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Interview with conductor Cristian Mãcelaru, artistic director of the George Enescu International Festival and musical director of France National Orchestra

Tuesday, 23 May 2023 , ora 15.23

On Monday, May 15th, a press conference took place to announce the partnership between BRD - Groupe Societe Generale and the most important international cultural event organized in Romania, namely the "George Enescu" International Festival. Our colleague, Ioana Țintea, was also present at the event and had a conversation with conductor Cristian Mãcelaru, the artistic director of the Enescu Festival.

From your point of view, how important is the involvement of private entities in organizing the Enescu Festival?

It is very important because art has always been supported not only by public funding but also by private funding. The fact that we have partners who share the same ideas in the society we all live in and who wish to have cultural partners in order to have a greater impact is highly significant. Therefore, I am very pleased with this partnership which begins today, and I hope it sets an example for the entire private sector to get involved in transforming... because the private sector will benefit even more from a transformed society, a prosperous and better society. Therefore, it is not just about supporting a dream, but about supporting a reality for a better, richer, and deeper society.

What is the status of the preparations for this year's Enescu Festival?

The festival is already well scheduled. Most of the concerts are completely sold out. I know that tickets for many of the concerts we have are in high demand, but that's the reality. We want to have a concert hall that can help us present the concerts in such a way that everyone can hear equally well from any seat in the hall. That's why I hope and wish that the next festival will take place in a new venue, a redesigned and conceived space where the difference between tickets will not be an artistic one, but purely a visual one.

And for us, this year already represents the moment when we can't wait to hear the first notes, the first sounds that we will all discover together on August 27th.

What is your vision regarding the future of the George Enescu International Festival?

I continue to wish for the festival to remain this example in the world, a cultural exemplar that brings forth what is most beautiful and enriching in the world, here in Romania. In Bucharest, but also throughout Romania. Because it is a cultural event that can serve as an example for the entire world, showcasing what can happen when a country values culture, placing art on a national scale. It is a national effort. The Enescu Festival is not a simple endeavor; it is a significant effort, and that is why it is important to present this example to the world, as it also reflects what is in our souls.

I encounter so many people who love art, theater, and music in Romania, and I believe that we identify with this idea of showcasing and cherishing art. In the future, I want the Enescu Festival to further embody this idea of transforming our place in the world, transforming the way people perceive and look at Romania. The Enescu Festival has truly become synonymous with the idea of being Romanian.

How do you feel in the position of being the most prominent Romanian musician of the moment, leading the most important Romanian festival dedicated to classical music?

I have never thought of myself as the words you have expressed, but I always think of myself as an artist who tries to do everything with depth and the highest quality. I am glad to have this platform, such as the Enescu Festival, to share the music and art I create with as many people as possible. I try not to think about the importance I may have for myself, but rather focus on the immense work behind the creation and existence of this festival. When I think in this way, I immediately realize that, as Enescu himself said, 'Behind any artist, talent accounts for about 5%, while the rest is hard work'.

I would like us to shift our attention to Timișoara for a moment, with your permission. How did the National Orchestra of France receive the invitation to perform within the "Timișoara - European Capital of Culture" program?

They received it with great joy. Of course, Timișoara is also my hometown, and for the musicians in the orchestra, it was a beautiful thing to be able to come to my hometown. It is also artistically significant to contribute to the cultural life of this city, which is the European Capital of Culture this year. I can't wait to return home and show them what I do every day in France with the National Orchestra of France, which is one of the most important orchestras in the world. That's why I'm really looking forward to it; there are just a few days left until we have these concerts.

How would you describe the National Orchestra of France now, after almost 3 years of being at its helm?

It is an orchestra that has undergone significant transformation in the past 3 years. Firstly, many people retired during the pandemic, and several new positions were created. As a result, approximately 30-35% of the orchestra consists of musicians who joined in the last 3 years. That's why I feel very close to them because we started at the same time, and like any new team, we get to know each other on a personal level. We are becoming familiar with one another because on stage, the relationship between artists is very personal and profound. I am already beginning to know all the personal aspects, how a musician looks at me, how I respond to them... It is a very profound thing! And the fact that we are developing this relationship is a special event every time we collaborate.

Please provide us with details about the soloists for the two evenings and the chosen program!

On the first evening, we will have the extraordinary pianist David Fray as a soloist, who is one of the most acclaimed pianists of our time. He will be performing Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto. On the same evening, we wanted to bring a taste of music from Eastern Europe, so we will have Zoltán Kodály's Dances of Galánta, followed by Bizet's Arlésienne Suite, which represents our own music from the National Orchestra of France.

On the second evening, for the second concert, we will have Sarah Nemțanu as our soloist, who is the concertmaster of the orchestra and one of the most esteemed Romanian artists in the world. She is an extraordinary soloist. She will be performing two works for violin and orchestra by Saint-Saëns - Rondo Capriccioso and Havanaise. The rest of the program will consist of purely French compositions from the 20th century. In the 20th century, art and culture experienced an extraordinary renaissance in France, especially at the beginning of the century. Therefore, we will be performing two very important works from the early 20th century - the choreographic poem Jeux by Debussy and the ballet Daphnis et Chloé, specifically the two suites from Ravel's ballet.

What is the status of the project to record the complete symphonies of George Enescu with the National Orchestra of France for Deutsche Grammophon?

We have completed the recording of the first symphony. In June, we will be recording the Second Symphony. And then, in August, we will be recording the Third Symphony.

Interview by Ioana Țintea
Translated by Ioana Negrea,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu