Reading New Histories of Romanian Musics

Reading New Histories of Romanian Musics

You will find in this issue several topics of current interest on Romanian music and musicology approached in a variety of ways – from score and musicological analysis to archive research –, focusing on three Romanian-born 20th-century musicians: George Enescu, Mîndru Katz and Costin Miereanu. The three are joined, in Thoughts, by Moldavian-born 18th-century polymath Dimitrie Cantemir, whose many pursuits included music. Coincidentally, and interestingly, these musicians shared the same fate, that of exile, into which they were forced by hostile political circumstances.

The opening study has Dan Dediu penning a both complex and refined inquiry into George Enescu’s unfinished fourth symphony (1934), which entered the repertoire in the 1990s due to composer Pascal Bentoiu’s efforts to read the manuscript and complete the orchestration. As editor of the recently launched score (Editura UNMB, Bucharest, 2020), Dediu’s approach is one composite: themes, their character and their evolution are concisely presented, thematic intersections with Mahler, Wagner, or other scores by Enescu himself are revealed, an upgraded version of conductor and musicologist Constantin Bugeanu’s formal analysis is applied.

For a change of scenery, Ioana Raluca Voicu-Arnăuțoiu highlights the impact of the repressive practices in Communist Romania on pianist Mîndru Katz’s life and career. Based on files in the archives of the former Securitate, she reconstructs what were extremely troubled times for Katz: the 1950s, when his tours in the West brought him not only international recognition and acclaim, but also an unwanted attention from the Communist secret police. Most likely, she concludes, it was because of this harassment that Katz decided not to return to Romania after his 1959 British tour.

Ana Diaconu looks at composer Costin Miereanu’s contribution to French journal Musique en jeu, which boasted, in its nine years of existence (1970-78), pieces by some of the great names of the musical avant-garde – Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez. For Miereanu, keenly interested in semiotics, interdisciplinarity and polystylism, such (ideologically) free expression of ideas was only possible after he defected from Communist Romania in 1968. In addition to comments on Miereanu’s theoretical contribution to Musique en jeu, Diaconu also offers important information on how Romanian composers managed to stay connected to Western sources and to their fellows abroad despite the interdictions laid by the nationalist-Communist regime.

Another change of scenery, and of century, comes with Walter Zev Feldman’s article, an interesting reading of Dimitrie Cantemir’s music treatise The Book of the Science of Music According to the Alphabetic Notation (ca. 1700). Feldman is not interested in neither its “scientific consistency”, nor on its “[probably] adequate description of Ottoman music”. What he does find appealing is Cantemir’s contribution to the theoretical study of that type of music: based on interviews with his contemporaries rather than on a synthesis of earlier treatises, it is therefore quite distinct, and so “[i]n this sense Cantemir may have been the first ethnomusicologist”.

As a conclusion, Cecilia Benedicta Pavel reviews an editorial release, one extremely relevant for contemporary Romanian musicology: the two-volume Noi istorii ale muzicilor românești [New Histories of Romanian Musics] (edited by Valentina Sandu-Dediu and Nicolae Gheorghiță, Editura Muzicală, Bucharest, 2020). The book proposes a revisitation of the past from angles that are considerably different from the previous ones: avoiding clichés and ideological residues, looking for new concepts, new stylistic and aesthetic filters in approaching local music production, this an open endeavour waiting to be continued.


Florinela Popa
English version by Maria Monica Bojin

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