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RRM 25 - Interview with Cristina Comandașu, editor-in-chief of Radio România Muzical

Monday, 21 March 2022 , ora 14.13
 

The 25th anniversary of România Muzical, I think it gives us a good opportunity to talk about the history of this post and I would start with the news that you brought from your position as editor-in-chief, starting with 2004. First of all, we are talking about changing the editorial strategy.

Indeed, since I became editor-in-chief in 2004, perhaps taking the example of similar European radio stations, I have been proposing modernization ever since, in the sense of making it more flexible or what we call classical music for all today. The station was designed then, rather for passionate music lovers, connoisseurs, being very young then, I wanted to create a radio station that would be listened to by any of the colleagues of my generation. I do not know if I have succeeded, but over the years many have certainly passed, the profile of the post has clearly changed in this regard, and indeed the number of listeners has increased. Of course, we could not expect a major decrease in the listener's age, but there were improvements from this point of view as well.


Over time, you looked for the best ways to get closer to your listeners, and out of a need for promotion, so you started the Music Bookstore project in 2009 and later signed partnerships with the country's philharmonic.

Yes, in fact, right from 2004, I tried to cover those points that I felt were weak, and the promotion was always a problem for Radio România Muzical and we must admit here that, apart from a single campaign made by Radio România corporation, Radio România Muzical has never benefited from a promotion campaign, except for all these things and projects that were done by the members of the station and that tried to bring visibility. Indeed, since I was a very young editor-in-chief, I have tried to improve the visibility of the post, just to target a younger audience. All these projects were done together with the partners, first of all in the cultural area. I remember very clearly how I linked, for example, editions of the show in the Universe of Music, which I still do today, with meetings in the bookstore, in Cărturești, which was then, in 2006, a landmark in the cultural life of Bucharest, meetings, here, I remember very clearly with Octavian Paler or Constantin Bălăceanu-Stolnici, who at that time also spoke at the microphone of Radio România Muzical.Then all these meetings related to Humanitas in 2009 and 2010, this Music Bookstore, where there were concerts, was the Lesson of the little music lover there. In 2008, we initiated this new project, Radio România Muzical presents the Romanian Philharmonic and we found very good partners since then with the Cluj Philharmonic, there were also some concerts of the Timisoara Philharmonic, collaborations that, over the years, have continued, because even today we have recordings from there, from these philharmonics. With the Timișoara Philharmonic we are renewing this relationship starting this year, so, yes, I tried to bring lasting projects, which are for the future and will be a long one..


Because we were talking about bookstores earlier, Radio România Muzical Day has become since 2018, the Day of Classical Music, celebrated on March 24 in Humanitas and Cărturești bookstores through the price reductions for classical music records. Is this another way to focus on the popular side?

Obvious. I always thought that March 24th could be a reason to organize events that would attract as wide an audience as possible. This idea for Classical Music Day came to me in 2018 and I thought to myself, at least that, I think our cultural partners could do and maybe it would be interesting, because in the end it is also a business tool for them and from Classical Music Day has been transformed into Classical Music Days or Classical Music Month, such as this year at the Humanitas Kretzulescu bookstore. There are discounts on CDs with classical music. It is also a form of promotion for CDs because as we know, the record world has evolved a lot, in general, everyone is turning to digital or streaming platforms. CDs are more of a gift for those who still love music in this form, but it wasn't just these events. Also starting with March 24, 2018, when the idea of ​​this day of classical music came to me, I organized the first big event with one of the main malls in Bucharest, Park Lake in Bucharest, where I had invited Alexandru Tomescu. In fact, from that moment on, I always thought of promoting Radio România Muzical and the event it produces on two major levels. One, these events - for a large, wide, somewhat unconventional audience, promoting classical music and others - the so-called premium product, in which the great artists were on stage at the Radio Hall or in other prestigious venues in Bucharest and the country.


In 2010, the project Listen to five minutes of classical music began, initially carried out in unconventional spaces, and later became a national program in Romanian schools. What can you tell us about this project?

