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“Beautiful Minds” - Interview with violist Răzvan Popovici, executive director of the Sonoro Festival (II)

Monday, 6 March 2023 , ora 10.30

From the time you left the country until the time you returned for SoNoRo, did you keep in touch with Bucharest, with Romania, with colleagues from the country?

With colleagues no, with Romania yes, through family, grandparents, great-grandparents.The fact that my great-grandmother died at the beginning of 2000, so yes, of course yes, but we didn't have a lot of contacts, because those were the formative years when we had started to tour with the German Youth Orchestra, BayerischenRundfunksOrchestra fromMunchen and had also startedchamber music concerts, summer courses. Here I had the joy and luck of having my parents by my side who kept sending us to all kinds of courses throughout Europe and practically, the return to Romania was in 2005, when we also met for that first interview and when I started the SoNoRo adventure.

Here we are again at the SoNoRo Festival. To what extent were you prepared in 2005 to become a real project manager? Did the courses you took in Germany and then in Salzburg prepare you for this moment, or is it simply an innate talent, because it is clear that you are made for this. How did things happen?

I was not prepared at all. It was the learning by doing. After that there was an enthusiasm that had no limit, I knew I wanted to do this thing and after that, intuitively, I made the right decisions. I haveand I could make mistakes during the first years, but I made mistakes and learned, I corrected my mistakes, I learned, I didn't keep repeating them.

So the musician can be an organizer as well. Have you ever felt the need for support in this sense, another person to take care of the organizational affairs?

We have a team, I mean I'm not alone. With Diana Ketler we made an excellent team, because we are very complementary in terms of vision, in terms of artistic planning input, in choosing themes for the festival and in the way we connect them. It is very much anchored in literature, painting, photography. We like architecture! Plus we both wanted this overall quality of the festival to be the most important thing at each edition. After that obviously I had few, but good people by my side, who did a lot of work. Ok, you set the tone, you take care of the overview, you do a lot of things. Obviously, with patience, I also learned how to delegate, that it's normal that everything has to be the way I would do it, but you can't do everything, especially at the scale of the festivalfrom now which is actually a cultural platform and yes, I think these ingredients and the team have made things move forward. Not every musician can do it, because if you want to play well in the future, you must always be prepared, and for that there is study time. and to organize a festival, obviously it's a job from morning to night, more or less and all year round, but if you're quick, if you're organized and if you know how to interrupt your thoughts to organize, to have a button that takes them away ..., but you have to be able to do that. That's why not many can sing Mozart! Because he has to change his mood, feeling, way of acting so quickly, from sadness to happiness. In Mozart it is a matter of not even a measure, it may be in two notes. This quickness, I say, in action, helps you to be able to do both. You have to know how to say stop at some point! You go on stage and what do you do? Ok, well organized festival and the director sings badly. We know, there are many examples of people who can organize very well, but at some point organizing takes too much place in the artist's life and that is dangerous. You have to learn to discern, feel exactly what the limit is and be honest with yourself.

I'm absolutely convinced that the success of the SoNoRo Festival is a model for many young people who might want to go down this road of organizing events, and I'd be curious to find out how you managed at the beginning, to convince your partners, sponsors to come with you. You were a young man, almost unknown in Romania. What were your arguments? What did you say when you were in front of a potential sponsor or partner? How did you convince them?

I was telling them very briefly, because at a meeting like this you don't have much time, you only have a few minutes. I think the most important thing was always the preliminary discussion, that is, beforeyou talk about partnership, you talk for half an hour, maybe an hour, maybe 25 minutes about other things, for example, about Enescu, Beethoven, about architecture, a horse or a boat, you have to be able to take a conversation to a bery high level with very important people and then I was alsoenthusiastic, so enthusiastic I think. I prepared some very nice materials, which somehow showed how this initiative can be. someone who gives you credit in the beginning is awesome because usuallyI say no, we're not interested, but if you have the chance to go there, then you have to play your cards right, as a great Romanian billionaire said -"It's harder to raise 10,000 euros than 10 millioneuro", and he is right. At the beginning, for a festival that starts from scratch, 10,000 euros is like 10millions for a company that needs an investor and it's much simpler. So yes, there were a few ingredients and I think the force of persuasion is the biggest and in addition to believe very sincerelyin this thing and somehow manage to capture their attention, because you see that money is everywhere. The problem is how you get that man to support a music festival and not a party. Because we know that companies, banks give twice as much for a party than they support a festival. the important thing is to say OK, give three quarters to this and one quarter to the thing that also helps the community todevelop. what was good was that from year to year we increased the number of partners a little, but those who were from the beginning, almost all of them are still here, in the 18thedition, which I say speaks of continuity and the quality of the initiative.

Interview by Monica Isăcescu
Translated by Beatrice Porumb,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu