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News from Vancouver: the Pianist Bogdan Dulu and the NOVO Ensemble

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 , ora 11.00

I'm certain that Romanian music lovers remember the child-prodigy Bogdan Dulu who, after only five years of piano studies, made his debut, at 12, as a soloist with the Philharmonic Orchestra in Ploiești. They also remember him as an adolescent and student of the University of Music Bucharest - studying with Professors Ana Pitiș and Sandu Sandrin - who began to win important national and international competitions, starting with the Lory Walfish Piano Contest in 2001 and continuing with the Yamaha Award (2005), the Second Prize in the Liszt-Bartok Contest (Sophia, 2006), the Second Prize and Special Award in the International Piano Competition William Garrison (Baltimore, 2007) and the First Prize in the Seattle International Piano Competition (2011).

He was a darling of the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Company, the institution who recognized his potential and promoted him by means of concerts and studio recordings - and here the credit should be given to the regretted Rodica Sava. Bogdan Dulu is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts degree candidate at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, under the supervision of Professor Jane Cook, one of the greatest pianists and professors in Canada. Besides working to obtain this degree, Bogdan Dulu is an assistant professor at the same University and tirelessly gives concerts in Canada and the United States, at the same time participating in important piano competitions. For example, talking about last year alone, he was a semi-finalist in two such competitions: the 24th edition of the International Piano Competition in New Orleans and the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition in New York.

On the evening of 8th March, 2013 - dedicated to Woman's Day - I had the pleasure of listening to Bogdan Dulu again at Alliance Française, in Vancouver, in a recital with the local NOVO Ensemble, composed of the flautist Laura Vanek and the cellist Marina Hasselberg. The three young people interpreted in a skilful and fresh manner an attractive chamber music programme, mainly consisting of works signed by the prolific Czech composer in the first part of the 20th century, Bohuslav Martinù, namely the Sonata for Flute and Piano (1956), Variations on a Slovak Folk Song for Cello and Piano (1959), fragments of Miniature Suite for Cello and Piano (1931) and the Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano (1944).

In Martinù's Sonata for Flute and Piano, a fusion of Neo-classical and Neo-romantic elements, combined with some modern, dissonant harmonies, the ability of the flautist Laura Vanek and of the pianist Bogdan Dulu to emphasize its variety of expressions - from the cheerful tone to the romantic touch and the impressionist-like contemplation - was perfectly visible. Besides the beauty of the tones and of the flute's musical phrases, one could notice the incredible flexibility of the piano interpretation, ranging from barely-discernible sonorities to romantic vigorous sounds, as well as to moments of reflection, bearing the mark of the impressionism. The musical dialogue, perfectly performed, was also visible in the Variations on a Slovak Folk Song - the intensity of the lyrical expression, captured by the cellist Marina Hasselberg and the pathos with which the two interpreters rendered the main motif made us think of the Romanian lament. The intensity of the finale left no doubt regarding the fact that the fantasy with which Bogdan Dulu rendered the richness of the piano score and the passion of the ending are those of a mature and refined concerto pianist.

Disregarding the fragments of the charming, but not necessarily profound Miniature Suite for Cello and Piano, a special mention should be made with regard to the humour and expressive fantasy with which the flautist Laura Vanek, the cellist Marina Hasselberg and the pianist Bogdan Dulu conveyed the composer's intention of parodying the opera style in the last work of the recital: Martinù's Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano. Through perfect coordination - although they had only worked together on two other occasions - the three interpreters delighted their audience with their ease in moving from the cheerful to the serious tone, from bright and deliberately-superficial phrases to intensely-lyric ones, ended in an emphatic manner, typical of Rossini.

I deliberately left for the end the Work for Flute, Cello and Piano of the contemporary Canadian composer Michael Conway Baker - typical for the expressive lyric style, enriched with Neo-classical and Neo-romantic elements of this reputed composer -, and the work Carillon Nocturne No. 7 from Enescu's Pièces impromptues op. 18 - the true gem of this musical evening, applauded by the audience for a long time. As Bogdan Dulu emphasized in his short presentation, the visionary Enescu anticipated by almost half a century the current of the spectral music that originated in the French music at the end of the 70s. The audience was both astonished and charmed by the atmosphere of this Enescu work, whose harmony is based on the upper partials of the sounds that convey - with unique delicacy - the complex sonorities of the bells of various sizes. The composer Pascal Bentoiu wrote in his book, Enescu's Masterpieces, that this piece is 'impossible to compare to any other.' (Ed. Muzicală 1984, p. 552)

Bogdan Dulu's interpretation was also unique in a way, with a wonderful velvety touch and a pedal technique that underlined the diamantine polish of the harmony. It is not a coincidence that the audience left the hall with the title of this work on their lips.

During the 8th March recital, a visibly-moved Bogdan Dulu told the audience about his involvement in a very ambitious project - the first edition of an opera festival with humanitarian purpose, that will bring together artists from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia and which will take place in Africa, in April 2013. Let's wish him luck!

I'll use this opportunity to wish all the best and professional success to my former colleagues at Radio Romania Music, whom I dearly miss and whom I respect for their dedication and high professionalism.

Ileana Ursu (correspondence from Vancouver, Canada)
Translated by Mihaela Olinescu and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, Bucharest University