The Head Of The Orchestra

I think the idea of a head of the orchestra arose two and a half centuries ago, as a result of the activity of the Mannheimer Circle, who had invented acoustic dynamics: the game of intensity, as a component of the agogic, a quite unproductive term for most of the music lovers. A coordinator for the musical action was needed and he immediately came up; then things became a bit complicated because human community cannot be "mobilized" other than by a special psychological strength, by an authority endowed with indisputable competence and even with charm and glamour.What is in fact a head of the orchestra? A teacher, an animator, a coordinator, a superior spirit, a priest, a guru, a man with supernatural strength, a mentor, a mass illusionist, someone inspired by gods? He is a bit of everything and, with all the great heads of orchestras who existed, one can distinguish the enumerated qualities and others as well. These qualities are capable of bringing into the present reality the musical highlights of past centuries and the contemporary ones.In a word, I would say we are watching a fascinating show of spiritual life and it involves us and fills our life with an energy which we absolutely need and which concerns everything our sensitivity implies and the abyss of our souls, often tormented by disorder. Mankind continuously strives for light, for harmony, for order, for sublime, for a lost paradise and when they are given the opportunity to reach these ideal goals, they take it instantly. The story gives us musicians hope and this might be the reason why we keep on walking on such a windy road, scattered with disillusionment.In our musical life we have had great heads of orchestras because the Romanian people have never lacked superior spirits, endowed with competence and charm. I have been around many such great heads of orchestras, I have watched them closely and from a distance and I have often wondered where the secret of their supernatural strength lies. I couldn't discover much because I too became a victim of their fascination and thus, a sober analysis was not possible.George Georgescu protected me in my youth; I can still feel his fatherly embrace and the generous courage with which he scheduled my " Symphonic Variations on a Song by Anton Pann", although I was only 26, at the Philharmonic Hall of Bucharest. He stood then by my side at all the rehearsals and later, when I asked him why he had done it, he told me that the orchestra was mean to young composers, that the musicians didn't believe that the composers heard what they wrote and they would make mistakes intentionally, in order to see whether the composer noticed them. I remained a loyal admirer of his and I realised that his role-models were the great German conductors, whom he had watched in his youth. He had all their qualities, he was their equal.Constantin Silvestri conducted some of my works and for several years I was something like a disciple of his. I dreamt of becoming an editor because I had a beautiful writing and I had edited many of his works. He was not a man of tender effusions, he seemed a bit mysterious, he didn't give away his secrets – that's for sure. We had become fans of his and he charmed our youth with the symphony "Manfred" by Tchaikovsky and with other masterpieces, which remained engraved in our memory. He was a great head of the orchestra, with an astonishing musical sensitivity!Ionel Perlea was the "encounter" of my life. Thanks to my efforts, he came to Romania, and his 1969 tour represented a major musical event. He then conducted my song "Homage to Eminescu". His version was recorded on disc and remained an important moment for our school of composers. His "doctrine" was one of the noblest ones: to serve music and not to resort to it. That's a tough project, because first you have to withstand the orchestras and then to impose your aesthetic ideals on them. Among the conductors closer to my age, I worked with Iosif Conta, with Ludovic Bacs, with Ion Baciu and with the senior Emanuel Elenescu. We are all bound in a brotherhood which cannot be explained other than by a common destiny – that of serving a culture which aspires to universal recognition. It is a hard and long road, full of unknown.I have had the honour of being conducted by Kurt Majur and Serge Baudo, then by Ian Holson in the United States and also by many others, whom I won't conjure up now because I just wanted to highlight the great role of the head of the orchestra – that of animating a lifetime of concerts and not the casual meetings with contemporary composers. Our great Romanian heads of orchestras prove that the Romanian musical thinking is mature and can produce those energies (I repeat this word) capable of bringing forward the eternal beauty of the universal acoustic art. 

by Theodor Grigoriu