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'Classic meets jazz' at Bonn - with Nicolas Simion Group and Brașov Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sabin Păutza

Friday, 18 March 2011 , ora 16.12
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Clasic meets jazz is the name of the concert programmed in the German city, on March 22nd 2011; it is a project bearing the same name started by saxophonist and composer Nicolas Simion. Financed through the 'Cantemir' project by the Romanian Cultural Institute, on December 2nd 2010, Classic meets jazz first took place in Brașov, where the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sabin Păutza cooperated with members of the band conducted by Nicolas Simion. Recordings from that concert, whose program gathered seven compositions, were recorded on a double CD. The program resumes at Bonn and the concert is also an opportunity to make known the new discography. The entire Classic meets jazz project is the topic of the interview Nicolas Simion granted.

We suggest starting with your latest discography, released last year. It is a double compact-disc with seven ample compositions, most of which are signed by Romanian authors. It was a very pleasant surprise, at least for me, given the distinctiveness in style of the works, the special music on the whole, the technical quality of the album. In the presentations brochure, you remind the fact that you have taken care of this fusion between classic and jazz for more than twenty years. What is the story behind this project?

I have studied classical music since the 5th grade (clarinet and piano); I graduated from Brașov Music High school; I came to the Bucharest Conservatory where I graduated from Pedagogical Section; I took conducting lessons with maestro Bugeanu for a few years; I even had some concerts as conductor; I played as soloist-saxophonist with different orchestras and, at some point, I listened to the Double concerto by Richard Oschanitzky on a magnetic tape at Mr. Mihai Berindei - it happened in 1982 or 1983 - and it impressed me so much that I wished I could understand better what was happening in that fusion, that blend between genres and music styles; and, as a jazz young man - saxophonist, improviser, composer - I set it as my target to accomplish such projects at some point.

In time, by recordings done in duet - piano and saxophone - then in larger bands - trio, quartet, quintet and sextet - I got to collaborations with classical ensembles and jazz bands. In Austria, in 1996, I recorded a ballet music that, unfortunately, was not staged: Unfinished Square, with the Bratislava Radio Television Symphony Orchestra; then in Vienna, in 1999, I took an order from Radio Austria for a piece of work named Canzonieri Sacrale, on religious topics, also for a combined ensemble and a jazz band. I have also written some works for strings orchestra and jazz combo, but this project is the most recent and ample and I thought cooperation between Romanian composers and musicians and foreign composers and musicians would be ideal for both parties - and for the Romanian culture and people abroad, my friends, collaborators, colleagues.

The fact that the Romanian Cultural Institute through the 'Cantemir' Project financed this project is a huge step forward. It is indeed a great accomplishment, not for me personally, but for all who supported the project - the composers, the maestro Sabin Păutza who conducts, for everybody involved in this concert.

Seeing things from outside, it seems it is not at all simple to provide unity to an album reuniting works in a range of styles so ample - from contemporary music to jazz. We can say this is an example of postmodern music accomplishment. How did you get to this formula, from pages from Dan Dediu and Sabin Păutza to those signed by jazz players, among whom you find yourself?

I have known Dan Dediu since university years and maestro Păutza through his music, as a student, and I even had the pleasure and joy to work with him - I played the Concert for saxophone in America, in New Jersey, conducted by him; I played it in the country, at different philharmonics; he even composed a work for clarinet bass, piano and orchestra named Bassklavier that he dedicated to me; I played the Double concert by Richard Oschanitzky in premiere - I even presented it to the Bucharest Orchestra National Radio, but also at Brașov, Timișoara, Oradea, Sibiu since 2004. So, knowing their work, knowing them as people, I knew that what they would write would be of good quality and would blend in, in a way, with our experience as jazz people.

The idea was to find a common language for the entire album - a unity, as you name it - and I hope I accomplished that. I wished we could compensate, that is the written part which has the color of spontaneous improvisations brought by the jazz band; and it is a process, of course; the cooperation has materialized in this live disc, which is a great accomplishment; seven first auditions prepared in four days for a quite good orchestra from Brașov which gave its best, well, with the implicit surprises that take place at each concert. I am very pleased and I hope that at Bonn things go even better and we shall have the expected success.

The disc was recorded during one concert last year or were there more sessions?

No, it was a concert during the Brașov Philharmonic season. We had indeed two or three days of repetitions, in October, in order to see what is happening with the material. It was quite new; many plays are to be heard live, but there was only one concert - the general repetition was not recorded.

Listening to the album, you see that the works are not necessarily pages dedicated to a certain soloist instrument or a certain soloist group, meaning that the soloist instruments ratio does not make up a majority and the music is foreground. This is what you wanted from the very beginning or this is what finally came out?

I suggested to my colleagues to leave space to improvise; we didn't want concerts for instruments and string orchestra, instead we wanted to be able to have these two ensembles playing together, mutually counterbalancing. There are soloist instruments here and there, but they are not solely with accompaniment, but two ensembles. I wanted a unitary whole, a chamber ensemble, so to say.

...and this is what came out, in my opinion. Share a thought about your colleagues from Nicolas Simion Group. Some of them are musicians known to the public which frequents jazz concerts from Romania.

Yes, Chris Dahlgren, who cooperated with Romanian musicians (such as Maria Răducanu or Mircea Tiberian), then Antonis Anissegos, an extraordinary Greek pianist and a very good composer - he visited me in Bucharest last year. At the Radio, we recorded some of his works, my works, works by Romanian composers such as Nicolae Coman and Tiberiu Olah, Bartok's works and some free improvisations. Norbert Scholly is the guitarist I have played with in Cologne more than 15 years. I came with him in Romania a couple of times and I recorded some discs with him - a very good guitarist... Alan Jones is an American drummer who now lives in Portland; I met him at Vienna twenty years ago, when I first went to Austria's capital; I met with him in Germany and in Austria. He is an extraordinary musician, he worked with us in Sibiu, in 2007, at the concert held with local philharmonic, in the series of events Sibiu - European cultural capital; This is basically who we are. We had a guest playing the harmonica, Fausto Beccalossi, a new collaborator, but he only plays two or three works.

Are there other concerts after Bonn?

We want this project to develop; we hope to succeed in suggesting it to some ensembles, orchestras and festivals which have such fusion projects in their program. The concert is to be recorded by Deutsche Welle, they will broadcast it all over the world and we hope that this concert will be heard in Romania, at Radio Romania Music!

Ștefan Costache
Translated by Zenovia Popa and Laura Bosnea
MTTLC students, Bucharest University