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RRM 25 – Interview with Liliana Staicu, manager of Radio România Muzical

Monday, 14 March 2022 , ora 9.38

Liliana Staicu, you have been the manager of Radio România Muzical for several years, but the beginnings of this project also bear your signature. What is it that appealed to you about this idea, about this radio project ever since its very beginning?

In 1996, when the SRR (Romanian Radio Broadcasting Company) management decided, at the initiative of Mrs Mihaela Doboș, to set up a specialized station dedicated to classical music, I was a radio producer within the Musical editorial department and I had already gone through several stages of my professional training, working in practically all editorial spheres. So, the proposal to be part of the small team of coordinators of this station (only 7 in number), naturally, seemed to me back then a wonderful opportunity to take part in the construction of a radio station expected and wanted not only by us, but also by tens of thousands, or maybe hundreds of thousands of music lovers. I still remember those months of intense work, that period before the first broadcast, with the uncertainties of the very last moment - all experienced with an intense emotion, with an immense desire for success. So, together with Mrs Mihaela Doboș - the director of Radio România Muzical, with Luminița Arvunescu - the editor of the station in its first years of existence, with my colleagues producers coordinators, as well as all the members of the Radio Music Editorial department, who were to participate editorially to the programme schedule of this station, on March 24th, 1997, we listened, with an emotion that I find difficult to put into words, to the first radio signal of the station that reached now the 25th anniversary. A radio station dedicated exclusively to classical and jazz music, with a programme schedule that rivalled in terms of content and collaborators, the traditional stations in Europe. It was then, and looking back now, all the more I can say, an exceptional achievement. And for almost 10 years, I worked in the RRM team, coordinating portions of introductory and musical aesthetics radio shows, the interactive shows and those with audience, and producing, of course, a series of my own radio shows.

Do you remember some of those shows that you still hold dear, that maybe mobilized you more at that time? Personally, I remember those Weekend Mornings when we, simply, sat along with so many listeners… we sat listening to every section of the presenter, every dialogue. Those very special moments, the Weekend Mornings, became really festive mornings at Radio România Muzical.

Yes, indeed, in addition to that coordination activity, we also produced a lot of shows during that period, shows that were emblems of the station, shows that, as you said, brought us and our listeners an extraordinary joy. And you mentioned the Weekend Mornings, the mornings of Radio România Muzical. I teamed up with Gabriel Marica at the time. Those were extraordinary moments, some splendid mornings in which we met back then some wonderful people. I would mention now Ioan Gyuri Pascu, who produced the Ceșcuța de jazz (The jazz cup); there were also the columns signed by Dumitru Capoianu - "Riddendo", or by another important Romanian composer, Liviu Danceanu, who produced two series of columns: Eseuri despre dansuri (Essays on dances) and Seminar de istoria muzicii (the Seminar on the history of music). None of them are among us now. I remember those mornings with extraordinary emotion. I would also mention another show that we produced for many years, at the beginning it was called 5 întrebăriși un premiu (5 questions and a prize), then -Olimpiada melomanilor (the Olympic game of music lovers), with a slight change of name and format. It was one of the longest-running productions of the station - an interactive show that allowed me then to keep in touch with many of the station's listeners and created an extraordinary emulation among them as well. This idea of contest stimulated them, determined them to prove their knowledge, to listen to, to look for answers, and that being in a period of time when you wouldn't find out everything just by typing on your laptop, phone or tablet.

Preludiu la după-amiaza unui meloman (Prelude to the afternoon of a music lover), again a show to which I contributed by producing one of the emissions of the week… What more to say?! The broadcasts from the Enescu festivals, the interviews with many of the personalities who were present at those editions of the festival. I remember, preparing for this discussion of ours… I paused to look back in time for a while and I remember a very special evening; I was in booth 23 on the 2nd floor at the Radio and was coordinating the live broadcast of the recital given at the Romanian Athenaeum by violinist Salvatore Accardo and pianist Bruno Canino… It was the afternoon of September 11th, 2001 and on the studio monitor, in a live broadcast on TVR 2, I was watching what was happening at the Athenaeum, and in a corner of the screen, was the live broadcast from New York of the Twin Towers collapsing under terrorist attacks. It was one of the most intense moments I experienced in the studio, in a state of extraordinary emotion, but, somehow, also a state of panic, because even if that was going on at a distance of so many thousands of kilometres, it seemed incredible what was happening in the world while we, here, were living a moment of enjoying the beauty of music.

There are many things that happen in this profession and I think that the listeners also feel the emotion that the presenters have in many of the moments in which they address them. We are not only producers of shows, we are also people - me, like all my colleagues from and from Radio România Muzica land the entire institution - who intensely experience the moments of life.

Liliana Staicu, the years have passed and you have come to having the responsibility to lead this station. How did you embrace this moment? It is true that things cannot sand still, they have to also change. The listeners gradually change too, the generations change, the way of capturing music changes, their opportunity to be live with what is happening in the world's music life changes through the existence of other sources, other than Radio România Muzical.

Indeed, the moment of 2007, when the founding director of the station Mrs Mihaela Doboș retired, and I took over the management of the station, was a huge responsibility. All the more so as the first ten years of its existence were not easy at all; there was permanently the danger - from outside, but even from inside the Radio, for this radio station created in 1997 to be suppressed. In fact, even after that, periodically, voices appeared that stated this hypothesis, with the argument of superposing with Radio România Cultural, particularly from the point of view of the musical profile.

And I think that was perhaps the biggest challenge, to distinctly shape this station and to attract as many listeners as possible, from diverse backgrounds and especially younger listeners, despite the extremely low coverage in FM, but benefiting also, it is true, from the start of the online broadcast, in the same year - 2007. Now, it is 15 years since we address our listeners in a different way than the traditional one of FM radio, covering a much wider territory than we do now in FM.

And also, the continuous adaptation to the listening habits, because the evolution was dynamic and extremely fast, the audience changed enormously during all this period, and its expectations from a niche station, such as Radio România Muzical, were and are very high.

In order to get closer to this type of audience, we had to, first of all I think, change ourselves. And I am referring here to the whole team that has worked over time atRadio RomâniaMuzical, because it was necessary to change the way of addressing in the sense of a more direct language, closer to the listeners. It took a new structure of the programme schedule, a diversification of the topics approached, the shows in the time slots in which our listeners go to work or home and are stuck in traffic. These changes began in 2007 and continue to this day, the challenges being more and more numerous every year, because there are now in the world other sources of music too… there is spotify, there is apple music, there is youtube and many other similar sources, which offer anyone the opportunity to create playlists. And then, our strength, I think, remains to be quality - of the music we broadcast, of the musical selection, but also of the words that accompany it. Because these words are meant to create the suitable context for the reception of music, they are meant to educate, are meant to bring arguments through which the music of other centuries and other cultures could reach the listeners of as many different generations as possible and could last.

As I said earlier, the major and rapid changes in the behaviour of the listeners, in the way of listening determined by this continuous dynamic of daily life, have led, naturally, to other configurations of the programme schedule compared to the early years of the station's existence. And, out of the desire to have with us at every moment of the day listeners who can find something for themselves when listening to various shows, with very different structures and themes, so that everyone can find out their musical preferences, the preferences of the shows' producers, the preferences of people who are in front of the microphone.

Musica viva and Perpetuum mobile, or Drivetime, as it was called in the early years after 2007, are most popular morning and drive time shows, which are listened to at home, at work, or in traffic. And the latest audience studies at the level of the capital - because Radio România Muzical is measured only here - show a continuous and constant increase of the audience and for this we thank all those who are our faithful listeners.

Radio România Muzical is now 25 years old. But there were also other anniversaries and I remember a few moments that were marked by special concerts and even face to face meetings with the audience, at some point. So, there have been and still may be initiatives.

Yes, indeed, you mentioned other anniversaries of the station. In 2012, on the 15th anniversary of its existence, we benefited from the presence in Bucharest, in an extraordinary recital dedicated to this event, of the famous pianist Alice Sara Ott, here, at the Radio Hall.

I would also mention a few moments from these years that seem to me important. 2010 - Lipatti Days project. It was one of the most beautiful, most complex, best developed projects of Radio România Muzical, with a series of events that brought to attention the tremendous personality of Dinu Lipatti, including a piano contest organized then on two categories of age. The winners of that contest were the very young then Cadmiel Boțac, who was only 14 years old, and Mihai Ritivoiu, a student at the National University of Music Bucharest back then, now names that are frequently to be found on concert posters.

And because I said that this station is developed by my colleagues, in fact, those who are daily involved in the productions of the station, I must mention that the Lipatti Days project in 2010 and everything that followed it, was coordinated by Monica Isăcescu and Ștefan Costache.

I would also mention the international live broadcasts coordinated by many of my colleagues, including those from the Metropolitan in New York, where LuminițaArvunescu was present several times right there in New York. For several years, once a year, we broadcast one of the station's emblematic productions, from the studio created especially for us at Metropolitan Opera Radio.

These are special moments that we cannot forget and that, I think, the listeners appreciated and still remember with great pleasure.

Among them, I think there is one that connects you with a special event, an opening of the BBC PROMS Festival, where you went and commented on the concert from the very location.

Yes, such a moment is always important for each of us. Indeed, I was once at the Royal Albert Hall, at the opening concert of the BBC PROMS Festival - a great experience, because BBC PROMS is a phenomenon. Two months were spent there and it will continue to be so… Even during the pandemic, the British public radio managed to find a way to keep the spirit of this festival alive. And, indeed, two months are wonderful, but the opening and the closing of this festival represent a very special phenomenon. At the closing of the festival, the anthem of Great Britain is sung, people from the entire hall standing and singing the anthem creates a state of emotion that is difficult to describe in words.

Of course, I cannot forget the events of the Enescu and RadiRo festivals here - we should not forget the festival organized by Radio România, that has had four editions so far, in which many of the great orchestras of public radios have been on the stage of the Radio Hall.

I would also like to mention from these years the Radio România Muzical Interviews, carried out live audio-video in our broadcast studio, in which many of the great artists of the moment were present in dialogues with my colleagues, on the opera area but also on the classical chamber music and symphonic areas. And I must also mention "Ascultă 5 minute de muzicăclasică" (Listen to 5 minutes of classical music), the project that is already in its 11th year of existence, for the success of which we must also thank our partners from the most diverse backgrounds; a project that has been proposed and developed all these years by Cristina Comandașu. And many, many other events through which we have tried to fulfil, at the highest standards, what we have to do, namely our public mission - that of supporting and promoting the values of national and international culture.

And of educating.

And of educating, for sure!

But there existed and still exists a great disappointment - for me personally, for my colleagues, but also for millions of listeners - the fact that throughout this quarter of a century of existence, the FM emission, the terrestrial emission, hasn't exceeded more than a third as coverage from the territory of the country. No matter how many requests we submitted, supported also by the messages of the listeners from big cultural centres of the country -Iași, Cluj, Timișoara, Sibiu, Tg. Mureș, Constanța - it was impossible to convince the CNA (the National Audiovisual Council) that it is right, it is necessary to grant us frequencies that would cover, at least in part, these areas. It is something that we have struggled with, but we will continue to fight. We hope that at some point we will be able to get frequencies that will allow us to be close to our listeners who listen to us on FM, beyond the online broadcast, as it is also necessary to address those listeners who still feel that they are closer to us through the traditional radio.

And because you were talking about the radio tradition, România Muzical has built an extraordinarily beautiful tradition of collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union, being one of the active, very active stations, taking over but also offering the European Broadcasting Union many of the achievements on the one hand and getting involved in the organization of some aspects of that activity.

Yes, it is very true. We have a very good relationship, a relationship that we have built through the years with our partners in the European Broadcasting Union, with the radio stations on the continent similar to ours; an opportunity which, I believe, we have exploited as well as it was possible for the benefit of our listeners, but also of the Romanian musicians, because, for many of them, this was a gateway to affirmation. As you said, this relationship is twofold, in terms of the offers we receive and the ones we deliver to our listeners, I can say that in recent years, Radio RomâniaMuzical was the European station that, according to statistics, has broadcast most of the international concerts offered through the EBU network. But, on the other hand, a big part of our activity was also directed towards promoting Romanian artists, through the recordings made here and proposed for broadcast to our partners, but also through the participation in projects initiated at the level of the European Broadcasting Union, as you were mentioning… Among these, the pre-selections that we have organized since 2008 for the contests held under the auspices of the EBU - Concertino Prague and New Talent Bratislava - unfortunately, the latter contest has not been held for several years now. But an extraordinarily important moment was the winning of this contest, New Talent Bratislava, by a violinist who at that time was hardly known in Romania, Răzvan Stoica, and who won the Grand Prize of the contest and has since become one of the most appreciated Romanian violinists, both in the country and internationally. Alexandra Bobeico, Cadmiel Boțac, Antonela Bârnat, Cornelius Zirbo, are among those who participated in these contests and won important prizes.

It was and still is a continuous effort to discover young talents. It is important for us as a public radio station to support this and to continue trying to discover those young performers who can further promote the Romanian art, and display the valences of the Romanian interpretative and even compositional school. Because, lately, there are some of the most talented young Romanian composers who are beginning to prove themselves internationally.

Interview by Anca Ioana Andriescu
Translated by Ecaterina Bucovanu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu