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About the Old Music Festival from Bucharest with Laurențiu Constantin, the director of the event, Gabriel Marica's guest at Perpetuum Mobile

Monday, 6 November 2023 , ora 11.14

My guest this evening is Laurentiu Constantin, director of the Bucharest Old Music Festival. Good evening! Welcome!

Good evening! Well I found you and thanks for the invitation!

Laurențiu Constantin, before talking about the festival that starts this week and, as far as I know, with this edition celebrates its coming of age, I want to refer a little to the not-too-distant past, namely the Enescu Festival, where you and, more precisely, the Sempre Ensemble, had two events with the music of Vivaldi and Rameau. How were these events received by the public?

We had full halls. That's how it was received.

It's very important!

Yes, I like to think that's the normalcy we aspire to. We had a new audience. We have our audience - and Raluca Enea and the Sempre Old Music Ensemble - but there was another audience, an Enescu Festival audience, and that made us very happy because we know ours, but we didn't know them…a very attentive audience, an educated audience, an audience that stayed afterwards to talk about old and beautiful music. And so, a very healthy fervor and warmth. For both musicians and organizers, these people remind you why you do what you do.

This means that if the Enescu Festival was the "testing" of the public, here comes the Old Music Festival from Bucharest, which has a tradition, and I know that you have prepared some emotions for all of us this year, right?

Yes. Our theme is Affetti. It's about affects. There is also a theory of affects, which flourished in the late Renaissance and the musical Baroque, especially the Italian one, a theory which essentially says that all states, feelings, affects, emotions can be transposed visually or auditorily in art. This is how whole musical genres appeared, such as the so-called character music of the French Baroque. And in addition to this root, legitimate in the history of old music, we are talking about the fact that we all notice in recent years this cascade of emotions that affect us in one way or another. If we follow public discourse, or tempers, or the way people express themselves, we notice that these affects and the way we experience them - sometimes very intensely, perhaps intensely unhealthy in the public space, especially - is something that occupies us much more than in other historical periods whole pieces of life. Pandemics, wars, evils of all kinds. So we noticed around us this noise and this emotion even more, and I also think that we fractured slightly during these periods of the last 3, 4, 5 years, as if the paths between people were broken more than in other periods.

And you try to restore these paths through old music, through this event, through what you have proposed in this festival?

That's what we're trying, and based on the reaction of the public over the last 18 years, I'd say that we're partially succeeding. We are not primarily concerned with musical archaeology, we are concerned with the freshness, vivacity, fervor of this phenomenon. Besides, our slogan, which is also our credo, is "Discover the novelty of old music!". Early music, especially baroque music - the repertoires on the stage of our festival are mostly baroque repertoires - is absolutely sparkling and we believe that it will be the same in a few hundred years from now, as we are already around 300 years of Johann Sebastian Bach.

This festival starts on November 2nd. Could you please tell us what guests you have in this edition?

We have 10 concerts, mostly baroque music. We start with Bach and end with Savall. The closing concert is with Alexander von Heißen, the Goldberg Variations - a very rarely performed repertoire, one of the three masterpieces of Bach, a repertoire of great virtuosity and great depth (a reason why it is not easy to approach. Alexander von Heißen is a still young harpsichordist, winner of the First Prize in Leipzig, a rising star, in 5-10 years, for sure, we will find him in the elite of all European festivals.

I would also point out an absolutely delightful project from our point of view, which the Sempre baroque music ensemble is building together with the violinist Mira Glodeanu - a Romanian who has been living in Paris and Brussels for about 30 years, who has an extraordinary career; is among the world's leading baroque violinists at the moment. Together they will build the show "Soli &Tutti".

This Saturday, November 4th, the second concert, Emilio Vallerotonda and the trio I Bassifondi - a concert with the music of the eternal citadel of the 1600s. Previews from everyday life, nothing pretentious, nothing from the papal court, nothing from the court of the nobles, but rather these musics of the Roman daily life.

I would also point out the presence, for the first time in our festival, of MartynaPastuszka and a Polish baroque music ensemble, {oh!}.

It would take me too much time to list them all, so I will only mention a few, and I tempt you to discover the rest in the program and in the concert halls.

The festival ends on December 5th, here, in your home, in Sala Radio, with a concert by Jordi Savall and the Hesperion XXI Ensemble in the form of quintet, with Folia &Canarios - in terrier and worldly language you could say that it's a hit program, but it's that kind of hit that only Savall knows how to prepare on stage.

You mentioned Sala Radio. Where will the other concerts take place?

We have 6 concerts in the National Art Museum of Romania, at the Royal Dining Room, where the opening is, and then at the Auditorium Hall. We have the joy of being consistent and serious, solid partners with the National Art Museum, which, beyond its known vocation, has become an extraordinary cultural hub of the capital. Then we have 2 concerts at Sala Radio and we have a concert of Byzantine music with Filoteu Monahul and a choir of Byzantine music from Iași in the Church of St. John the Russian in Bucharest.

Here, then, these are the "shrines" where these concerts will take place. I would also like to ask you, Laurențiu, because I know that you are a member of REMA (European Early Music Network) and because you are in contact with genre events in Europe and beyond, how is the Romanian public that loves old music? Can it be compared to that of European countries?

I think I have listened to hundreds of concerts in Europe, by virtue of what I do, and I can say that the Romanian early music audience has its own personality. I'm not being subjective when I say it's warm, it's very warm. I have seen exceptional audiences, but very canonical and decent, and everything as should be. Ours have a fervor, a joy and a naturalness... in the last few years - that means 8-9 years, compared to when we started - the audience has started... you know, when you go into a church, although we do loud conversation in front of the church, you talk in whispers...... They started to give this respect to the concert hall and to the artistic act. There is a certain category of the public, the so-called hard core, of connoisseurs, whom we have known for many years because they come and return, but there are many who approach even if they do not know much about what is going on there, but live the joy of music and we strive through musicological materials, concert programs and what else we make available online to make good propaganda for old music. This audience has also learned the customs and those elements of consideration towards the artists and the artistic act - such as not applauding between parts, let's say. Not applauding between parties is not someone's fad, they are customs that have several meanings. The first is not to break the flow of the act. . A miracle happens before your eyes, in front of your ears... and then, in the music we make, these applauses should only be at the end of the piece. In other parts like the classical Italian bel canto, there, especially in Italy and today very often the opera scenes are interrupted by the audience's enthusiasm for an interpretation of I don't know which tenor or I don't know what brilliant acute they will hear there.

Yes, we also take into account the fact that pause is, after all, expression, right? The music flows in silence too. And silence is an expression.

Laurențiu, I thank you for your presence in the studio. Good luck with this edition! And I hope that this edition of the Old Music Festival from Bucharest will cause as much positive emotion as possible to the audience that will be present in the hall.

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you in the music halls!

Interview by Gabriel Marica
Translated by Ioana Andreea Radu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu