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The 18th edition of the SoNoRo Festival is approaching and this week's guest on Perpetuum Mobile, violist Răzvan Popovici in dialogue with Gabriel Marica

Monday, 23 October 2023 , ora 10.35

My guest tonight is violist Răzvan Popovici. Good evening. Welcome back to the Radio Romania Muzical studio.

Good evening. Thank you for the invitation.

Dear listeners, you can follow us, not only on our frequencies, but also on the Radio România Muzical Facebook page, in audio-video format. Răzvan Popovici, before talking about the SoNoRo festival, whose 18th edition is approaching, I would like to know from you the impressions you have left after this year's Enescu Festival, a natural reference I say. The event is very important. It ended not a month ago, didn't it, and it brought to our stages important artists, not only from Romania but also from abroad, including you. You were on the stage of the Romanian Athenaeum, weren't you?

That's right. For any Romanian artist it is a great joy and an honour to play as a soloist at the Enescu Festival and as I said it was an unforgettable evening, I had the great joy to play Mozart's symphony concerto, the great symphony concerto for violin, viola and orchestra with the Bologna Theatre Orchestra and Ana Țifu, as violinist under Roberto Abbado and I was left with an extremely beautiful and intense and deep and personal memory of this concert, because I was received by the audience extremely warmly and vibrantly and I felt somehow that I was playing on my own ground. From that point of view it was a very intense and positive experience, of course.

A general impression of the artists who came here from abroad was that the Romanian audience was extraordinary. They received them in an exceptional way. I guess you also had a great time on the stage of the Romanian Athenaeum, having an empathetic audience, so to speak. Beyond this concert, I guess you have also highlighted other events at the Enescu Festival.

Of course. I've just heard that you'll have Istvan Vardai on live broadcast.

Tomorrow night it will be live from Helsinki itself.

It was one of my favorite concerts. Istvan conducted. He is a very good friend. He also played in the Enescu Octet and this performance that the Budapest Liszt Chamber Orchestra played, although the performance of the George Enescu Octet in the chamber orchestra version was absolutely splendid, vivid, accurate, fair and commensurate with the weight of the piece extremely well played. Otherwise, some symphonic concerts, of course, the final concert where Klaus Mekele and the Concertgebouw orchestra made that magic in the Sala Palatului, which can hardly be done in such a big hall and frankly, in the last part so Beethovenian, I cried quite a lot, I don't know, that's how the Enescu festival ended for me, extremely moving and intense.

Of course it was the Enescu Festival and here we are, the SoNoRo Festival, another constant of the Romanian musical autumns, I say, because we are reaching the 18th edition.

We are slowly, slowly approaching the 20th.

What can you tell us about this edition? Is it, if I understand correctly, therapeutic?

Actually, all SoNoRo editions are therapeutic, because they play creatively and playfully with music, culture, art for the benefit of the audience. Already our listeners probably know that this edition is titled SoNoRo - On the Couch, so we invite the audience on various couches of all kinds, primarily musical of course. Yes, a long festival awaits you, 10 days in Bucharest and a week in Cluj with lots of good music, lots of artists, an ingenious programme. Diana Ketler I think has brilliantly managed to put together a fantastic programme this time too. Together, I say, we have chosen some wonderful musicians, many of whom will be coming to Romania for the first time or performing for the first time at the SoNoRo festival. We will introduce other arts during the festival in this play on the couch. So, yes, you can only say I can't wait for the festival to start.

Usually SoNoRo scenes are, shall we say, unconventional. Do you have such unconventional scenes in this edition?

Of course we do. This year we are returning to the large museum of recent art on Spring Avenue where we will invite the audience to a treatment, a fairytale therapy, and at the end of this therapy through the bass where fairytale pieces by Janacek, Stravinsky, Grieg and so on will sound for sure, and at the end the audience is invited to walk with us or without us in the wonderful Picasso exhibition, which is just on display in the sea, in collaboration with the fantastic Musee Picasso in Paris. Then for the first time, I don't know if it's necessarily unusual, but it's a place where we're stepping for the first time, it's the Tinerimea Română, a place so important for the Romanian youth orchestra and a place I think ingeniously built, very interesting architecturally. On the first Sunday, we will invite the audience to a hypnosis therapy, so if the audience falls asleep, it will be a victory. At the end of course we will offer a coffee to wake them up from this induced reverie, and in the evening, the unusual place where we will perform is the very club Expirat, a place known for parties, dancing and good cocktails. We will, as last year, have some special cocktails. Last year it was Orient Expres, this year it will be On the Couch, but the thing I say, very nice is not only the space which is extremely offering for a classical music concert, unusual of course, but we will have the musicians on the couch. We will finally let ourselves be treated by the audience, basically, not just us treating the audience with good music and positive feelings and energy. All joking aside, we will sit on the couch and tell a bit of our adventures from all our phobias, fears, disasters, panics that meet us regularly, not quite every time during these careers of ours that involve a lot of travelling and a lot of adventures around the world and of course we will also play a surprise programme. We return to the Bragadiru Palace, which in the meantime is no longer an unusual place, but is an extremely beautiful place in the landscape of - let's say - good acoustic buildings in Bucharest. Another place exactly where we return, not because it is unusual, but because it has superb acoustics, is the Choral Temple on Sfânta Vineri Street, the great synagogue, a place that I personally love and where I have performed several times, including this year with the SoNoRo Conac tour. Then in Cluj we will have many unusual spaces starting with a freshly restored synagogue, speaking of synagogues, the Neolog one, then we will play in a coffee roastery, Meron, with the respective flavours, more than likely. We'll open the festival in Cluj in the local casino, the former casino, which is actually a multi-purpose space for all sorts of things where we'll invite the audience to say welcome from cleverly placed couches. We will play again in the attic of the famous Boema in Cluj, which is already a place we return to every year. Surely, the audience will be happy to hear us for the first time in the Lutheran church, where we are stepping for the first time, and Da Pino, also a beloved place in the city will be the place where we will hold our talks, SoNoRo talks, the sofa talks where we will have various personalities. In Bucharest and Cluj, of course.

Speaking of stages, on November 2nd, the day after Radio România will celebrate its 95th anniversary, you will be on the Radio stage. The SoNoRo Festival will be there. Please tell us a little bit about this programme, if you can tell us something about the Radio Hall.

Of course. The concert is called Ink of Melancholy. Jean Sibelius' splendid Malinconia will not be missing. We'll be playing with Mihaela Martin as primarius of Erwin Schulhoff's String Sextet. Diana Ketler will play this splendid Poulenc's Melancholy for piano solo, so various pieces inspired by a decadently melancholic European atmosphere from various corners, and after the break we will play George Enescu's first piano quartet, where we will have Boris Brovtsyn with Diana and me and Valentin Răduțiu on cello, in a performance we are all looking forward to. This Enescu quartet has both melancholy and sweetness and enthusiasm and passion and drama, so it's a little Enescu symphony written for piano quartet.

So, on November 12th the SoNoRo festival will come to an end. What's next for violist Răzvan Popovici?

Another month of fire, I say. Obviously after the festival I will go to Antwerp in Belgium, where I started teaching this autumn. I have a violin class at the Royal Conservatory there. After that I'm going on tour to Brazil, to Tiradentes, a splendid place, which every time I'm there makes me think I'm in a Transylvanian village, with the Catholic church in the centre and these little streets with houses, which in Transylvania have orchards, there the orchard is replaced by jungle, practically, and then there's a little tour in Vietnam where we'll play, you won't believe it, the Enescu Octet. The Vietnam premiere of George Enescu's Octet, with a Parisian team. I am the only Romanian.

ll be waiting for you in our studio to tell us what impression Enescu's music left on the Vietnamese.

Certainly, when I return in December, I'll be at your disposal for some Enescu-Vietnamese anecdotes.

Răzvan Popovici, I wish you much success with SoNoRo. May there be as much and deep SoNoRo relaxation for the audience of your events as possible. Good luck to you too in these exotic places you will go. We've got Vietnam and Brazil in mind, and really do ask you to come back to our studio and bring us your impressions from there.

Thank you very much. I'll be back with great pleasure.

Interview by Gabriel Marica
Translated by Bianca Daniela Penaru,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu