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"I know how to be happy," says Felicia Donceanu at the age of 90 in the next dialogue

Monday, 1 February 2021 , ora 14.12

Felicia Donceanu is the composer of an impressive number of works spread in a diverse range of genres, showing a particular predilection for voice. His entire creation is guided by the lyrics of his favorite poets, with whom he vibrates in the most intense way in a music dominated by melody, color refinement and sparkling stage effects. If his art has the gift of communicating vibrantly and sincerely, the interview I requested for his 90th birthday (at the Polyphonies) shows youthful energies unaltered by the passage of time. What would be the recipe? I know how to be happy, "Felicia Donceanu answers disarmingly, during a dialogue sprinkled with memories and reflections.

Dear Mrs. Felicia Donceanu, allow me to say happy birthday to you, to remain with the same verve, with the same power of work and with a fever of the mind that has characterized your whole life! For starters, how do you feel about this day? What are you doing?

Look, my dear, let me tell you right away, so… by many years… now I ask you a question… many years… What does " many" mean? How many years do you prophesy to me, do you want for me? Come on, tell me a number of years ago, at 90 you must have decided on something? If you say a lot, you've already thought about it. At what? One year, two, ten. How many?

And 20.

Who wishes me many years at this age? That's automatically said. I also ask how much you give me, how much you want me or you take responsibility to take care of me!

Absolutely! I would love to.

See, this wish is very reckless!

From your voice I notice that you are tonic, bright. On fire.

I'm almost one hundred years old.


Of course. I now saw on Facebook Cella Delavrancea talking at the Academy - she was also 100 years old. It was impressive. She was very romantic, romantic. But still, I would like to be a little healthier, like that, more manly. She was very feminine anyway, I'm not.

Mrs. Donceanu, I wish you to be healthy and strong for many more years, of course! This show was preluded by a version of the Pasha lied, which you included in Cântece pentru Til, on lyrics by George Călinescu. It's a narrative music, so we'll go through a few steps that have come together in your many decades. But I would like to start with a finding: no matter where the steps started, where they ended up, where they turned, what doors opened these steps, one thing is constant for you - the song has always accompanied you. So song means poetry and music. Where does this connection come from?

I liked reading poetry. I liked reading every book I got my hands on. To make some rhymes, this is something else. I wrote mostly epigrams, I was quite good at it. But I did read poetry and it seemed to me it could be sung through rhythm, through musicality, through images because I also visualize the verse. But, now, allow me to say that the Steps were performed a lot. Usually, it was performed by sopranos, although it isn't very easy. I know that when Arta Florescu was in the Music Academy or in committees, I don't know, but she was outraged and she was saying that the Steps mustn't be sung by women and she told a tenor to sing the Steps, and then other tenors performed it

In today's show we presented the version for violin and piano that you made especially for Diana Jipa and Ștefan Doniga.

I didn't do it! That was the surprise they gave me, choosing to do a duet on the Steps… with the pinch, finally That was a surprise they made me. It's not my version, but they also kept the melodic line…

Yes, of course. It seems to me a fragment, it is an extremely expressive miniature, both sweet and warm. You are a man with an absolutely exceptional warmth…

Emanate, emanate…

Yes, in addition to verve. You proposed to me to start the foray into your creation with Songs of a Beautiful Girl, a work written in 1974, I think.

I don't really keep track of it, but in the end, it has to be that way; it is written on the score. This version is original, with marimba and English horn and sung by Adina Iurașcu. I think that's what you have.

That's what we're broadcasting.

Now I found out that the people from Cluj also took it because they were inspired by what they do after that CD released on the radio some decades ago. There are a lot of my work done on a record.

Mrs. Felicia Donceanu, we started the anniversary edition with Songs of a beautiful girl, in which the sun is invoked, but the sun is necessarily invoked by a beautiful and lucky girl. Is there a similarity between your life and this creation?


Yes. Beautiful and lucky.

I'm lucky, beautiful, I don't know. Others to say! I'm nice. That's the idea.

The music is communicative and anchored in folklore. That is, this sun is invoked from a Romanian land, very clearly, and through popular lyrics.

All my creation is born, somehow, not knowing the folklore too well - this exists in my veins, in my blood, in my soul… everything that is Romanian, definitely. That's the idea.

All creation seems to be governed by lyrics, poetic or pictorial images from nature or even creations that are written only for instruments, even instrumental creations. What did you think of when you wrote Inscriptions on a solo harp mast?

Eee, what did I think! This is a more special work. The mast represents my mother. Inscriptions on a mast… this is a work dedicated to my mother.

How was your mother? What images do you keep in your memory?

First of all, she, until Saint Mary, who is the saint I turn to… but first and foremost I ask my mother. Mom means something to me. I exist as I am because my mother was a very special being from all points of view.

Was she the first to guide you to music?

He wanted to, but he didn't succeed because I was quite restless. My mother played the piano beautifully, gave piano lessons, was also a music teacher, had a beautiful voice, a lyrical soprano. He couldn't make his dream come true because my father was jealous, but of course I inherited all the good things from my mother… and from my father. My mother had such an iron will, but she was hidden in a very fragile creature. However, these Inscriptions on a mast… because it is like a masted boat. The mast always stands up and the wind blows, but this mast never leaves. The work is inspired and especially sung by Stana Bunea, who, again, represents something in my biography, a lot.

I know that often intersecting and communicating with our leading performers has given you even more inspiration.

Yes of course. For example, with Georgeta Stoleriu.

Yes, I wanted to get to her!

Yes, Georgeta Stoleriu ... due to the impact I had with Georgeta, I was finally able to create the Testament. Because I was overwhelmed by this message. It seemed to me that I could no longer. And Geta just looked and spoke to me in a certain way, just the Testament, almost commanding. It scared me.

We are now talking about the cycle of lieds Singing with Ienăchiță Văcărescu, a cycle made up of four lieds that ends with this Testament of an extraordinary drama, made by simple means. With this cycle of lieds you were awarded by the Romanian Academy in 1984. Here, a lucky moment, a happy moment. I want you to open the box of memories and evoke other happy encounters.

Happy are the meetings with some performers with whom I made direct contact - Georgeta Stoleriu with the band she had at the beginning, her name was Grupetto, where Nicolae Maxim also entered with the flute; then it became the Early Music Studio, where Anda Iarosevici and Marta Joja are on the back and Robert Dumitrescu on the other leg.

Even Zoe Dumitrescu Bușulenga said about this cycle of lieds that between Felicia Donceanu's modern art and Ienăchiță Văcărescu's ancient scented art, a happy meeting of great days took place, which gave us a real work of art and we consider a memorable act of culture. Of course, in the '80s, you composed these lieds that were preceded in the' 70s by Ponti Euxini Clepsydra, There are still roses, by Two Serenades, by those Songs of a Beautiful Girl, by Palimpsest and Three Verbs. Mrs. Donceanu, let's go a little with the memories at the beginning of my career and tell me what the lessons with Mihail Jora were like?

I feel like laughing! The lessons were furious. I was very polite and reverent, but he saw that certain things did not enter my head and then he left me alone, to do after my head ... not to mention the circumstances when I went to him ... I he gave up his study, because I didn't have a piano where I sat and when he went to play bridge, or something, I had his study at his disposal and he showed me the drawer where I could find cigarettes. We work there. Then, yes, it became clear that I still have to write somehow, to compose, as my mind leads me, my instinct. I had remained correct at the counterpoint, with master Buicliu and then master Jora told her: "Leave her alone, let her do what she wants, because she will never understand, she will never learn!" And so he left me alone. So everything counterpoint is done that way, I don't know how, but somehow.

According to your own laws and according to your own inner requirements!

Yes. I can't theorize much, although if I put my mind to what theories I would do about many, many things.

I know that first you went to acting, to the directing department.

No acting, no. La Regie. And in order to direct, I took the exam and went through choreography first, because it seemed to me, from where I was from my native Bacău, that for a direction you have to know some choreography. And I didn't necessarily want to learn to become a ballerina, because that wasn't the case, but I experimented with others. I and the choreographers did it. And when I went there, it was a commission I hadn't even heard of - Mitiță Dumitrescu, Floria Capsali ... imagine. And I hopped there, they made me hop. I told them I did chess, I also made music, I described them there. They saw that they were either a little more, like that, more or less ... and they called someone, a person, to assist. A person came, I didn't know who he was, a tall, voluminous gentleman with black-rimmed glasses and he called me to go to the next room. And finally, there was the Conservatory's headquarters at that time, in Amzei Square. And they took me there to sing. What to sing? What did you compose? And I sat down at the piano. She wasn't intimidated by size at all, not at all, I'm not at all today. I got to who the rector of the Institute was, Breslașu ... I got to the institute and from directing I finally got to music, because I was bored. There is a lot to say, very funny.

Of course, luck has been an asset in your life! Or destiny.

Destiny, definitely.

The sonata for violin and piano that you composed during your studies with Mihail Jora, you revised about 10 years later and it was the first public audition of your creation. How did you feel?

I think a violinist sang it ...

Gheorghe Hamza.

It was published, indeed, it was sung by these two kind-hearted young people, Diana Jipa and Ștefan Doniga. They also released that CD with composer madams ...

The ladies of Romanian music.

Yes, but I call them madams, colleagues madams. And they made this version of Steps, with pizzicatos, very cute stuff, like bis pieces. Now, let me say a very funny thing ... the Sonata op.1 no.1 is also printed ... and now, they and I are thinking, but when do I write the second one as well? I don't know, but I have to ... if I numbered, it should follow, right? I really like my home, yes.

That's your universe. What does your home universe look like?

It looks great.

All the objects in the house that you beautify surround you, to which you add a warmth of your soul, a special emotion. I know you also have a father's flute.

Yes. Now I have some statuettes. There are a few encyclopedias on a shelf and I have three, let's call them trinkets, three ducklings. I'm so funny! And I called them my "encyclopedists," because they stand on encyclopedias, they hit the wall like a nut, but I'm there and I'm having a lot of fun.

You have a kind of being very cheerful, tonic, optimistic.

I'm not optimistic, no. I'm toned, yes, because I'm probably a healthy man on the inside.

How did you maintain this inner health?

I know how to be happy and I know how to play. I always play one way or another. Everything is happy, this is my nature, from my mother, from my father ... the sign, not to mention the signs.

An absolutelyextraordinary joy is emanated by the arietta that you wrote on lyrics by Ion Minulescu for Georgeta Stoleriu and her famous students, Liliana Nichiteanu, Felicia Filip, Irina Săndulescu Bălan, Ruxandra Donose. I really want to broadcast this music too!

Yes Yes! I think Luminița Constantinescu was on the radio at the time, that's how I remember. In any case, I was asked to write something. Geta was in vogue and I was somewhere in the middle. It was a "You Like Opera" radio show. And, let me write something for Georgeta and her disciples at the time, her students.

By the '85s, back then.

The shirt. And then I imagined that I kind of knew what they were like - they were all beautiful - and I imagined them dressed in a certain way ... and then I wrote these things for these girls, with the scent of Guerlain, which I loved very much. And my mother liked Guerlain too ... finally, they bond a lot. And Geta distributed the voices of these four ... ...., with whom she sang, so she knew very well which is more alto, more soprano.

Mrs. Donceanu, did you like to travel, to go out?

I would have liked to, but how can I go. If I had been wise enough, I would have raised money and bought a Trabant car - I would certainly have driven very well - and traveled the country.

Mrs. Donceanu, you, the author of so many songs, of an impressive number of music, do you aspire to a Trabant?

Woe to me, it's very convenient. My sister had a Trabant and made I don't know how much of the country. If I had had a Trabant, I would have wandered like that, to know my country ... this is perhaps my greatest suffering, because I only know my country from stories, from illustrations. This is my great suffering!

But you know Bucovina.

Yes, but still too little. Good thing, because I made my oasis there, in Câmpulung, which I managed to acquire by buying a small apartment on the money I earned from the book with the Smart Bell. I go there sometimes in the summer. I didn't go this year, because there's a lot of pandemics there and the neighbors told me to stay nice at home, here. But my eternal place, let it be known, is there, in Câmpulung.

I can not believe that!

Sure. And I pretended to be Pushkin. I erected a monument there, let it be.

I know you're a painter too.

Not a painter ... I walk with the bidineaua, and the color, and the pencil. Well, if the hand doesn't want to calm down, and if I don't do one, I do another. Or wash dishes. I like to wash dishes extraordinarily ... Are you speechless?

Little bit.

I like to wash dishes, have you heard? I like to wash dishes.

It disconnects you from this work ... housework.

There, if you knew, walking with water ...

Is that where ideas are born?

Yes Dear. There I compose. I'm not telling you how much I make while washing dishes or peeling potatoes. My hand works and there is a connection, of course, between the hand and the brain. That's where I compose, that's where the music embryo is born.

And Remember, a song for violin and piano, where was it born?

They stole from me, because that's the reason I used it in Yolanda's poem - Georgeta Stoleriu sang it. And there is this reason, which I can't leave like that, only with my voice, and I transposed it for violin and piano and which a couple of young performers sing to me divinely.

I briefly passed by Felicia Donceanu's big family with exceptional performers. Now I think it's time to ask you a more delicate question.

It scares me from the beginning. I'm trying to cope.

How did you feel in your generation of composers? I mean, how did you feel about your colleagues a few years older, starting with Berger, Olah, Capoianu?

I felt really good. Not at all embarrassed. They think they appreciated me. I looked at and considered with great admiration, with their talent, with their work, with their book science, especially those who have been with me for a generation. And I'm glad, please believe me, every time a beautiful, good music was written, I was happy and I'm still happy. Ah, I was thinking, for example, if I heard a very beautiful work, I would think, alas, if I had written it! Yes, I'm very happy, I'm really happy.

Looking at, thus, in general, your evolution ... clearly, the intuition towards poetry, towards the image ... intuition was your governing element, the element that guided you. I would like to give some titles from the '90s, titles from your creation - Monodia, Pater Emon, Colind laic, Stabat Mater, Salve Regina, Doină și joc, Two songs ... Well, in the last decade, in the last years, your works aim for a voice accompanied by an orchestra and have much wider development. What work should we stop at?

A work I wrote 10 years ago and I'm trying to remember what was happening then ... I don't know, something was happening in the world ... that I composed this work, Salbe, for a specific motivation. And I structured it as "Time passes, time comes" as a reason.

From the Eminescu Glossa.

Yes. And I had a pretty crazy idea to use it in different languages ​​- both German and French. It's an amalgam. Very, very clever, I say, was the idea of ​​doing this work, sung so and so, sometimes only in Romanian, then translated. But in any case, the end is ... I don't know how to say ... I'm afraid of this end. God be silent! And that's why I'm scared, I confess, because I have something, some premonitory qualities from birth and I checked them at certain moments. What happens? Why did I vibrate like that? Why? That I didn't want to!

Let's turn our attention to the end of the show, to one of the last works, entitled La piatra de hotar, where you no longer have a solo voice, but a narrator and orchestra.

It is a text that I wrote in Câmpulung, evoking some moments from the modern history of our country, the character being a character that existed in my family; that is, that's what happened to that Dumitru and it had the end that I say in that prose ... and that, I comment through music, everything I said in the lyrics. Here, I do not say in poetry what I said in music, but in reverse I did.

I know that you are a man very interested in events, you are a man anchored in reality. Ma'am, what do you like right now and what annoys you the most?

I watch a lot of TV. I leave it there, I don't have to look all the time. I do my job, he walks, walks and I sit in front of him to see what is being said, what is happening and I am very attentive to the announcers who speak, and how they are dressed, and what they say, and how I it annoys now a verbal tic now. Do you want me to tell you? A political figure, whatever he said was "so". And you didn't get rid of "so", as if it was a conclusion to anything. Now, whatever is justified, he apologizes with "unfortunately". Now it's all "unfortunately".

We have entered his era "unfortunately".

"Unfortunately," that's kind of an excuse, that it happened not because I'm to blame, but, "unfortunately," it happened, so impersonal, it happened.

Let's reverse this formula and say "fortunately".

Yes. May the Lord do some things for which we can say "fortunately"! That would be great!

Interview by Monica Cengher
Translated by Alma Teodora Miron,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu