Music’s rebirth post Covid-19 pandemic lockdown

Friday, July 12th. With profound emotion, the National History Museum of Transylvania in Cluj-Napoca was hosting the first after lockdown live musical event of the city. The protagonists: great instrumentists of the Transylvania Philharmonic, such as Bence Haáz (oboe), Aurelian Băcan (clarinet), Cristian Avram (bassoon), Paul Sîrbu (violin I), Csilla Szöverdi (violin II), Mihai Oșvat (viola) & Ciprian Câmpean (cello). Entitled “Mozart at the Museum”, the concert had in program Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581 & Divertimento for three basset horns, no. 4, K. 439b. I felt proud & joyful. I couldn’t help myself so I texted Geanina Simion (PR & Image Specialist) asking for an interview. Due to her and her colleague Oana Andreica’s (Musical Secretary) positive & prompt answer, we have the chance invite you to read an interesting conversation about what it exactly means to revive arts & classical music after the pandemic lockdown.

As an artistic institution exclusively dedicated to concert activities, the Philharmonic was founded in the autumn of 1955, through an official decree of Romania’s Council of Ministers, under the name of the Cluj State Philharmonic. At that time, there were two ensembles: the symphonic orchestra with 75 musicians and the ensemble of traditional music with 20 members. Under the initial directorship of conductor Wilhelm Demian, Maestro Antonin Ciolan was appointed principal conductor of the symphonic ensemble, also in charge of the selection of the members. He conducted the first concert of the Philharmonic on the 4th of December 1955, in a genuine tour de force: Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Sigismund Toduţă’s Concerto, no. 1 for String Orchestra, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto, no. 2 (with Silvia Şerbescu) and Beethoven’s Eroica. In early 1956, Antonin Ciolan became the general manager of the Philharmonic.

The city of Cluj-Napoca had already been enjoying a symphonic tradition since the beginning of the nineteenth century, through the activities of the Orchestra of the Hungarian Theatre (founded in 1792), the Music Society and the Music Circle. During the interwar period, symphonic events were organized by the orchestras of the Romanian Opera (founded in 1919), Hungarian Theatre and by the Goldmark Orchestra, which belonged to the city’s Jewish community.

In 1972, under composer Toduţă’s directorship, the Philharmonic’s Choir was established and the training was entrusted to the Maestro Dorin Pop, subsequently followed by Florentin Mihăescu and Cornel Groza. In 1993, the name was changed into the Transylvania State Philharmonic.

How did the staff of the Cluj Philharmonic receive the news about cancelling cultural events for a while, at the beginning of the lockdown? We announced the cancellation of our concerts on March 10th, for what we thought would be a period of not more than three weeks. One of the first “victims” was the second concert of our “Beethoven in ROYGBIV” project, a series of seven concerts in which our main conductor, Gabriel Bebeşelea, wonderfully combined works by Beethoven (including all his nine symphonies) with works by composers who experienced synaesthesia (Liszt, Sibelius, Messiaen, Ligeti). In that concert, the orchestra should have played Beethoven’s Symphonies no. 8 & 4, but the point of attraction would have occurred during the intermission: 100 metronomes were ready to be set for Ligeti’s Poème symphonique pour 100 métronomes, in a happening that would have surely delighted everyone present.

Read the whole interview here.

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