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Guest of the week at Perpetuum Mobile - the conductor of the Radio Academic Choir, Ciprian Țuțu, in dialogue with Gabriel Marica

Monday, 1 April 2024 , ora 10.40

My guest for tonight is the conductor Ciprian Țuțu, who is the leader of the Radio Academic Choir - considered one of the most long-lasting bands in Romania. We're discussing a choir which mainly operates as a vocal-symphony band.

Good evening! Welcome to out studio!

Good evening and thank you for inviting me!

We're starting off with this anniversary - 84 years of continuous activity for the Radio Academic Choir, founded in 1940 by the conductor and composer, Ioan Croitoru. The Radio Academic Choir has had many leaders since its inception, such as Dumitru D. Botez, Gheorghe Danga, Constantin Petrovici, Emanuel Elenescu, Alexandru Șumski, Carol Litvin, Aurel Grigoraș, Dan Mihai Goia... and, you yourself have been its conductor since 2016.

How did you feel when they passed the gauntlet to you, after it was passed along so many famous names within the Choir's history?

It was like a blessing for me. It was a fantastic feeling. It has been such an eye-opening experience - the fact that I left Brașov, where I was a teacher and a conductor for the opera choir, and I stepped into the cultural centre of Romania - Bucharest, and, more importantly, I stepped onto the concert podium belonging to an institution with such rich history. Moreover, I reached the conducting desk of an absolutely delightful band. There have been some months - I remember - in the beginning, full of wonder, emotion, when I received (and I still receive) support and patience from my colleagues. This partnership is still working, praise the Lord, and I believe that together we will accomplish beautiful projects. I remember that, within the first weeks, each rehearsal would end up in rounds of applause, with such a warm attitude coming from my new colleagues, a thing which made me feel a fantastic pull towards going and working towards a new beginning for me.

You came, as you said, from Brașov. You took an exam. You wished to work with this instrument. Is this instrument, the Radio Academic Choir, the one you have been expecting to work with? Or did it grow out to be like that?

Definitely. It's an instrument with absolutely fantastic potential. I was coming from the world of the opera. With all respect and appreciation for my folks from Brașov, the Brașov Opera is a fantastic institution and I have had so many wonderful experiences for four seasons, but this idea of an opera choir, came for me as a challenge and made me livelier. There is also the other side of the coin, the fact that there is this boundary represented by the fact that some kind of repetitiveness may arise, or at least, adapting to an environment, somewhat, confined, an opera repertoire, may prove challenging. Moreover, the openness itself the Radio Academic Choir has,represents a special and particular thing. This openness comes from approaching all music genres, all music styles, starting with acapella and going even to the vocal-symphony, plus this side that I was talking about earlier, of recordings. It's a given that this thing can only excite you even more. It's the instrument I always wished I had, which makes me feel, again, blessed, to be able to perform with it.

And I believe that we can also add in the choir's "book of records"the fact that this band is, I believe, the only one in the country that has the most recordings in its 84 years of activity and, naturally, most of them can be found in the Radio's tape library.

I invited you here, this evening, for the fact that you are preparing a special event. On Thursday, 28th of March - a special concert. The poster says "French music". How did you end up organising such an event?

As I have been saying, I believe that in the past years, there has been some sort of duty developing amongthe management of bands, in general. It's not a trend, this idea of an anniversary, of commemorating different personalities from the history of music. Praise the Lord, we can easily find iconic figures from old times and more recent ones who heavily contributed to the history of music, including choir music.

At the end of last year, we had the Callas Gala - 100. At the end of winter, in February, we had the Puccini Gala - 100. And so, this year we are celebrating the Faure centenary. This was just a small push. I considered French music to be so special that it deserves to have its area expanded. I confess that I have kept this concept of round anniversaries, of homages with round figures, but, at the same time, I tried to cover many styles or music periods. And then, while searching by following this principle, I reached a more consistent selection of ten composers, starting with Guillaume Du Fay, the one considered one of the best early Renaissance composers, going to - of course, the Preclassic Period with Charpentier or Rameau - at Berlioz, another iconic figure of French music history. And here, of course, we are going to be performing a piece. Generally, this area of choral works, when it comes to Berlioz (I am not talking about the vocal-symphony repertoire) is rarely tackled with. In the Romantic Period or Post-Romantic Period, we can find Faure and even a lesser-known figure, even not usually performed from a choral perspective, Reynaldo Hahn (a native Venezuelan, later adopted as a French culture icon). Generally, we find this composer name through the recitals of the canto colleagues, but rarely within choir music of the 20th Century. And, lastly, but not least, we are going to have two names that are very important for the choir music of the 20th Century: Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc. So, here we are, ten iconic names.

Truly ten iconic names! It is hard to choose, because French music is extremely rich. On the poster, I saw a list of soloists and an accompanying group. What can you tell us about them?

I have always had the pleasure and honour to discover among my choir colleagues so much potential. There are many times when our projects - not only the acapella ones - I have the pleasure and joy to be able to propose names of lyrical artists that perfectly fit different roles. This is also the case of Thursday's concert, where we can find the entire name list of the members of the Radio Academic Choir. Allow me to mention them: Valentina Verlan, Georgiana Simonov -two sopranos of our choir, Grazziela Frangulea - mezzosoprano, Nicolae Simonov - tenor, Cristian Paraschiv, also a tenor; and, from the bass-baritone party we have: Cornel Popușoi, Aurel Franguleaand Ștefan Voicu. Last but not least, I would like to mention the presence of Mr. Liviu Ofițeru at the percussion, and out guest, a colleague from the Chamber Orchestra, Grigore Băleanu, who will perform an important moment from Charpentier's Te Deum; and the choir's orchestra-man - Carmen Săndulescu.

…at the piano and harpsichord.

Yes, at the piano and harpsichord.

Ciprian Țuțu, you had scenic performances at the orchestra desk as well and that is why I am asking you: what do you most feel comfortable with? Being a choir or orchestra conductor?

I consider myself a choir conductor and that is when I feel most comfortable. Naturally, performing at the orchestra desk has hadits most honourable experiences. We also had the occasion to present one of Haydn's masses, I believe in my second year being here, at the radio institution. And, previously, I think I had six or seven performances together with the Brașov Opera, throughout different galas or concerts that I had together with the artists there. But I must confess with all sincerity, I am most comfortable with this area of vocal, choir music.

It is a known fact that being a conductor of a choir group which mainly focuses on singing vocal-symphonic implies the facts that the conductor is not going to be on stage when the artistic performance takes place. Is this particular detail something frustrating to you? Di you get used to it? How do you feel?

I can say that I've got used to it ever since I've been performing at the opera. The conductor, the choir maestro can be found in the orchestra pit at all times - heart beating rapidly, 100-120 pulse… there are also backstage choirs that he conducts following the monitor, the orchestra conductor. I got used to this position. I don't consider it to be a declassification or a lack of "altitude". It's the role I play within a project. I am always passionate about performing, be it acapella or vocal-symphony. The fact that I get the joy to be able to conduct, to be the one that puts his final input in an acapella project is very fulfilling, but, naturally, any type of vocal-symphony project is treated with the same amount of seriousness.

And there arise these events, acapella concerts, where you find yourself in front of the choir throughout the artistic act. What is the risk when a choir comes behind the orchestra, and, suddenly, the orchestra disappears and the choir comes before the audience? The intensity must be regulated… is there another kind of approaching the artists, of you yourself, towards a vocal-symphony? Since the difference is crystal-clear.

It sure is. Clear and fundamental. Each time we have vocal-symphonic projects, we try - and it's, first and foremost, the orchestra conductor's duty - to establish the proper balance. Since we frequently rehearse in the concert hall, every time, we have this mission to adapt to the space and to the front instrumentalists, but, in the end, the balance depends on the orchestra conductor.

By contrast, acapella-type of projects require a living instrument, which is presented to the audience and here, potential lies in the hand of the choir and the choir conductor, since in this case, the palette is clearly more diverse not only dynamic-wise (regulating the intensity that we were talking about), but also the way Thursday evening's concert is going to be, focusing on presenting the sound from a stylistic perspective. We approach Guillaume Du Fay's sound in a way, Rameau's in another way, and Faure, Milhaud or Poulenc's in other ways too. What I mean is that we are always searching for the colours that fit the piece best, apart from emotion and the element that resides within the music score, which is closely linked to the text (music closely tied to the text that it serves). This is, in fact, the laboratory work that we do with great joy.

Together with Radio RomâniaMuzical's audience, we will enjoy Thursday's concert, since it will be broadcast live, directly from our radio station.

I would like to ask, after Thursday's concert at Sala Radio, what is next for the Radio Academic Choir? What projects?

Immediately after Thurday's concert, next week, we are going to approach Faure, from a vocal-symphonic perspective. We are glad to perform again together with our colleagues from the Radio National Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Cristian Oroșanu, Faure's Requiem, an absolutely special page from the genre's history. After that, we are going straight to preparing for another challenging concert, which will take place within the third week of May. The concert will be a part of the famous contemporary music festival, The International Week of New Music. This time, compared to previous years, we are invited to hold an acapella concert. Until now, we took part with at least a vocal-instrumental work, or a premiere, a revival of one of the most important pieces of the last decades, written for the musical genre literature, Romanian, of course. This time, at the invitation of the maestro, Dan Dediu, we will approach a selection of different pieces - some being performed for the first time: we are commemorating maestro Balint with such a performance, also maestra Maia Ciobanu, with a similar performance and many other titles.

Ciprian Țuțu, thank you for your presence and I wish you success in all that you will accomplish with the Radio Academic Choir, and also beyond the radio choir. We hope that many of this concert pieces will become special recordings.

Let's hope so! Thank you.

Translated by Adelina-Maria Mănăilescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu