Music - A Mirror Of Specific Romanian Psychology

It has been justly stated by foreign researchers that the melancholy of the Romanian folk doina, transposed by the brilliant George Enescu into learned creation, in the characteristic and unmistakable lyricism of the people at the curvature of the Carpathians and the mouth of the Danube, represents in fact the psychology of this age-old nation's soul. Attempting to unravel the hidden ethos of our people in order to give it sonorous form in a musical formula capable of becoming a singular "seal", peerless in the world's esthetic literature, Enescu came up with the original phrase "in Romanian folk character." "I do not employ the word style," he declared in an interview for The Progress newspaper (1928) about the Sonata no. 3 for Piano and Violin, "for it shows something made, whereas the word character expresses something that is, that was given in the beginning." How far back does that "beginning" go: to the time of the Dacian-Roman ancestors? To the Thracians and the Illyrians – forefathers of all nations around the Carpathians and the Balkan Peninsula? "L'origine de la chanson populaire roumaine, comme l'origine de la chanson populaire de tous les pays voisines," remarked the great historian Nicolae Iorga, "doit être cherchée dans l'ancienne musique des Thraces. Les Thraces étaient une nation qui chantait, une chanson enthousiaste parfois, souvent entraînante, le plus souvent mélancolique!"Indeed, this intrinsic melancholy of the Romanian peasant's psychology finds itself admirably transposed into the most original musical form: the doina. Here was the entire national ethos concentrated. It was by no accident that George Enescu perceived ever since the beginning of his career as a composer the purity of this folk source. "And in this doina of ours there become reflected, like in a precious gem, a mosaic of rays, all the Oriental motives and something more that you cannot exactly tell, but which gives the particular nuance to our folk song," he remarked in another interview for the New Illustrated Footlights magazine (1916). Those "Oriental motives" he found above all in gypsy music, an art which marks the passage from folk amateurism to individual professionalism, to the virtuosity specific to learned music. Accurately distinguishing between authentic folk, peasant art, on the one hand, and gypsy music on the other, Enescu identified that something peculiar to Romanian ethos. Far, though, from lending his creation an exclusively local, Oriental, South-East European color, the composer of the Rhapsodies knew how to put to good use the latent potencies of autochthonous melos in universal forms and means of expression, in modern musical syntaxes, more exactly in "Romanian folk character"! He felt proud when, in 1931, La revue musicale in Paris conferred upon him a "beautiful originality homage", saying that French journalists seem confused whenever they fail to identify precisely, from a first audition, the folkloric source of inspiration and say "On sent bien que ce n'est pas de chez nous!" It was in fact an acknowledgement of that national ethos expressed in a universal formula.Starting from the doina, Romanian composers perceived in the folkloric rhythm pattern, called parlando-rubato­ (which means spoken/sung in a balanced manner, free, unchained), a formula capable to give the sonorous discourse an original melodic contour. Thus was born the most splendid model of infinite monody, unequaled and unrepeatable in the world's musical literature, in George Enescu's Suite no. 1 for Orchestra: Prelude in Unison. In 139 musical bars, renouncing any harmonic and polyphonic guise, confining himself only to the string section of the symphonic orchestra, the composer gave the Romanian doina a "folk character", in which the melody expresses concisely the entire national ethos. We seem to hear the voice of the peasant tilling the land, where melancholy becomes intertwined with the Olympian lyricism of the Romanian's nature. And in the variations of the reflex cells of the Prelude in Unison are to be found all the modulations and embroideries of the ornamental passages of the doina and of the ancient ballad, two ancestral musical forms of Romanian folklore. And if in the intemperate sonorous discourse, with micro-intervals, characteristic of the local Indo-European and Balkan folklore, of the parts of Oedipus and the Sphinx in the lyrical tragedy Oedipus, we can recognize the modulations of the vocal style of the same doina, this does but enhance the originality of the "Romanian folk character."And there is more: it was the same brilliant Enescu who discovered genuine "sonorous alchemizations" through that technique of melting the "fixed" sounds of certain instruments like the piano, the celesta, the xylophone, in a polyphonic formula at once gypsy and folkloric: heterophony. Out of the mosaic of parallel voices separated and united in the same discourse, out of the oscillation between the state of unison and that of a plurality of voices, heterophony was born. It is yet another expression of national ethos, not easily perceivable, but identifiable in contemporary learned creation. Perhaps this is another meeting point of the East and the West of Europe, of continental and extra-continental melos, of Oriental (Asian, Indian) melancholy and the solar lyricism typical to Romanian psychology.Between the folk doina and ballad and Enescu's Prelude in Unison, the most accomplished synthesis of the local symphonic style, there exists a firm spiritual bond: the psychology of the Romanian people in the purest national essence.

by Viorel Cosma (b. 1927)