

Yes. She loved the part, but she couldn’t wait for two years. Lipovsek wasn’t free either, so we recorded her playback. It was all right, because, anyway, the Sphinx is an appreciated part. But Marilyn said she could have never recorded like that.

So, the record companies proposed Enescu, it was not you who had to convince them or to fight with them…

I proposed him, but I did not fight. I got Prince Rainier’s help for the project, because Oedipus was very expensive. The Prince appreciated the idea and financed this recording for the Monaco’s Culture Ministry. Rainier was very interested in developing the Monte Carlo orchestra and in raising its prestige.

Nowadays, where do we place Enescu on the map of classical music?

I still believe that he isn’t as popular as Bartok or Britten, but he is more and more appreciated and played. Many conductors and soloists are approaching his compositions. So does The Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields with the chamber music, Gidon Kremer is one of Enescu’s great supporters. I was once playing with him The Concert for Violin and Orchestra by Brahms and he told me that he had a surprise for me. He played Enescu’s cadence for me. I saw that Vasily Petrenko and the Liverpool Orchestra were playing Suite No 2. As you know, Gennady Rozhdestvensky adored Enescu and played him a lot, and so did Leonard Slatkin. I know that Gustavo Dudamel would like to do something of the kind. I played the Symphony No 3 in Berlin, and Dudamel said it was an amazing music. Pinchas Zuckerman wishes to play Sonatas No 2 and No 3 for violin. Enescu is no longer an unknown or exotic name. You are not going to empty out the concert hall, should you schedule one of his works. Oedipus was also a favourite of many productions. I made it concertant in Barcelona, there was a very beautiful production in Toulouse…

Have you ever thought about doing an Oedipus production also at the Montpellier Radio France Festival?

No, because I am leaving the festival. I don’t appreciate the new orchestra manager, and so I will be leaving it one year sooner. I would have certainly loved doing Oedipus, though so soon after the Toulouse production, it wouldn’t have had a great impact. I had been talking about this with René Koering. I may be doing it with the Gulbenkian Orchestra in about two years, at least big fragments.

Leaving aside your Romanian origins, when did you become aware of Romania’s contribution to the international heritage of classical music?

Ever since I was a child. One of my favourite records was Enescu conducted by Leopold Stokowski. I have always believed that Dinu Lipatti was one of the greatest pianists of all times. Radu Lupu is one of my favourite soloists, and the first recording that he made after he left Romania was Concert No 3 for piano and orchestra by Beethoven with London Symphony and with me. I always liked to help – no, ‘to help’ sounds condescending -, to encourage and to introduce great Romanian artists. I brought Stefan Ruha and Dan Grigore to London and Birmingham, let alone Montpellier where Grigore has already been three times. I have been working with Dana Ciocarlie a lot, too.

Have you had the chance of meeting Sergiu Celibidache?

Yes, I used to go to his rehearsals as often as I could, but I did not want to meet him personally. He was like a hypnotist and I did not want to be under his spell. I thought that the musicians who succumbed to him, except for the very strong ones, nullified their personality. I was afraid. I watched him with a great interest; he was one of the greatest minds and one of the greatest musicians of all times. I only met him once, in the elevator.

And how about Romanian singers?

Last night I was at someone’s place and we were listening to old recordings. It is amazing, but proportionally, I believe that Romania has given to the world more valuable singers than any other country, even Italy. If we start from Stella Roman and Virginia Zeani… we were listening to The Force of Destiny performed by Ludovic Spiess and Nicolae Herlea. You would not hear such voices nowadays. The person who was proposing Herlea said that, to him, Lawrence Tibbett was the greatest. Out of curiosity, I listened to them in parallel. Tibbett was wonderful, but not like Herlea. Maybe his voice was really the most beautiful Verdian baritone voice of all times. The duet of The Force with him and Spiess is incredible. The world has had many great singers, but Romania, this little and unfortunate country has produced an incredible number of singers. Mariana Nicolescu was one of the greatest performers. We could never forget Ileana Cotrubas, and today we have Angela Gheorghiu. To me, she is the voice of the supreme beauty and an accomplished artist. I do not understand all the problems connected to her. We have worked together, and her professionalism was faultless. We had our rehearsals and it was a pleasure to collaborate with her. She is a delicate artist, perhaps one should approach her carefully, but, oh my Lord, the beauty of her voice… Romania has produced many remarkable voices. Marius Brenciu was the winner of the ‘Enescu’ Competition the year when I was the artistic manager. I was proud for him. Look at his career today. And there will be many others. I don’t know what you eat or probably it’s because of the light, the weather, the language… Or maybe the Slavic and Latin genes give us these incredible singers.

You have also been the musical manager of the Lisbon Gulbenkian Orchestra. For how long?

It’s been eight years now. It’s been a great joy. You are going to listen to it, the orchestra is wonderful. When I came here the last time, people were very surprised. No one would expect an orchestra of such quality. I hope you too will think that we’ve improved ourselves. We have a wonderful working atmosphere; we’ve made many recordings for Pentatone, a good company. One of our most recent programmes was based on virtuosity pieces of the Hungarian repertory, with many Romanian accents: Rhapsody I by Bartok, The Romanian Concert by Lygeti, Koday…

Beside Enescu, please name three more composers who made you who you are today!

I cannot! Bruno Walter was asked the same thing and he said that he was too generous for that!

How about five?

No. I could name you a few that I love now. Beethoven, Schubert, Verdi, Bartok and Ravel. I think that Ravel never wrote an unnecessary note, though he wrote many scores.

No Mozart, no Russian composers.

Not now. Tchaikovsky, of course. Yes, Mozart too… Obligé… I used to say that I would take Mozart on a desert island. Now I’m not so certain. The composer that I don’t approach enough is Haydn. I like sinking into his music, but ‘the Baroque fascists’ are waiting for me around the corner. And then, there is this fascination of old instruments… I was telling one of my friends that, if it we ever had the case of a bypass operation, at least he didn’t have the obsession of old instruments… I learned a lot from those people’s efforts and I like listening to some concerts by John Eliot Gardiner, Christopher Hogwood, the great pioneers and exponents of this music. On the other hand, the other day I was listening to a symphony by Haydn conducted by Collin Davis. It was marvelous. On another occasion, I listened to Neeme Järvi with Santa Cecilia Orchestra. Wonderful! Give me a symphony by Haydn or Mozart conducted by Daniel Barenboim. This is not bad at all…

Suppose you were a soloist, who would like to have as a conductor?

Barenboim! He is the world’s greatest conductor! There are others too… it’s hard to say… there are many conductors that I like, but I’ve never thought about who I’d like to have as a conductor… With Barenboim you don’t just play, but you also take your time and study, you study every detail; you take lessons and learn from him, which everyone should try. I think I would like to perform with someone like Dudamel and I would have liked to make music together with George Szell or Bruno Walter. I would have been afraid to play alongside Toscanini. I cannot imagine how I would have survived such an experience, though it seems that he was extremely lenient as an accompanist… There are also less known conductors, but it is a pleasure working with them: Edo de Waart or Jésus Lopez-Cobos… I think I would also have liked playing with Christian Zacharias, whom we listened to last night with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. He is a very temperamental musician. I was the artistic manager of the festival in 1998. When Cristian Mandeal replaced me in 2001, he was very gentleman-like to underline at the press conference that the programme of that edition was mostly conceived by Lawrence Foster. I was the musical manager of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and the invitation came from me. That was probably my best investment. They think of Bucharest as their second home. Both the orchestra and Zacharias are so loved here! There were three things that we established for the time when I was the festival manager. I was happy they were so beautifully developed by Mr. Holender. The festival is at an extraordinarily high level! I almost cannot realize how so many ideas are brought together, but the festival is extremely coherent, and the programme is amazing! It’s challenging, it doesn’t just stick to the standard repertory, but there are also so many other interesting works. Let alone the people chosen to perform these works (including Enescu) – sometimes they do it brilliantly, sometimes they don’t. For instance, Valery Gergiev does Symphony No 3, which I have also performed with an Italian orchestra several years ago. I told you that we have initiated three things: the midnight concert series. Everybody was saying ‘It’s not going to work, no one is going to come!’.

Your name was on everyone’s lips this summer when you conducted the orchestra of the most glamorous event of the season: the princely wedding of Monte Carlo.

It was such a joy! The atmosphere was wonderful. Many agreed that the programme was more humane and more emotional than the one of the British royal wedding. It was a pleasure for me to attend the Monegasque marriage. I worked well and relaxed. Albert looks after each detail, Caroline was concerned with how her children were going to sing, all the family behaved wonderfully… To me, it was first of all a homage paid to Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. I am not interested in all the rubbish written about the Grimaldi family. I know their beautiful parts. Any family has problems or bad moments. Since Rainier up to the present, in Monaco, the family has been trying to get involved into noble causes, to use the riches of the country for charity or environment protection. I had the chance of knowing Princess Charlene a little, but I hope she will be able to snub to the tabloids who tried to discredit the beauty of those moments. They are a beautiful pair and I hope they will do a good job. You know, we didn’t have any cameras at the rehearsals, we didn’t have any journalists, we didn’t have any photographers. You could see how the spouses completed each other, and what a beautiful atmosphere there was. Albert came to me, he hugged me, with tears in his eyes… I call him ‘Albert’. We, Americans, don’t think that royalty comes from God, but it is a form of social development. He said: ‘Larry, I’m thinking about a follow-up, because you have conducted at my mother’s funerals’. So it is. In 1982, when Grace had the terrible accident. I was on holiday and I urgently returned to Monte Carlo where, in the Cathedral I conducted the music of the unhappy event. There are so many who say: ‘I am a friend of the Prince, I am a friend of the Princess!’. I think that the longevity and continuation that I enjoy in Monte Carlo are due to the fact that I never said that. Neither myself, nor my wife, Angela, Romania’s honorary consul in Monaco, appointed by Prince Rainier. There had been four candidates. The other three were oligarchs, rich as Croesus. He chose her, being convinced that she was going to do a good job and he never compelled her to take part into the great social events. She does amazing things. Every year she celebrates Romania’s National Day with remarkable musical ensembles, she organized poetry evenings dedicated to Eminescu, soirees about important episodes of Romania’s history, she brought many theatre companies to Monaco. My daughter, Nicole, speaks Romanian very well thanks to my wife. There is already a Romanian group in Monaco. We are in a very close relationship especially with Caroline. Sometimes we go out for dinner or we talk for hours on end. Of all the family, she knows the most about music and it was due to her that that famous Monte Carlo Ballet was rebuilt, one of Europe’s best companies.

Have you ever thought of yourself as an ambassador of Romania?

No. I am not so close to the country. I love Romania, I like coming back here. Maybe I felt a bit like that when I was the festival manager. It’s a too pompous investiture for me. I like to bring me contribution when I can. I appreciate other Romanian composers too, especially Pascal Bentoiu. I have played his works abroad too. I don’t feel an ambassador. I was never appointed that by anyone.


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Vladimir Cosma, a French composer of Romanian origin, is the author of some famous motion picture soundtracks, like ‘The Tall Blonde Man with One Black Shoe’, ‘The Party’, ‘Diva’, some productions like ‘Asterix’ or “The Mad Adventures of ‘Rabi’ Jacob”, one of Louis de Funes classic movies. Composer of more than 300 movie soundtrack and of the opera ‘Marius et Fanny’, which had the world premiere in 2007, Vladimir Cosma was to tell the story of his life and to perform his best known songs on the stage of the Byzantine Hall in the Behague Palace. He was to be accompanied by Richard Sanderson (voice and piano), Sarah Pagin (voice), David Galoustov (violin) and Philippe Catherine (guitar).

Vladimir Cosma was born in a family of Romanian Jews, originating from Craiova. His father, Theodor Cosma was a renowned pianist and conductor, his mother, a composer as well, his uncle Edgar Cosma conducted the Bucharest Cinematography Orchestra, and his grandmother, the well-known pianist, studied with Ferrucio Busoni. Vladimir Cosma has been living in France since 1963, where he settled down, earning his living as a violinist in symphonic orchestras, continuing his studies with Nadia Boulanger, at The Normal School of Music in Paris.

While he was living in Romania, Vladimir Cosma had a great admiration for Michel Legrand. The latter had listened to his recorded music and entrusted him the orchestration of the pieces broadcast live on ‘Discorama’. It was the time when Michel Legrand was composing the soundtrack of ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort’. A year later he proposes him to compose the music of ‘Alexandre le bienhereux’ (‘Alexander’) by Yves Robert, starring Philippe Noiret and Marlene Jobert, released in 1969. It is the debut of a brilliant career…

He composed the scores of films like ‘The Dinner Game’, ‘Child’s Play’ and ‘The Jaguar’, created by Francis Veber, ‘The Gold seekers’ by Gerard Oury, ‘The Favour, The Watch and the Very Big Fish’ by Ben Lewin, ‘Asterix le Breton’, the credit titles of the animated series ‘Rahan’, “C’est pas moi, c’est lui” and “Je Suis Timide Mais Je Me Soigne”, starring Pierre Richard, ‘To Each His Hell’ by Andre Cayatte, ‘Dracula father and son’, ‘The Intimate Confessions of an Exhibitionist’ by Jesus Franco… He is inspired by Romanian music and especially by Gheorghe Zamfir’s panpipe. Together they compose the soundtrack of ‘The Tall Blonde Man…’ for which he is awarded at the Cannes Festival.

He was also rewarded with two ‘Cesar’s for best film music of the motion pictures ‘Diva’ by Jean-Jacques Beineix in 1982 and Ettore Scola’s ‘Le bal’ in 1984. He also set to music the opening and closing credits of TF1, broadcast from 1975 to 1976, and the new versions from 1976 to 1984 as well.

The melody is like the plot of a book

After 30 years of film music, Cosma got interested in writing symphonic suites, most often based on famous melodies composed for the cinema. He worked for many years, composing music for ‘The Marseillaise Trilogy’ by Marcel Pagnol, creation presented at the Marseille Opera in 2007.

“When we speak about ‘contemporary music’ or ‘the 20th century music’, everyone systematically thinks about the Vienna School, forgetting that the 20th century also means Ravel, Debussy, Shostakovich, Bartok, Prokofiev… I was not interested in the Vienna School except inasmuch as it came up with something new to the traditional musical language, and not as a pattern of reference composition. I used to play pieces by Bartok or Hindemith, but I had been feeding more on the popular music of my country and later, when I got into the West, on jazz.

In a few centuries we shall see what will have come of the serial experiments and of these composers. I think that all this decadence of the Viennese romantic music is an end, and not a beginning, as for such a long time Boulez and the promoters of New Music wanted to make us believe. The end of the great era of German romanticism took place at the same with the end of the German Empire. As far as I am concerned, I have been attracted more by the French, Spanish and American music. American jazz influenced me at a great extent: Coltrane, Ellington… “ confessed Vladimir Cosma, speaking about his musical preferences.

What Vladimir Cosma appreciates in music is the melody. ‘To me, the melody is like the plot of a book. There is no book without a plot, just as there shouldn’t be any music without melody. Without melody, the music of a film is but improvisation. There are pieces that do not have either structure or a backbone. The good film music shouldn’t be descriptive only, but it should have its own life. It should be like a poetic annotation reported to image. There are movies which can do without music, just as music can do without images. But the cinematographic art is real when it reunites all arts and of course, music.’

To Vladimir Cosma music has to stimulate dreaming and the joy of living. ‘The cinema imposes certain limits and restrictions to the composer, among which the most important is the minute timing. Comedy pictures don’t have anything degrading, those of Funes are classic pictures today, loved by the public. Nowadays laughter is taken seriously, but when you compose music for Godard’s or Resnais’ films, this will propel you amongst the intellectuals and the films subsidized as authorship films.’

Vladimir Cosma has successfully introduced folkloric music to the cinema, reviving Romanian themes, with popular instruments, like the panpipe or the cymbal, just as in the ‘The Tall Blonde Man…’, but during the last years he also composed symphonic music. “When the trumpeter Bernard Soustrot commissioned ‘The trumpet concert’ in 1996, I was just about to start concentrating on Spanish, Gypsy and Flamenco folklore, which I had been studying for the soundtracks of ‘The Sands of Time’ and ‘Kitchen and annexes’. The folklore is rich both rhythmically and melodically.’ When asked by a Metz University journalist whether he was going to compose other symphonic pieces, he replied: “Some years ago I wrote ‘Oblique’, a concert for cello and orchestra, marked by the ‘60s writing where you could rediscover the influences of Spanish music. I wrote ‘Court-Metrage’, a quintet for the brasses, created at Narbonne, which resumes the theme of the picture ‘Montparnasse Pondicherry’. I have also composed a ‘Symphonic suite for concert’, adapted after the theme of ‘La gloire de mon pere’ and ‘Le chateau de ma mere’ and a ‘Triptych’ of Romanian influence on the theme of ‘Le bal’. The cymbal provides originality to this piece. For the concert version I did not try to recreate this colour but rather to rewrite the life this instrument was emanating.”

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The 3rd of November 2011 ‘George Enescu’ Philharmonic Orchestra concert conducted by Christian Badea, comprised musical works of a great beauty: The Prelude of Parsifal by Richard Wagner, The C Major Concert for Piano and Orchestra, K.V. 467 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, soloist Constantin Sandu and Symphony No 1 in D Major by Gustav Mahler. We witnessed an evening music performed at a remarkable artistic level. Conductor Christian Badea is a beloved guest of the Bucharest public, a musician who knows how to enforce respect.

The genesis of the opera Parsifal is connected, on one hand, to the composer’s spiritual experiences around the celebration of Good Friday, and on the other hand, to the poem Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach. The plot of the opera refers to the Grail knights, a legendary order of monk knights guarding Montsalvat, the cup from which Christ drank as he was crucified on the cross. Unable to resist the witchcraft of sorceress Kundry, the head of the Grail knights, Amfortas, breaks his chastity vows and so he cannot give the knights their communion, which provided them with an invincible power. Young Parsifal reaches Klingsor’s enchanted garden, the symbol of evil, a great sinner who had not been accepted in the order of the Grail knights. Parsifal stands up beautiful Kundry and he pulls down Klingsor’s castle with the help of the spear lost by Amfortas. He is chosen the king of the Grail, in Amfortas’ place, and for the first time he performs the mass of the Holy Chalice which all the Grail knights attend.

The Prelude music of the opera Parsifal is mainly gone through by the leitmotiv of the communion and that of the Grail. The ‘George Enescu’ Philharmonic Symphonic Orchestra, under the baton of the maestro Christian Badea, offered the auditory moments full of flowing harmonies, in which the infinite melody prevailed over the sensible world.

Hans Jürgen Syberberg is the author of a filmed version, where Wagner’s opera is fully unfolding in a very significant scenery: Mahler’s death mask.

After the Wagnerian Prelude, we listened to The C Major Concert for Piano and Orchestra, K.V. 467 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, glamorously and neatly performed by Constantin Sandu.

The artist studied the piano at the ‘George Enescu’ Musical National College in Bucharest, with the teacher Constantin Niṭu, then at the ‘Ciprian Porumbescu’ Musical Conservatory in Bucharest, with Constantin Ionescu-Vovu. Later on, he benefited from the guidance of some great personalities like: Tania Achot, Dmitri Bashkirov, Sequeira Costa and Helena Sá e Costa. The pianist is a laureate of International Contests of Senigallia, Łódź, Viotti-Valsesia, Palma O’Shea – Santander, Épinal and Maria Canals-Barcelona.

Constantin Sandu has been the soloist of some important European orchestras like: Arthur Rubinstein of Łódź, the Halle Philharmonic, Bodensee-Symphonie-Orchester of Konstanz, the National Orchestra of Belarus, the Kiev Radio and Television Symphonic Orchestra, the National Philharmonic of Moldova and the National Orchestra of Porto. Also, Constantin Sandu has been invited to be part of numerous juries of international contests (Vianna da Motta-Lisabona, Cidado de Porto, Ciudat de Toledo, Viotti-Valsesia, Pinerolo-Città della Cavalleria, Helena Sá e Costa-Aveiro, Propiano-Bucharest and Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe-Porto). He has taught mastery courses in different countries. The pianist has obtained the title of Doctor in Music at the Bucharest National University of Music. He has made various radio and TV recordings, and he has also released CDs as a soloist. At the moment he is the manager of the music department at the University College of Music and Dramatic Arts in Porto (Portugal).

When performing in Bucharest, at the Romanian Athenaeum Hall, Constantin Sandu impressed the public with the elegance of phrasing and his really velvety touch. The artist accomplishes the legato with a great delicacy, in the cord manner. His sound was gold plated. In performing the interval vaults, the pianist displayed a certain naturalness, the necessary effort applied reminding of the vocal technique (a slight hesitation perfectly well-balanced). In the section which concludes the second part of the concert, the soloist synchronized the conveying manner of staccato with the pizzicato of the cords in a unitary levelness. As for the third part, those imitations, true ‘polyphonic relayings’, had a peculiar expressivity. The Mozartian musical motifs suggested some opera characters. The accuracy of the articulation – a minutely dosed polishing, unostentatious, with a consequent rhythmical pulsation – also focusing on the sonorous detail contributed to the impression of musical beauty. In the soloist cadence, the artist reiterated the themes, with the related variations, using an agogic in which the aesthetics and the classic style combined.

The orchestra backing suited the soloist: alive in the tutti’s, careful in following the soloist, with a dynamics always adapted to the moment and with a great warmth in the cantilenas. At the public request, the pianist Constantin Sandu performed Rondo alla turca in A major by Mozart, rousing prolongued applauses.

In the second part of the musical evening at the Romanian Athenaeum Hall, we listened to the Symphony No 1 in D Major by Gustav Mahler. The orchestration of this symphony is a huge one, of almost 100 players on stage. The cord debut in pianissimo sounded impressive, after which the intervention of the woodwind came ‘from afar’’. You could then hear the delicate moment of self-citation, in which the musical idea of the composer’s lied appeared, entitled Ging heut’ Morgen übers Feld/ This morning we walked over the field, initially performed on the cello, after which the entire orchestral assembly was comprised. Conductor Christian Badea managed to imprint that fiery character, but also humorous sometimes, especially in the section of the sonata reprise of the first part. In the second part, Kräftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell, one could fully sense the dancing character – landler in the three quarter beat. The cello part was played in a more severe manner, as imposed by the conductor. His determined gestures suggested clearly the expression. The interventions of the first violin, with a downward trend, stuffed with a glissando, on the solemn cord, were toned with a great accuracy in the spirit of the klezmer, belonging to the Jewish music. Besides, the percussion backing especially the cymbal timbre, was humorously performed. In the slow third part, the suggestion of a hunter’s funeral, with the respective animal convoy, appeared more strikingly. The bass fiddle solo was followed by the bassoon and the tuba, everything in a well graded crescendo. The famous song Frère Jacques could be heard in this part of the symphony, but performed here in a minor tonality. The end of the symphony No 1 by Mahler came as the climax of the evening. From the first thunder of the percussion up to the recurrent themes of the previous parts, huge tensions kept accumulating. The brasses had a very good performance. At the end, the entire party of horns stood up, playing in fortissimo with a quality round sound. The musical material from the beginning of the orchestra reappeared seeming to balance a ship in a dangerous rocking on a stormy ocean.

We attended a wonderful show which for some time has very intensely enlightened the path of my daily life, darkened by all kind of worries.


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Gerd Schaller


was born in Bamberg. He studied conducting at the Musikhochschule Wurzburg.

His conducting career began in 1993 at the Staatsoper Hannover. In 1998, he became principal conductor of the Staatstheater Braunschweig, and from 2003 to 2006 he was general music director at the Theater Magdeburg. Since this time, he has collaborated with numerous well known orchestras both in Germany and in other countries.

In the field of opera, Gerd Schaller has celebrated considerable successes in the German and Italian repertoire and has an excellent name especially in connection with the works of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Giuseppe Verdi. In addition to the well-known repertoire, he actively furthers the music of lesser known composers as well, and has for example conducted several performances of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck at the National Theatre in Warsaw, Jules Massenet’s Herodiade, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Die tote Stadt or Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur.

With his distinct thirst for knowledge and his penchant for new and unknown music, the conductor also enthusiastically pursues the rediscovery of forgotten operas and rarities of the concert repertoire, which in the meantime form an important part of his extensive couvre. For example, his performance of Carl Goldmark’s opera The Queen of Sheba as well as the first recording of Johann Simon Mayr’s Fedra in co-operation with North German Radio have been highly praised. Schaller’s interpretation of Carl Goldmark’s romantic opera Merlin, alsorecorded for the first time and released in co-operation with Bavarian Radio and the Profil Hanssler label, was highly praised by both the public and the musical press. This world’s first recording was accorded the well known ECHO Classic Prize 2010 in the category Opera recording of the year (19th century).

In the course of his career, Schaller has also compiled a very diverse repertoire , encompassing music from the Baroque up to the present day. Particularly his knowledgeable interpretations of late Romantic music, as well as the music of the 20th century moderns, have received excellent reviews. He is particularly devoted to the pursuit of his interest in performing contemporary music.

His many recordings for broadcasting studios and CD span a wide range of styles, with particular focus on the works of the Vienna Classics and the Romantics, especially the symphonies of Anton Bruckner.

Schaller is a welcome guest conductor, collaborating with many well known orchestras, including the Hannover State Orchestra, the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra Hannover of the North German Radio, the Munich Radio Orchestra, the Radio Symphony Orchestra Budapest, the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra Bucharest, the Symphony Orchestra of the Prague National Theatre, the National Opera Orchestra Warsaw, the Meininger Hofkapelle, the Dresden Kapellsolisten Chamber Orchestra, the Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Leipzig, the Munich Bach Soloists, the Magdeburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Bamberg, the Braunschweig State Orchestra, the Lower Saxony Chamber Orchestra and others.

For several years, he also lectured on conducting at the Hochschule fur Musik und Theater in Hannover.
Gerd Schaller is the founder and musical director of the Ebracher Musiksommer Festival, which in co-operation with Bavarian Radio has been an established part of the Musikzauber Franken concerts for many years. <

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When it comes to the opening concert of the Bucharest ‘George Enescu’ Philharmonic season I remember the participation of this first Romanian musical symphonic institution within ‘George Enescu’ International Festival, the 20th edition, which has ended recently. At that time, on the 10th of September 2011, in the Palace Hall I listened to a vocal-symphonic concert where, compared to other great orchestras of the world, the Romanian artists – conducted by the famous musician Gennady Rozhdestvensky – have performed at a very high artistical level. The oratory ‘Ivan the Terrible’ (adapted by Alexander Stasevich) has remained in my memory as a landmark of interpretation.

At the opening concert of the new ‘George Enescu’ Philharmonic season at the Romanian Athenaeum on the 6th of October 2011, the Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Camil Marinescu performed ‘Symphony no. 9 in D major’ by Gustav Mahler. A gigantic symphony from all points of view. The four parts, Andante comodo, Im Tempo eines gemachlichen Landlers, Etwas tappisch und sehr derb, Rondo-Burleske, Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig and Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zuruckhaltend, unfolded over an approximately total duration of 85 minutes. I witnessed an impressive concert, of a perfect artistical presence. Conductor Camil Marinescu, along with the huge orchestral apparatus, managed to convey to the audience in the Athenaeum Hall, the dramatism of this highly deep music. And the auditory echoed this feeling that we all experience in the present times of crisis, when even the Earth shakes. The artists made an impression right from the beginning by their seriousness of tackling upon such a complex opus. An overwhelming force was felt in the hall, generated by the sonorous canvas released by the orchestra, capturing the most profound layers of the unconscious.

The andante comodo, this exceptional page of Mahler’s creation, indeed benefited by an exacerbated emotional power, as a matter of fact, a peculiarity of the Austrian composer’s style. The chimes in the beginning of the symphony made you go through frames of mind of a high rigidity. You could see before your eyes a funeral convoy. Those sounds conveyed by the tuba in a low tone, gave you a thrill, without any possibility of oposing, they would smash all your cynical armour gathered after the walks outside the temple of music.

The firm entrances of the second violins, the huge dynamic contrasts were very skillfully accomplished, and the feelings of the moment authentically reflected the musical meanings. They were succeeding in a lot of antagonistic moods: tenderness, anger, hope, dispair. The first movement coda of the symphony was magnificently brought about, where the replay of the initial musical idea unfolded without any trace of struggle, with quiet sonorities, diminished somewhere in the acute register, like the second before a final separation, when we say goodbye. In the second part of the work, the woodwind managed to suggest the beauty of the rural scenery where the hero seems to return fugaciously. The music of the landler sounded apparently innocent. And still the irony reappeared due to the acid timbre combinations and the modulations denying any intention of stating naivety.

In the third part of the symphony, the atmosphere totally changed. The interrogative releases of the trumpets seemed real volcanic erruptions. The audience could also notice the wonderful interventions of the bass fiddles with their descendent scales and those of the harps with their velvety glissando. The viola solo was of a great expressiveness, with a really quality warm timbre, in a fully coherent statement. The following march emphasised the impression of extremely agitated movement. A ghoulish fortissimo dance concluded this part. The end of Sympnony no. 9, Adagio, in its sluggishness, announced the resignation by its D flat major bleak tonality. The debut of the movement sounded wonderful, where the first violins with their solemn string excelled in homogenity in a heart rending tension. You could feel the will of bringing a homage to life and love before death. The sonorous heights at the end of the first part of the work returned insistently. The consonant harmonies prevailed, and the music unfolded in an immaterial pianissimo. An obsessive musical motif was passing by all the symphonic orchestra compartments like in a puzzle. Outlining a vast space appeared vaguely contoured, due to the interwining of the string sounds which played softly, in their extreme registers – the first violins and the bass fiddles. The horns, with the colour of their sounds brought about a state of floating into light.

The symphonic orchestra of the Bucharest ‘George Enescu’ Philharmonic, conducted by Camil Marinescu, ended the symphony successfully. The sonorous disintegration in the last page of Mahler’s scores left the audience for minutes on end in a pious, purifying, magnificent silence. The the generous applause and cheers resounded. The conductor pronounced a few warm words to thank the member of this excellent orchestra.

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On Saturday evening the venerable maestro Genaddy Rozhdestvensky succeeded in bringing back to the concertgoers’ ears – by means of an almost severe gesture, but of an unmatched precision and plasticity – the old times’ sound, specific to ‘George Enescu’ Philharmonic Orchestra: homogenous, stylish, expressive and full of light and shade. Both the orchestra and the Choir – trained by Iosif Ion Prunner – answered to the suggesstions of this true aristocrat of the baton, not only promptly, but also with obvious joy for singing, surpassing the limits of routine. That is why each piece had its glamour and personality.

Less diverse about shades and rhythmical-dynamic contrasts, the music of the Poem Vox Maris, op.31 by George Enescu left the impression of a stagnant sea, rather calm than ‘disturbed’, as the composer imagined it. Even in the moments of transcendence, the sound of the orchestra had a marmoreal consistency, I could say. On the other hand, the progressive artistical dosing of the crescendos, the extravert or diaphanous interventions of the choir, the acute passages of the tenor voice and the shrill of the soprano created a welcome intensity game, thus avoiding tediousness.

The exuberance, with unexpected tempo changes, the agogic, the rhythm, expressivity, the scores of Concert no. 1 for piano and orchestra (1911-1912) by Sergei Prokofiev benefited by the fascinating performing of Victoria Postnikova: poetical, imaginative, subtle, but also energetic, self-assured and confident about the authenticity of conveying the intrinsic meaning of the music. The arpeggios and the rhythmical-harmonic formulas, as well as the bravery and pianistic vigour passages in extreme parts – Allegro brioso and Allegro scherzando – succeeded in volatile polishing, as if they were not touched by human hands, while the cantabile of the Andante assai had the consistency of spiritual essence captured in sounds. The impression was prolongued with the piece ‘Sounds of autumn’ by Tchaikovsky, offered as an encore.

Gennady Rozhdestvensky proved to be a perspicacous, empathetic accompanist, precisely noticing the soloist’s intentions – which was well worth demonstrated in the last piece of the programme; the oratory ‘Ivan the Terrible’, op. 116, for narrator, mezzosoprano, baritone, mixed choir, children’s choir and orchestra, also written by Prokofiev, initially (1942-1945) as music for the film by the same title by Eisensstein. The author uses here almost all ‘directions’ that he recognizes as being specific to his composing style: ‘resourcefulness, the propellent element, the lyricism and the grotesque’. Out of their interwining, Porkofiev builds a gigantic fresco of the bloody history of the first Muscovite prince, Ivan IV (1530-1584), self-entitled ‘tsar’.

Along with the harmonic-melodic resourcefulness and the lush orchestration, along with the propellence present from the first beats, then endowed with the role of a laitmotiv, along with the irony and the grotesque of the moments when he parodies the arogance and megalomania of the tsar, along with the lyricism of Russian popular songs – heard both from the choir and orchestra, always oposing the dramatic parts -, Prokofiev inserts a series of polyphonic sequences, and others reminding of the stacatto rhythm of ‘Carmina Burana’ by Carl Orff. Not once the choral writing offers the assembly the echo of the famous Cossack choirs upon the river Don and also a liturgical tint, when the divine judgement is conjured.

With an accomplished art, Ghennady Rozhdestvensky mentained all these composite segments in a perfectly logical, harmonious balance, getting involved, with an actor’s talent and humour, by taking turns with narrator Igor Chernevich, even in uttering the sentences destined to the tsar. The well-timbred voice and the intelligent phrasing of the mezzosoprano Larissa Diadkova, the voice of the baritone Alexei Tanovitski, impressive by volume and plasticity of the phrasing – although his apparition was short lived, at the end of the oratory – , the musicality and faultless diction of the Philharmonic Choir, as well as the accuracy of the Radio children’s choir, trained by Voicu Popescu, have contributed to the full success of the concert conducted with an aristocratic authority by Ghennady Rozhdestvensky on the evening of the 10th September.

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The conductor and pianist Iosif Prunner has been leading the GEORGE ENESCU Philharmonic Choir since December 1986. For a start, I asked him to outline in just a few but essential words, the history of this assembly.

The Philharmonic Choir was started on the 1st of December 1950, on the initiative of the great conductor Constantin Silvestri, the director of the institution at that time. A professional assembly of great dimensions was missing from the musical life of Bucharest, one which would continue the tradition of the ‘Carmen’ Choir and which would perform at the same time, along with the Philharmonic Symphonic orchestra, at a professional level, the vocal and vocal-symphonic masterpieces of both Romanian and universal classical and contemporary music. During the following 60 years, hundreds of works in the genre repertoire were presented, under the baton of some great Romanian conductors, starting with George Georgescu and Constantin Silvestri and ending with Cristian Mandeal and Horia Andreescu, but also of some remarcable guests such as Igor Markevitch, George Prêtre, Lawrence Foster, Sergiu Comissiona, Ion Marin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Michel Plasson, Sergiu Celibidache …

In the history of the Philharmonic Choir there are thousands of recording minutes (Radio, records, TV and CDs), tours in the most important European musical centres, the collaboration with great orchestras, among which can be mentioned the Bolshoi Orchestra, München Philharmonic, The French National Orchestra, The National Orchestra of Catalonia, ‘Arturo Toscanini’ Orchestra, The Warsaw Festival Orchestra etc.

What are the most important successes of the Philharmonic Choir during these six decades of uninterrupted concert activity?

Hundreds of Romanian works were presented on their first audition, starting from ‘Tudor Vladimirescu Oratory’ by Gh. Dumitrescu – with George Georgescu at the music stand, and ending with Stefan Niculescu’s ‘Requiem’ under the baton of H. Andreescu. There were unforgettable moments like ‘Missa solemnis’ by Beethoven with Constantin Silvestri, which can be found on an Electrecord record, the full recording of Enescu’s choir works with Cristian Mandeal, which can be found on a CD. Together with the Choir and the Philharmonic Symphonic Orchestra, we were also happy to offer the Bucharest audience the first audition of Das Klagende Lied by Mahler, Te Deum by Bruckner, motets by Bruckner, Bach, Brahms … I would also like to remind you the first audition introduction in Romania of some of the 20th century landmark works: ‘The Seven Gates of Jerusalem’ by Penderecki, with the author at the music stand, ‘The Psalm Symphony’ by Stravinski, ‘The third Symphony’ and ‘Missa’ by  Bernstein. Another unforgettable moment was carrying out Enescu’s ‘Oedipus’ in collaboration with L Foster and The French National Orchestra. It was a premiere for the Philharmonic Orchestra. And of course, there would be a lot more to mention – we are talking about a 60-year rich activity!

GEORGE ENESCU Philharmonic placed the entire season 2010-2011 under the sign of the Choir anniversary.

Yes, and we are very happy about this fine gesture. We have tried to mark these last 60 years by means of events, artists and masterpieces, firts auditions for us and the audience, serving music and its friends whom we have invited to the Athenaeum to listen to, among others: ‘The Third Symphony’ by Mahler, ‘Stabat Mater’ by Dvořák, ‘The Christmas Oratory’ by Paul Constantinescu, Simphony ‘Faustus’ by Liszt, ‘Missa in F’ by Bruckner, Simfony no 9′ by Beethoven, Schumann’s ‘Requiem’, Brahms’ ‘Requiem’, Verdi’s ‘Requiem’, ‘The Great Missa’ by Bruckner, ‘Via Crucis’ by Liszt, Bach and Bruckner’s complete motets.

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