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George Enescu International Competition, a good rehearsal for this autumn's Festival. An interview with Mihai Constantinescu, executive director of the George Enescu International Contest and Festival, conducted by Gabriel Marica

Friday, 14 May 2021 , ora 12.13

My guest tonight is Mr. Mihai Constantinescu, executive director of the "George Enescu" International Festival and Contest. Good evening!

Good evening and thank you for having me!

2021 is a difficult year for you and I say this because, here, the final phases of the Enescu Contest are coming, and in autumn we are looking forward with great interest to a special edition of the Enescu Festival, now in its 25th edition. And all this happens in the Enescu Year - 140 years since the composer's birth.

It is not difficult just because we have to carry out both actions - competition and festival - in the same year. After all, in 2011, when the festival was last held together with the competition, it was about the same. But it is difficult because we have this situation of the pandemic and there are things that we do not knowhow to solve as the moment so as not to disturb anyone and, at the same time, to ensure the health security of all.However, we have many variants of organization. We are in talks with the Romanian state institutions that help us in this regard - the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Health, the DSP, the Ministry of Internal Affairs - and we are obviously in contact with foreign artists to find the best methods for them to come here and, at the same time, to ensure the financial security of the festival. We don't want to increase the number of people who cause us problems in terms of appearing on stage. We are talking about this issue, the number of people on stage, the programs that were originally designed. As I said, together with the master Vladimir Jurowski, the program was ready since February 2020, and now we have to look for some small changes because they are very big works that we thought together, and which probably will have to be postponed for this edition.

In the context in which there is a tendency to provide additional facilities to people vaccinated against covid, does the Enescu Festival plan to grant such "cultural rewards"?

No. We do not grant cultural rewards for those who comply with the instructions received from the ministries, from the DSP, from the national committee. But we must follow what has been decided by these institutions and by the people who are part of these committees. It's about vaccination, it's about the PCR test, it's about antibodies. Personally, I don't think we will have these quick tests, because that means a lot of things in addition to what we have to do. I talked to orchestras abroad. They will come with these things already done. They asked us the same thing.

Basically, they will attend vaccinated!

Yes, they will be vaccinated or with PCR tests because this is also required by the airlines. They asked us to vaccinate those they come in contact with - choir, orchestra, audience - that is, to be provided with the same things we asked them to come with. So, there are no facilities. They are simply things we ask for to ensure everyone's health.

We are talking mainly today about the Enescu Contest, which, unfortunately, forced by the pandemic, took place in an atypical edition, in two parts. The events related to the upper stages of the competition start tomorrow. What is the freshest information you can give us?

We tried to make something more special with this edition. I think that many of the things I tested, both in 2020 and in 2021, will remain in the competition. It is about the increased participation of the competitors; it is about these views that were very interesting and very appreciated by the public. For example, at the Cello Contest, where in the first stage we had about 30-50 people who saw the contest by offering this opportunity to see the registration of the competitors' participation ... we had over 3500 views on the first day of the contest. So that's a good thing. We start tomorrow this condensed version of the contest, because it will last only ten days, in which are practically the most important things. That is, there are the semi-finals, the finals with orchestra - which are very popular with the public - and the recitals of the members of the jury and the winners of the previous contest. So, these days we have gathered everything that is more important, more beautiful. We will have online viewing because when we started this organization this was the trend. In the meantime, on Friday, we started selling tickets for viewing in the hall.Obviously, in the limited number that this committee approved for us - 30% for the public and, probably, around 14% for sponsors, for journalists, so that they can participate and see how we organize ourselves. We consider that this organization will be a kind of preview or will be a general rehearsal that we do for the festival. I am sure that in August-September things will be much better and maybe the world will go without a mask, maybe there will be no need through immunization to ask the public that comes this evidence of vaccination, but we must make sure now and do this rehearsal. for things to be grounded and then, in August-September, to know what we have to do and to improve what we are not succeeding in organizing now.

Do you have a number of places for music students?

We have days for pupils and students. These are the semi-finals, because these are the most important moments for the students. Then the works by George Enescu are sung and these days we have a number of 50 places that we offer to students and pupils who, I am sure, a large part of them are not vaccinated because they do not enter that age, but they will probably come with these quick tests, they will come with a mask. In fact, everyone will be wearing a mask - and the one that will be on the other days of the concert - but we do this especially for them. Unfortunately, we cannot offer the finals and recitals for students and pupils, because, as I told you, I do not think that at this moment - on May 12 - we are so immunized that we do not care about who is next to us. And it is well known that, however, this is what protects us at this time.

23 semi-finalists in the instrumental sections, representing 13 countries, 3 competitors are Romanian; I remember them - the pianist Adela Liculescu, the cellist ȘtefanCazacu and the violinist Valentin Șerban. What chances do you personally think they have at the awards?

I think they have great chances, because they were among the first to be selected for the semi-finals. Now it depends a lot on how it looks, how they ran their program. It is true that many of those who come, foreign competitors, come with their repeaters, which until now has not happened. This means that they still took seriously this stage, which is the semi-final, where Enescu is also sung. From a point of view, it is very good for us, because, indeed, this number of co-repeaters of George Enescu's works is increasing, where there have always been problems, so they are ready competitors. And then we'll see how the reactions with the orchestra will be. Here is something that everyone organizes as they know how. But I think the battle will be very big.

Mr. Constantinescu, I wish you success both in the development of the Enescu Contest and in the preparation of the Enescu Festival this autumn. I hope to resume the dialogue after the end of the contest and to have the joy of announcing among the award-winning Romanian artists!

Interview by Gabriel Marica
Translated by Crețu Elena,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu