Romania has spawned a wellspring of composers and musicians that successfully build upon and transform classical music traditions and the avant-garde. Often overlooked in the U.S., these Romanian heavyweights are featured this Sunday on Cued Up from a bevy of concerts in New York City.
One of the most widely known Romanian composers and a high-caliber concert violinist as well, George Enescu (1881–1955), wrote Piano Sonata No. 1 in F♯ minor in 1924, right in the middle of his busy career as a recording and touring violinist. Fast forward to New York City in 2011, where the Romanian-born pianist, Matei Varga, navigates this rollicking piece with equal parts self-abandonment and black belt-precision at a performance at (Le) Poisson Rouge last February.
Another piano piece from the same concert is by the short-lived, but high-impact pianist and composer Tudor Dumitrescu (1957-1977), whose life tragically ended in Romania's '77 Earthquake. His Prelude, nostalgic for the sounds of the early 20th century, was also a revealing look into the direction he might have gone in had he survived the disaster.
Ending the program is the New York premiere of String Quartet No. 5 "Before the Universe Was Born," by composer Horaţiu Rădulescu (1942-2008), performed by the JACK Quartet at a concert from this last March, also at (Le) Poisson Rouge. Studying psycho-acoustics at IRCAM and highly praised by Olivier Messiaen, his own brand of spectral composition often reconciles the mystical with the alien sounding upper reaches of music's harmonic series.