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Guests of the week at Perpetuum Mobile, Monica Isăcescu and Stefan Costache, in dialogue with Gabriel Marica

Tuesday, 23 May 2023 , ora 15.19

Today I have two guests and it is my pleasure to introduce them. They are our colleagues, Monica Isăcescu and Ștefan Costache. Welcome back to this studio! I guess you feel at home.

Stefan Costache: Absolutely! Better than home. Thank you for the invitation.

I was saying that it is a pleasure to have you by my side because, firstly, we have been colleagues for quite a few years and, secondly, because I want to congratulate you on the award given by the AFCN (Administration of the National Cultural Fund). Congratulations, Monica! Congratulations, Stefan!

Monica Isăcescu: Thank you very much.

This award is given for cultural-musical projects, in your case, and you have been working on musical projects for a long time. Since 2010, if I'm not mistaken.

Ștefan Costache: Yes, then we started with Lipatti Days, a festival.

And what was it like then? how is it now?

Monica Isăcescu: I gained experience. From each project I learned something new. So of course our main subject in the early years was Dinu Lipatti. We have done many things related to the personality of this great pianist and composer, starting with the two Lipatti Days festivals, continuing with a trilingual site (Romanian, English and French) - a very useful site if we think about how many views there are from outside the borders Romania, Lipatti symposia, musicology symposia and Lipatti correspondence volumes...

Ștefan Costache: Two volumes of almost a thousand pages.

Monica Isăcescu: So, these were our projects.

About how many have you made since 2010? It's almost 13 years, right?

Ștefan Costache: ...13 with luck!

This year was lucky, right?

Monica Isăcescu: Absolutely! It came with two awards, so we can say that we were really lucky.

Out of how many projects you have done so far, which is the dearest, closest to your heart, if you have any, or is each project special in its way?

Monica Isăcescu: Obviously, when you get involved in a project, that one is closest to your soul. Each of them, when I started it, I started it with my soul and, therefore, it wasn't a coincidence or I know what else. I made them because I felt this need. I felt they were justified in the Romanian cultural context, as were the Lipatti projects. We continued with the Musicians' Houses project, which we talked about here at Perpetuum. There have been other adjacent projects, and now…

I find this Houses of Musicians project very interesting because it opens a gate, a path to cultural tourism, which unfortunately is very timidly opened in our country.

Monica Isăcescu: That's what I thought. Apart from the Musicians' Houses website, where you can find articles about the houses where important musicians of Bucharest and those from Timiș county lived, now, you can find biographies of these musicians, there is also a map implemented in google maps, on which anyone can use and go for a walk around Bucharest in search of these houses. Last year, we also added illustrated maps made by Ana Bănică, a young and very talented artist, to this online part. So maps also exist in a physical format; were distributed free through bookstores. So that's what we're trying to do, to encourage cultural-musical tourism.

The award-winning project a few days ago had Radio România Muzical as its partner. Let's remind listeners what this is about.

Ștefan Costache: To this question, which is your favorite project, rock stars answer "The most recent!", obviously. But, in this case, the answer is somewhat nuanced, because it was about something very special, the lied - a very niche area of classical music. Not only is it chamber music, but it is also music for voice and piano. And not only is it lied, it is about modern and contemporary lies; starting with Enescu and reaching Myriam Marbe and Violeta Dinescu. Including Ana Giurgiu-Bondue signed work from this CD, which includes 19 works, and 40 minutes of music. But I started from the idea, as Sting thought, for example, when a few years ago he came to Romania with a project of songs by Purcell which he said were the pop hits of the 17th century (he sang with Edin Karamazov on the lute)... and proved then that a song is the most direct form of musical address. That was also our premise. And, starting from this question mark, whether we will succeed or not, here is that, gradually, the project was validated starting with the fact that it received funding from the AFCN, it materialized through a CD, which is no small thing. It was taken from scratch, in one week 19 works were recorded, and here the colleagues from Radio Romania who took care of the actual recording part - Lucian Zbarcea, Dan Corjos - deserve thanks. And then there was the series of recitals which basically mattered very, very much, apart from the international distribution of this album, because the award is called "International Cultural Cooperation". So, here are the reasons why it is a very dear project.

Monica Isăcescu: I would like to point out a few things about this international cultural cooperation. In the foreground of the project were obviously the two musicians - soprano Laura Tătulescu and pianist and composer Ana Giurgiu-Bondue. Both have international careers. We know about Laura Tătulescu, her collaboration with the director Woody Allen in America, for the show Gianni Schicchi, remained memorable. So here we are talking about an artist of some scope. So is Ana Giurgiu-Bondue, who is based in France and has had many successes both as a composer and pianist. Obviously their names have opened many paths and this project has benefited from a certain openness from the partners in France and Germany.

For example, the "Sophie Drinker" Institute in Bremen offered for the first time access to the manuscripts of Myriam Marbe's song, which were, in this way, recorded for the first time and, here, appeared on disc.

The University of Oldenburg included the recital of the two musicians in their highly successful series, "Concerts in Dialogue". Then, another foundation from Germany, "Mariann-Steegmann", offered us a grant to carry out the musicological research that I was involved in and the result of which can be found in the CD booklet. I had a lot to research about the theme that united all the works that Ștefan talked about, namely the idea of silence translated into music. We usually talk about silence=pause. Well, no, it wasn't about that, it was about the way Romanian composers invested silence with certain poetic meanings, with certain musical meanings. Because not all silences are the same, you can make a real dictionary of silences, and... that's what we tried to do by including on this disc different forms that silence takes when it is surrounded by sounds.

I would like to enter a little bit into the kitchen of project production and ask you how difficult or how easy it is to make a cultural project in Romania today?

Monica Isăcescu: I think it is a job in itself. I mean, it's a learning job.

What qualities do you need to have in order to put a project on the page and then put it into practice?

Monica Isăcescu: There is a kind of management, obviously. We are talking about cultural management, we are talking about creating a team. I've said it many times and I'll say it again, I think the most important thing is to have the right team. No one can succeed alone, no matter how talented and specialized they are. We have an excellent team of professionals. Some of them you know, are our colleagues here at Radio România Muzical. If you allow me, I will remind him. It is about Larisa Clempuș, Andreea Kiseleff, and Ioana Marghita; they are our colleagues who deal with the musicology part... Petre Fugaciu. So you have to form a team. And this team is not formed easily, it is not formed now and then, but has been welded for years and years, from 2010 to this moment.

Then, of course, you always have to be prepared for the difficulties that a cultural project poses. Financial problems are not always the worst. For example, we had to go through the pandemic and we also organized cultural projects during that period. You always have to reinvent yourself, always find solutions...

Ștefan Costache: And you always run into situations that you have never encountered before, such as the technical part of obtaining the authorization of a CD, for example... how do you relate to the people who print that CD... do you deal with some situations you have never encountered before and from which you learn a lot.

Obviously, you also gain experience. And since we're talking about experience, I suspect you don't stop there. Do you continue to do other projects? Can you tell us something about your plans?

Monica Isăcescu: What I can say is that this award that the Administration of the National Cultural Fund offered us is an absolute boost. However, we are talking about an institution that is the main public financier of cultural offers. I was happy with this award. I can't say we didn't want him, but...

Ștefan Costache: It is also worth noting that, from a statistical point of view, musical projects are a radical minority in the awards.

Monica Isăcescu: Yes, out of 11 awards, only 2 were for the music area, one being ours. The jury was made up of independent artists who excelled in their fields. They are those who have won AFCN awards in the previous year. So the fact that they believed in us...

So maybe next year there will be other music projects, given that you will be on the jury, right?

Monica Isăcescu: Let's see what the AFCN will decide. But surely this encourages you, makes you believe that you have something to say, something coherent, something consistent. It is perhaps the compliment that pleased us the most - the fact that we were told that we are doing consistent projects. So sure! We have ideas, some are already gone, and there are many things to do, but time is also limited so, for now, Gabi, allow us to keep to ourselves what we want to do in the next period and promise us that you invite us to tell you more next time.

Not only when you take awards, but also when you launch a project. I promise I will invite you. Monica, Ștefan, I congratulate you on this AFCN award and I wish you to have the necessary energy and inspiration to do other interesting projects!

Interview by Gabriel Marica
Translated by Georgiana-Carmen Rădulescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu