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A volcano that boils for music
On Wednesday, the 8th of December 2021, starting at 7 p.m., the Christmas Concert of the Romanian Youth Orchestra and the Prelude Choir took place in the grand hall of the Romanian Athaeneum (Ateneul Român). The event was especially significant since it represented the debut of young bandmaster Andrei Stănculescu, who performed on one of the most important scenes in the country at only 26 years old. The program consisted in Romanian and French traditional carols and The Christmas Oratory, op. 12 by Camille Saint-Saëns, interpreted by Diana Alexe (soprano), Ștefania Chițulescu (mezzosoprano), Andreea Iftimescu (contralto), Andrei Lazăr (tenor) and Jinxin Chen (baritone).
Andrei Stănculescu, who follows maestro Voicu Enăchescu to lead the prestigious choir "Prelude", showed a lot of musicality, intense experience, emotion and charisma. The concert started with Richard Oschanitzky's Two Secular Carols, enshrined in the ensemble's repertoire. "White flowers, apple blossoms" ("Florile dalbe, flori de măr") was beautifully delimited into visuals while the characters were strongly individualized and the dynamics were adequate. As well as that, the treble sounded louder than usual, but more supple. In "Who Makes to Find Out" ("Cine mări să d-aflară"), the epic character is even more poignant, the fairy tale-like or legend-like atmosphere and the agogic plans were skillfully illustrated.
"Son and Father from the Sky" ("Domnuleț și Domn din cer") by Gheorghe Cucu resembled an old song, symmetrical, due to the change of the order of the stanzas and the repetition of the beginning. "Traditional Carol" ("După datini colindăm"), composed by Alexandru Pașcanu ran smoothly, tenderly, and the intervention of the tenor party was carefully integrated in the sonority, giving an extra delicacy. "Little Jesus' Swing" ("Legănelul lui Iisus") by Valentin Teodorian was characterized by homogeneity, brought to the fore smooth meanders of sound, but the bridge between the two parts of the chorus were made out of a glissando that seemed a little too present on the soprano. The waves of shades followed one another imperceptibly in Paul Constantinescu's "Oh Great Miracle" ("Minune prea mare") from the Byzantine Christmas Oratorio, revealing a solemn and pious atmosphere alike.
By the end of the first part, the French Christmas Carols triptych offered the famous sonorities from "Le Roi des cieux", in which the nuances slide as easily as a pearl on a string, succeeding and modifying each other perfectly alongside "Noël Nouvelet" and "Cantique de Noël" by Adolphe Adam. These were blended together by piano interventions made by Mihai Murariu.
After the break, the Choir "Prelude" along with the Romanian Youth Orchestra met on the Athenaeum stage with soloists for the Christmas Oratorio op. 12 by Camille Saint-Saëns. The prelude to the work was lyrical, enchanting, inducing a floating atmosphere, as if detached from another world. The following recitatives revealed the tenor Andrei Lazăr - who pronounced well, sang in character, but his timbre was a bit light - alongside the alto Andreea Iftimescu. Currently based in Vienna, the soprano Diana Alexe presented herself on stage as a very experienced artist and delighted us with her full, fleshy voice, crystal clear treble, and with a transparent presence. The combination couldn't have gone unnoticed. Baritone Jinxin Chen performed with great vigor, determination, with very inspired placed accents. The bandmaster dominated the whole sound act, guiding the musicians with a confident hand, precise, efficient movements, without making his gesture an opportunity to stand out and letting the music speak for itself.
"Prelude" Choir's intervention sounded homogeneous, young choir-like. An admirable thing was how its parts in this oratorio were sung on the outside, respecting the standards imposed by the ensemble for almost 5 decades.
Mezzosoprano Ștefania Chițulescu neatly sang the "Expectans expectavi" area, her tone so warm. During the fifth part, the "Benedictus" duet between soprano and baritone was beautifully constructed, Jinxin Chen showing his skill in performing notes in a very low key. Diana Alexe impressed us with her bright, penetrating treble. The sixth part revealed a chorus capable of varied dynamics, including loud sounds. Andrei Stănculescu is firm while at the conductor's desk, proving sensitivity and balance, and the orchestra responds without hesitation to his requirements. The third entry of the seventh part was applauded by one of the spectators, who was joined by a few others. The last parts were dedicated to the ensembles, so that in the final quartet and quintet the soloists harmonized very well, they sang neatly and homogeneously, and the tenor Andrei Lazăr felt much more comfortable from a vocal point of view. Joy was felt both in the voices of the soloists and in the writing of Saint-Saëns. The "Prelude" choir concluded this festive work with a wide, majestic and fluid sound.
Andrei Stănculescu thanked the audience while still overwhelmed with emotions, and then he thanked the soloists, the choir and the orchestra; the spectators did not stop applauding even after minutes. For the encore, the artists prepared the famous carol "Such wonderful tidings!" ("O, ce veste minunata!"), in an arrangement by composer Alin Chelărescu. The violins start tenderly, are followed by the bass strings, and the air of the song is full of such mystery that it sounds archaic. The first stanza was sung by the soloists, the second was reserved for the choir, to which the bandmaster invited the public to participate. The last stanza was sung loudly by everyone. Because the atmosphere and energy in the room was completely different, this encore was interpreted once again. In the end, the audience surprised the conductor by singing "Happy Birthday!" since it was his birthday.
I think I took part in a historical moment. Bandmaster Andrei Stănculescu's debut on the Romanian Athenaeum stage received applause for minutes on the open stage. Determination, charisma, charm, musical sense and especially attitude make this artist a presence that is hard to forget and impossible to overlook. His professional career so far has proved this abundantly. He is a volcano that boils for music, one we will hear about more and more and in more important musical circumstances.
Translated by Liliana Popescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu