CONCERT TRANSILVAN

skeuomorphic rhapsody on XVII Century Romanian tunes from the collection of Ioan Căianu
for Violin Concertino & 10 Strings or String Orchestra
2013

Violin Concertino, 4 Violins, 3 Violas, 2 Cellos, Double Bass

Duration: 10 minutes

Premiere: Sept 2015, Enescu Festival, Romanian Athenaeum, New European Strings, conductor: Dmitry Sitkovetsky

Photo: portrait of Ioan Căianu

Kájoni_János-001.jpg
 

I was fascinated by the story of the Codex Caioni manuscript since I was a kid. The 10 Romanian pieces, extracted and published for the first time in the 1940s, seemed to me a time capsule, sent to the future by a Romanian Renaissance composer. The mythology of their journey across centuries is made of reincarnations brought about by masters both Romanian and European. Because, as composer John Adams puts it, "There is nothing particularly new about one composer internalizing the music of another and 'making it his own'. Composers are drawn to another's music to the point where they want to live in it, and that can happen in a variety of fashions, whether it's Brahms making variations on themes by Handel or Haydn, Liszt arranging Wagner or Beethoven for piano, Schoenberg crafting a concerto out of Monn or, more radically, Berio 'deconstructing' Schubert". But the pieces in the Codex are so disarmingly simple, that in order to reincarnate them you need a clear and relevant perspective. The lack of such a perspective prevented me for many years to "touch" them.

Until one day, when I spontaneously started to line them up in a rhapsodic suite. The whole structure of the piece materialised intuitively, in a musical idiom that was very clear to me, although I did not immediately know what it was. Some time later I have discovered a similar concept already existed, reading an article about skeuomorphy. In computer design, a skeuomorph retains design elements from structures that were necessary in the physical reality, even if in the virtual reality they do not have any functionality. Thus, in Concert Transilvan, the themes are organised in a concerto grosso inspired by multicultural Transylvania of the 17th Century, virtualised for the 21st Century.

The concerto starts with an Andante da chiesa ("Cântecul Voievodesei Lupul"): upon a virtual pedal of cymbalom textures, the transilvanian medieval violinist improvises a prelude. Inspired from the future by Bartok and Ravel, he turns his violin and musicians into a folk band comprising of flute, accordion and fiddles: Moderato hungarico ("Alt dans valah"). In Allegro saxonico ("Dansul lui Mikes Kelemen") he becomes a British fiddler, moving towards a climax in Maestoso inglese ("Dansul lui Lazar Apor"), inspired by Purcell in aksak rhythm. Suddenly the virtual cymbalom strikes back and turns him into a klezmer fiddler: Moderato iudaico (again "Cântecul Voievodesei Lupul"). The pedal settles down into a halo of light, when deep down a double bas murmurs a lullaby Con moto: 'Colinda' ("Dans valah"). Inspired by Vivaldi, the violinists start a fugue in Allegro italiano ("Dans din Nires"). A viola howls and the orchestra reverberates like in an American minimalist musical canvas: Allegro zingaro ("Dans"), with the violinist improvising in "haidouk" style, à la Roby Lakatos. In Allegro tedesco ("Dans al cincelea în sase"), Brandemburg-like polyphony blossoms, superimposed with "Dans din Nire?" and then also with "Cântecul Voievodesei Lupul". The last remaining tune is left trying to catch up with the others in Presto finale ("Dans"), and then disappears in the halo of light.

Vlad Maistorovici

 

AUDIO: Vlad Maistorovici and the Cluj Transylvania Philharmonic conducted by Radu Paponiu, Dec 2018

VIDEO : Dmitry Sitkovetsky conducts the New European Strings orchestra at the Romanian Athenaeum, George Enescu Festival 2015

 
 

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