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A dialogue with Mrs. Augustina Sanda Constantinescu, founder and supporter of the “Young Talents” Festival in Râmnicu Valcea, about the beginnings and continuity.
I could say that the emotion characterizes this edition of the "Young Talents" Festival in RamnicuValcea, and I especially feel this emotion, since I have the opportunity to talk to you who know the whole story of the festival. You were among the founders of this unique event in Romania. How was the "Young Talents" Festival born?
The festival was born at the initiative of the Union of Composers at that time, respectively of Vasile Donose who was also the Editor-in-Chief of musical programs at the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Company, and several other musicians. They first went to Craiova and Targu Jiu, where things did not work out. But this was to our benefit, of Râmnicul, where at that time,at the destinies of culture was professor Vasile Roman, a personality with a great cultural openness and who immediately marched to this idea. The festival was based on a very generous idea, that of providing a stage without rivalries, without the rivalry of an award. It was thought of as a confrontation, in quotes, more of a collegiate exchange, both between the music schools in Romania, because teachers from all over the country met, as well as between the participants, of course.
The festival has remained to this day a chance for young people from various cities to play on a Philharmonic stage, some of them in the company of the orchestra.
Exactly. This basic idea, the main feature of the Festival, has been preserved, even if improvements have been made, with diplomas, with trophies, but still we were reluctant to put young people in a rivalry, as in well-known competitions.
Ramnicul was a fertile ground for this musical meeting because the Society "Friends of Music and Theatre" led by professor Irina Șațchi, who had a great role in the musical development of Râmnic, had already founded summer music courses in 1976. The president of the Society was Mr. Forascu from the City Hall, so including the management factors, the decision makers of the time, encouraged the idea of a festival. The summer courses had already prepared the ground, they were admirable, with great teachers, with exceptional musical personalities who were present at Râmnicu Valcea and worked in the summer with the children, just as they came from all over the country.
How was the selection of young people made? It turned out to be a very good selection because a lot of them then built important careers.
In terms of selection, a very special role was played by Alfred Hoffman who, together with a team that included other personalities such as Dumitru Avakian, Anca Florea but also other music critics, beat the country long and wide, before the "Young Telent" Festival and made the selection. In this way, the Festival had a very high level from the start, and the schools in the country lived the event to the fullest
this. It was an event, to be the children selected by master Alfred Hoffman who was very demanding. I would say that here, the Festival in time has lost, because I do not know if in Romania today, there is still a school of music critics, but also those who exist, I do not think they are considering these budding young people, young learners. I also see chronicles and sometimes a record, but only about young people who have already reached a level, especially internationally. Or then, this was very taken very seriously, there were 7 or 8 music critics coming and they, they wrote down, and at the end of the festival, they were doing various guidelines and observations to the young people, and they were writing about them in the newspapers of the time. Rodica Sava and then for a while Veronica Zbarcea, were doing on the Radio those shows in which young people were promoted. It was also a school for teachers, because these observations made to young people were also picked up by teachers. Among those who passed by here were Angela Burlacu, Ruxandra Donose, Viniciu Moroianu and many others, almost all those who today are at an artistic maturity but also in age. All of them went to the "Young Talents" Festival in Valcea and many of them came to classes.
Certainly, the possibility of being selected by a jury of personalities stimulated young people. But what did this festival mean to the public at the time?
For the audience in Valcani it meant, first of all, an act of musical education, with ups and downs, because there were also moments when there was a less numerous audience in the hall, but it was also a continuity, because in Râmnicu Valcea there was a popular operetta theater, where "CraiNou" and many others were sung. So the audience was used to the phenomenon of cult music, so to speak, and although this niche of symphonic music was narrower, there was still an audience that then favored the emergence of the Philharmonic. And the audience that comes to the Philharmonic today is getting younger and younger, which I am very happy about. Sure, despite the fact that in elementary schools there is no more music.
The audience thus had the opportunity to listen to a very diverse repertoire and actually get to know new works. That has probably been perpetuated to this day.
Of course, especially since at the beginning of young talents, those who presented the concerts were the music critics. References were made to the eras, to the style, to the history of the play, and in this way a very direct communication was created between the audience and these music critics who were viewed with great respect. They were fulfilling their educational mission with great honor.
Basically, an oasis of culture had been created here at Ramnicu Valcea. Was Romanian music promoted as well?
Yes, it was promoted. Sometimes there were teachers who gave explanations and Romanian works were included in the students' repertoire. Enescu was also sung more in the famous exams at the Conservatory where you know there were two, three places, and the children's repertoire was extremely difficult and sometimes burdensome. There were professors with exceptional performances, Ludmila Popisteanu, Valeriu Rogacev, later Stela Drăgulin and so on. It was an exceptional emulation, I would say in the current spirit, some culture workshops for the public here.
How could one compare in a few words what was then to what is happening now?
Then at the Festival there was a kind of rigidity printed by the teachers, who wanted to give a reply to the "Golden Lyra" contest in Suceava, a very tough contest. That's why the teachers somehow kept this offensive spirit. The presence of critics, again, required a high level of exigency. But there were very special things going on. There have been a few memorable editions. Now, the emotion that is happening is also due to the fact that there are fewer and fewer in the country, with monetary participations, the meetings between young people, from the second grade to high school and college. There was of course this fracture of Covid and I met children who confessed their emotion and the fact that they felt a release and an immense joy to come and sing again. But the emotion is always beneficial and we hope to be a guarantee in the continuity of the Festival.
Translated by Beatrice-Andreea Porumb,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu