Musical Iasi – History and the Present

State Philharmonic of Iasi, Moldova

Musical practice in Iasi – the capital of Moldova between 1564 and 1858 dates from the Middle Ages, religious music of the Orthodox Church derived from Byzantine tradition and court music practiced by musicians, being the two main sources of tradition. The evolutionary factors are connected to the creation of artistic and cultural higher education schools – Vasilian Academy (1634), teaching in Slavonic, Greek and Latin – and the presence in Iasi of Western musicians giving private and later public concerts. An exception for those times, Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723), a European Renaissance personality, who, through his treatise on the scoring system for Ottoman music demonstrated musical / musicological interests as well.
Moldova, was isolated for a long time from the centres of Western culture a situation imposed by the Phanariot domination which began in 1711. Diplomatic relation were established with Western Europe during the last decades of the 18th Century (mainly due to the tzarist and austrian administrations).
Documents certify the performance in 1788 of the Te Deum, by Giuseppe Sardi, and in 1838 of opera Norma by Bellini, performances carried out by the Conservatory’s students. Famous European musicians gave concerts in Iasi, a phenomenon which escalated in the second half of the nineteenth century. We refer to Franz Liszt, B. H. Romberg, Auer, Henryk Wieniawski, Alexandre Artôt, Nedbal and Weingartner.

The following events demonstrate the gradual europeanization of culture and music in Iasi: the founding of the Philharmonic and Dramatic Arts Conservatory, in 1836; the inauguration of the National Theatre in Copou, 1846; the residence in Iasi of some Italian opera companies, after 1851 with soloists from the La Scala Theatre performing frequently ; the foundation of the Music and Speech School in 1860; the foundation of the Philharmonic Society in 1868; the foundation of the opera company Lyric Society in 1878.
The initiatives which followed contributed to the formation in 1918 of the Symphonic Society “George Enescu”, amongst its conductors being Enescu, Antonin Ciolan (1883-1970) and Mircea Bârsan (1897- 1977).
Iaşi composers of the nineteenth century, some of German or Italian origin, created the first classical music genres, in european sense, configuring the first stage of synthesis between instrumental western notation and melodic sources of local urban folklore. In this sense, the musicians who were active in Iasi, Al. Flechtenmacher, Gh. Burada, E. Mezzetti, Eduard Caudella, Gavriil Musicescu are considered founders of the Romanian musical composition. Alongside composers, the musicians theorists T.T.Burada and Titus Cerne, were pioneers of musicology and musical critics.
In the interwar period, the musical life in Iasi experienced an increased enthusiasm, stimulated by the literary culture around the “Romanian Life” a publication led by the writer Garabet Ibrăileanu. Iasi composers such as Al. Zirra (1883-1946), Mansi Barberis (1899 – 1986), Constantin Georgescu (1895- 1960) – who studied abroad – accepted the idea of capitalizing on Romanian folk music dating from the post romantic symphonism with French or German influence.
In Iasi, the first opera based on historical facts, Alexandru Lăpuşneanu by Al. Zirra (1930) was composed, having as model M. Mussorgski. Raul Sculy (1882-1954), a particularly talented musician, wrote successful operettas in the purest style of the genre; Constantin Baciu, Gavriil Galinescu masterfully composed choral music.

National Theatre “Vasile Alecsandri” Iaşi

Two events decisively changed the musical life of Iasi: the foundation of “Moldova” Philharmonic in 1942 (inaugurated with a concert conducted by George Enescu) and after successive attempts, of the the State Opera in 1956. From 1962 to 1986, Ion Baciu, permanent conductor of the philharmonic orchestra, transformed this ensemble into one of the highest ranked national and soon to be international orchestras.This institution organised concerts with the participation of great artists of the world: Anatole Fistoulari, Rudolf Kerer, Václav Neumann, Carlo Zecchi, Roberto Benzi, K.H. Adler, Adolf Busch, Sviatoslav Richter, Dmitry Bashkirov, Aldo Ciccolini, D.B. Shafran and Igor Oistrakh.
Also, Iaşi Opera continued to develop by performing an extensive universal repertoir, and including first performances of works by Romanian composers. Amongst Iaşi opera singers, we should mention those with extensive careers: the sopranos Mioara Cortez and Adriana Severin, mezzo-sopranos Camelia Şotrin and Evredica Filipovici, tenors Victor Popovici and Nicolae Prescorniţoiu, baritones George Solovăstru and Visarion Huţu, bass singers George Popa and Ion Prisecaru. Under the guidance of Ion Baciu (1931-1995), George Vintilă (1924 -2015), Corneliu Calistru (b. 1941), Gheorghe Costin (b.1955), Camil Marinescu (b.1964), Alexandru Lascae (1942-2009) the “Moldova” State Philharmonic and the State Opera have obtained international successes during concert tours and opera performances in Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria etc.
In 1953, “Moldova” Philarmonic’s “Gavriil Musicescu” choir was founded and carried out an extensive programme of vocal-symphonic and a capella concerts, activities which are attributed to conductors George Pascu (1912-1996), Ion Pavalache (1927-2007), Doru Morariu (b. 1951
The Voces quartet was founded in Iasi in 1973, and through a prestigious international career and fruitful tuition contributed to an increased reputation of the musical Iasi. Ad Libitum String Quartets (Moldova Philharmonic, Iaşi) and Gaudeamus (“Transilvania” Philharmonic, Brasov) are descendents and beneficiaries of the interpretative and teaching mastery of the Voces Quartet members (Bujor Prelipcean, Anton Diaconu, Constantin Stanciu, Dan Prelipcean).
Other specialised and successful contemporary ensembles are the Chamber Choir Cantores (conductor, Nicolae Gâscă), the brass ensemble Nova Musica Viva (coordinator, clarinetist Mihai Ailenei), the Chamber Choir Vox Artis (conductor Bogdan Cojocaru) and the vocal ensemble of religious byzantine music Byzantion (conductor, Adrian Sîrbu). Iaşi was and is the venue of the Romanian Musical Festival, series I (1973 – 1988), Series II (2007), the only festival in the country dedicated exclusively to Romanian music, and organized by “George Enescu” University of Arts and “Moldova” State Philharmonic. The promotion of artists and musical events in Iasi is due primarily to the Regional Studio publishers, Iasi, Romanian Radio Broadcasting (1956) and its constituent TVR – Iasi (since 1992).

After 1960, in relation to the European trends, in Iaşi, the means of expression in the art of musical composition enters an enhanced modernization process, through works by Vasile Spătărelu (1938-2005), Anton Zeman (1937- 1996), Sabin Pautza (b. 1943), Viorel Munteanu (b.1944), Cristian Misievici (b.1953), Leonard Dumitriu (b.1962). The musical interpretation school of Iaşi conservatory, which is currently the “George Enescu”University of Arts, has distinguished itself due to incontestable masters, such as Mircea Dan Răducanu, Mihaela Constantin (piano), Gheorghe Sârbu, Leonid Popovici, Ştefan Lory, Anton Diaconu (violin), Gaşpar Markoş, Constantin Stanciu (viola), Gheorghe Rus, Dan Prelipcean (cello), Silviu Varvaroi (bass), Dumitru Sâpcu (clarinet), Dumitru Iosub (bassoon), Florian Simion (percussion), Ella Urmă, Corneliu Solovăstru, Adriana Severin, Adela Burlui (canto), Steluţa Diamand-Dumea, Gabriela Marcovici, Doina Grigore, Aurelia Simion (piano accompaniment).
In the second half of the twentieth century Iasi musicology centers on George Pascu (1912-1996 an encyclopedic spirit and professor with vocation. His disciples – Mihail Cozmei (b. 1931), Liliana Gherman (b.1939), Melania Boţocan (b.1943), Paula Bălan (b.1944), have developed all areas of the activities of professor Pascu, both in historical research and music criticism fields. After 1990, Iasi musicology developed due to personalities created in Iasi and specialized through doctoral studies in Cluj and Bucharest of Florin Bucescu (b.1936), Gheorghe Duţică (b. 1958), Laura Vasiliu (b.1958), Carmen Chelaru (b.1955) and their disciples. The contemporary Iaşi musicology school distinguishes itself at international conferences, by publishing books and scientific papers and by developing the doctoral school of Iasi.

Prof. Laura Vasiliu, PhD