Here is a project that is 12 years old and even one of the main partners, namely Mood Media, which is the provider of sound environment for most of these unconventional spaces where the project takes place today, said to me: "Well this is an achievement. We do not we know another cultural project in which the Romanian state would have had such a long life, except for the institutionalized ones". Yes, it is a project that also came from the need to make classical music heard in spaces with as many people as possible and where they would not normally have access to such a thing.

Of course, in 2010 it seemed absolutely utopian to me when the idea came to me, I was still here on the radio, going down some stairs, it was a Monday, and I was thinking how tiring the atmosphere at Carrefour where I had done my shopping and I say, but still, would it be so crazy to offer them some classical music? They also started talking to their partners, people who had access to those who could have made this decision, and the decision was made in October 2010 and to my surprise, it was very successful. This is the truth. Every partner, even today, of the project, in a majority amount, were only favorable opinions; Of course, in a supermarket, on the outskirts of Bucharest, further south, there may have been negative reactions, but overall those who are in stores or bookstores or hypermarkets or malls, in offices where this project is found they were very excited and admit that classical music is something else. Some of them also started going to concerts. It was very nice when they took opinions from our colleagues, from the saleswoman from such hypermarkets and said: "Oh, well, we expect every time in March and October, that it's very reassuring". These things matter, I think, a lot. I don't know if it changed the perception of classical music a little bit, but it certainly contributed something.

Then, this project, from 2014, is a national program in Romanian schools, because I believe that the taste for music, generally for culture, is formed in school and it is very difficult to change something that does not already exist planted. in people. Or, this act of planting good things in people is done at school and is done even earlier than in high school as some said: no, it's already late. Cultural preferences and these are studies done by sociologists and psychologists, are formed until the age of 14, then adolescence intervenes and the influence of the group is very high, only then, at the age of maturity, you can reap some of the fruits planted before the age of 14.

So for me, it was an absolute priority to take this project to schools, especially given that I know and in fact, we all know that in general schools the way music is taught is far too theoretical, they want to prints some theoretical elements that, in fact, will never serve the children who will become neither performers nor composers, most of them could become listeners, but exactly in this sense, the school does practically nothing. We provided the children with carefully selected music, music that their teachers could not find on youtube or elsewhere, and in addition with some explanations. I haven't counted them in all these years - it's been eight years since the project was in schools - but in any case, I've written over 300 stories. All are available on the project website, so that children have access to verified information, put to their liking, and often with references to other subjects they study because music is related to history in the first place, has to do with our language, foreign languages, has to do with geography. Yes, this has been a priority and I am very happy that there are already hundreds of thousands of children accessing this project I believe that the fruits, if not seen now, will be seen in 10, 20 years and that matters.


Also as part of the desire to get closer to the listeners, you initiated the Disc of the Year project. There were four editions in which the public could vote for their favorite record appearance on Radio România Muzical. Who were the winners?

The winners were many, but what I mean is that in fact, this recording project expresses a very old passion of mine in terms of the radio area. I recognize how much the musical news and this record news mean, you know how to say "Oh, an artist comes to Romania when he is at the zenith of his career and he also comes then". No, for me it was important to bring to Radio exactly the newly released record, the artist who is now making a great career and in this way to tune Radio Romania Musical with what is generally happening in this market. I started doing record shows right from the first years since I worked at Radio Romania Music. I remember that I was in the years 2002-2003 when I had shows related to the record news and I did a daily series on the radio from Monday to Friday live on this subject.

From the moment I returned from maternity leave, that is, starting with 2007, I introduced in the schedule a new show related to the current record, it is a Music box, which is still in the schedule today, in the hope that I will find through the houses of discs that had representations in Romania, discs here, fresh, now released, which we should broadcast. My hope was far exceeded by reality, in fact, because I found faithful, long-distance partners who allowed us to release records that appeared a day or two ago or even in the preview of the international release. Well, and out of this passion, at one point I said, let's gather everything we broadcast in one place, and that place, as we realize now, is only online. This is how these projects were born, they vote for the record of the year, starting with 2013, the articles and shows with the respective records were put, and the public had the opportunity to vote for these records.When I reached the end and the line was drawn and a winner appeared who was a record signed by Laura Buruiană and Ferenc Vizi at the end of 2013, I was looking for partners, I was looking for sponsors - because I have to emphasize that most projects are they made money from sponsorships - and we organized a first edition of the recitals with the winner of the album of the year. In 2014 he was with Laura Buruiană and Ferenc Vizi, the following year with Alina Azario, in the following year the Disc of 2015 was signed by Raluca Știrbăț. For her, we could not find sponsorship so we could organize something in 2016, but Raluca Știrbăț sang in 2018 in an event organized by us also at the Cotroceni Museum, where the other recitals had been organized and then presented for the first time a work by Constantin Silvestri recently rediscovered and interpreted in the first audition in modernity.

And the last edition of this project in this form was for Disc 2016 when the title was won by the album with Integral works for solo violin by Bach with Alexandru Tomescu. It was a very difficult edition because we faced the danger of online voting. After this experience, we considered that we must leave in the hands, of the directors, the designation of the disc of the year, because, here, online voting involves some risks that we can neither foresee nor prevent. So Alexandru Tomescu sang in 2017 at the Cotroceni Museum on March 16th, as part of the anniversary of Radio România Muzical 20, and in this way, we ended the project in this form.

He continued, because every year, on our site, the project continues, there is no voting, but all the discs for the first time can be seen on our site, and at the end of the year I and the other directors who broadcast records for the first time we make a selection and choose those 20 records that we consider as the records of the year and present them as such.

It seems that all this activity has also attracted international interest, because in November 2019 I received an invitation from the International Classical Music Awards jury to participate in this jury. It was a very pleasant surprise. I didn't realize that the work we do here could resonate in this way. For me, a new stage has been opened, practically, in my professional life, because the participation in this jury, which is among the most prestigious in the world record industry - it is the only jury composed exclusively of professionals, without the involvement of record companies - meaning that since then I listen, every year, to hundreds of discs that arrive at me by mail or audio files. Of course, the offer we presented to our listeners was very open and, in addition, it was a tool through which I could contribute, because there are 16 prizes for audio-video production among the discs that are coming to the jury, but the members of the jury also can nominate for other prizes, such as Performer of the Year, Composer of the Year, Young Artist of the Year, etc.I also made such proposals and I am extremely happy that in this way the composer of the year 2022 at the ICMA Awards Gala is a Romanian, he is Sebastian Androne. Indeed, I proposed it. It was voted on by all members of the jury. Everything, in fact, is done there by voting, we have no connection with each other, so we are independent. So, I am very happy that my colleagues on the jury, the other 19, considered Sebastian Androne to be the Composer of the Year, as I had seen him, and I look forward to the awards gala on April 21st, 2022, in Luxembourg. It is the first time that a Romanian has such a distinction.


In 2017, you took over the position of manager of the station, and among the projects initiated in this capacity are the Heirs of Musical Romania, a project that highlights Romanian musicians who rarely have the opportunity to perform on home stages. How did this project start?

Exactly this project is what I said before, that I saw the promotion of the station and what Radio România Muzical can do on two levels, the one for a very wide audience and the premium products. The Heirs of Musical Romania is a premium product of Radio România Muzical, in the sense that it brings great value and true value on stage and in addition, brings under an international spotlight those young musicians we should be proud of.

I don't know how many people realize how important these young musicians or fewer young people are, but my focus was on those under 40 who are the true ambassadors of Romania today.I strongly believe in this, that if Romania has a chance to assert itself worldwide, it is through those who perform in culture and especially in classical music, this universal language in which Romanians still excel. Unfortunately, there are not so many people performing internationally, the selection base has dropped enormously, but there are still such people and they must be supported, encouraged, and specially made to come home to perform as often as possible.

The project started in 2018, I thought of it as a mini piano festival through which Radio România Muzical would mark the centenary of Greater Romania. It was in October 2018 and then I started with pianists Florian Mitrea, Adela Liculescu, and Mara Dobrescu.I must point out that this project, like the others I have done, is funded from an external source, through an extraordinary sponsor, which was the Rotary Pipera Club, which also understood the importance of the existence of such a project. at this level, because what Radio România Muzical can do is not only with a national impact through, of course, the appearance at the Radio Hall, through live broadcasts, but it is with an international impact, through the fact that all these events were part of European Union Radio programs and have been a great promotional platform for these young musicians.

I will not repeat here all the names that appeared in the project at the Radio Hall, but they were and are, in fact, among the most important, of young musicians who perform today and of whom we are proud. In total, there have been 20 recitals and concerts so far.And concerts, because I thought of the project as some recital, but when the Romanian Chamber Orchestra appeared, conductor Cristian Mandea Măcelaru 2019, as a proposal to be taken under the hat of this project, obviously I said yes and I did everything that I was able to bring to the fore in this project, which was exactly what it was doing, was bringing in musicians from outside Romania who had not played here for a long time under the hat of a chamber orchestra together with musicians from Romania. Surely Cristian Măcelaru was also involved and no one knew when the Romania Chamber Orchestra was, that he would have this absolutely extraordinary rise, he was already the chief conductor of WDR Radiodifuziunea in Koln. Just then, those days, almost November 3rd, 2019, when that concert was at the Radio Hall with the Romanian Chamber Orchestra, their first in Bucharest, exactly in those days he would be announced as the next musical director of the National Orchestra of France.

I am glad that our sponsor also understood the importance of the existence of the scholarship, which was established in 2020, 4,000 euros, a unique indivisible prize for a single musician, to support his musical journey, not only a music competition, but also a project competition, not that they have to prove professionally where they are, but also to propose a project, to say what they want to use the 4,000 euros, in fact, and I'm glad that I gathered a jury that had the opportunity to offer additional prizes, meaning concerts and special recordings and the possibility of having records, and here, which means the Heirs of Musical Romania has already expanded a lot. It is also the main project with which Romania is presented at EBU, in terms of young performers and there is also within the European Radio Union a very important focus on young musicians because this is the role of Public Radio, to support the value and so supports when it needs support, that is when it needs to launch.


Like the Heirs of Musical Romania, another project dedicated to the centenary is Clasic.Radio, realized in partnership with the National University of Music in Bucharest, in which you involved students and master students of the institution.

We really wanted to do it and it was the right time for the centenary of Romania, to have an online space, where we have friendly portraits, so to speak, not musicological ones of the main Romanian composers and performers. It is a project in which I have been involved at the National University of Music in Bucharest and I thank all those who were involved, teachers, students, master students. It was an opportunity for us to get to know better those who study at the National University of Music in Bucharest, that is, I hope, those who are or will continue to be our colleagues. It was a school for us too.A few dozen texts came and I was three people from here inside Radio România Muzical, I read them, corrected them, and added audio files so that on December 1st, 2018, this project will appear online as well, which continued in the following years. We started with some portraits, obviously smaller than what could have been done then. In the meantime, he has gotten richer and I think that now, the main Romanian composers and performers can be found on this site.


Finally, I would like to mention the pandemic, a period in which you initiated the Pink Concerts series and in which the Facebook page of our station became a virtual scene. How did Radio România Muzical adapt to the pandemic?

I think that was one of the great trials of ours, of us both personally and professionally. Waking up overnight that everything is changing was a big challenge for me and the whole Radio România Musical team. I can't forget the day of March 8th, 2020, when a co-production of Radio România Muzical and SoNoRo was scheduled at Sala Radio, the first mărțișor recital performed together with the violinist Răzvan Popovici. Sarah Christian and Mara Dobrescu were also to take the stage. At 12.00, it was announced that restrictions were in place that day. It was not clear if it also affected the events of that day, the room was sold out. Only I know what I went through that, finally, at 17.00, that day, only two hours before we had all the necessary approvals, DSP, etc., so that the recital would be kept in the form it had been thought of.

But from the next day, everything changed. All concerts have been canceled. The same thing happened in the international arena. Of course, we all had this fear, what will happen, because in the end, it was about our lives and my concern was to find a balance between what was happening in the lives of my colleagues and between what was to remain Radio România Musical. We immediately started that campaign by which we invite all musicians who want to use our Facebook account or Radio România Musical website to promote themselves and to promote their recitals and concerts online. Then, even when we launched that campaign, it was almost March 16th, something like that, I said - Okay, the day of fasting is coming - we had everything ready, we will have to cancel absolutely everything and why not do a series of online recitals and indeed it was on March 24th, 12th or 16th musicians were involved singing together, in any case, about 12 spaces.Then we also learned how to make Facebook live, which button to press, how to hold the phone, and so on. It was one of the first events of its kind with online recitals, which then became a habit, unfortunately, but it was an extraordinary emulation so that in the end I also gave a gift to the musicians who made this effort and I m -I sat at the piano and sang to them, for them.

I put a Bach piece on my Facebook account and to show it to the others who don't know us very well, that all of us here at Radio România Musical are musicians, in the sense that we also studied classical music and the others all the instrumentalists we promote, from 5, 6, 7 years old. I played the piano when I was six years old and in addition, I studied classical singing from the age of 17 and yes, I still play the piano, as many of my colleagues play their instruments or sing in choirs or in other places that allow them to express this artistic side.Yes, we are musicians here and I think that matters a lot and I want it to stay that way because no matter what you say, professionalism is unbeatable and you can't do without proper studies.

Furthermore, what the pandemic meant was a moment for me that was emotional, when I was invited by the European Radio Union to give a presentation in May 2020, in which we would show everything we did during that period because there were also live online interviews and the project with George Enescu and from the 2020 anniversary and a project dedicated to children online. When we were only five called from all over Europe to present our experience as an example of good practice and I was the only one from Eastern Europe, I said yes, we all did a good job.

Then the situation relaxed a bit starting with May 15th, 2020, when we finally left the houses, no, we remember and then indeed, we had the initiative of these Pink Concerts that were performed by Radio România Music in partnership with Radio Orchestras and it was six weeks with two concerts a week, one for classical music with Beethoven and the other for jazz. I managed to schedule during these concerts the finalists of the first scholarship of the Heirs of Musical Romania and I finally managed, until everything was closed, so that the last, last event that we proposed to organize in 2020 to be done anyway, was related to Beethoven, who was the poor stepson with his birthday in this year 2020, but we managed to organize, not in Bucharest, where everything had already been canceled, but in Sibiu, for the Arcadia Quartet to sing a Beethoven recital and a work by Dan Dediu, inspired by the Beethoven we had commissioned for this anniversary.

Then things started to go back to normal.Already in 2021 we have become accustomed, no, to the pandemic and what it meant. We started to resume the international direct broadcasts and in general, what we set out to do I think was successful and what mattered the most is that the audience that discovered Radio România Musical through all these online projects, started in 2020, remained at radio and stayed with us. This can be seen in the audience. You know how it is, I titled my presentation at EBU held in 2020, When you have lemons, you learn to make lemonade. It's something my grandmother told me, who went through two world wars and communism, and that's what needed to be done. That's what I had, that's what I did, and I think we all need to learn from the bad things that happen to learn the good, to learn to move on, and to reinvent ourselves.I think that matters the most and in fact, this is what we all tried during this period at Radio România Muzical, to reinvent ourselves and it is a process that continues every day.

Each of us has adapted, he has done his best, we have tried as much as we can to avoid the disease, the pandemic, in general, we have worked in a way that allows us to feel good at work, at home, or working here, but always keeping in mind that beyond the microphonesome people need us and I am very grateful to those who listen to us every day because Radio România Muzical means a world of balance and peace that does not I find it elsewhere and I hope it will stay that way for the next 25 years or so because it is not possible without classical music, I think so, it is not possible and Romania I think has an extraordinary chance through musicians and through these projects that they develop, that you know are very well regarded internationally and place us in an elite that we really should be proud of.

Interview by Alexandra Scumpu
Translated by Georgiana-Carmen Rădulescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu