The Lord Of Romanian Conducting

After almost a century of symphonic music in Romania (as early as in 1846-1848, the first symphonic concerts changed the artistic life of Bucharest), after three quarters of a century since the establishment of the first philharmonic in Bucharest (1868), a "magician" appeared among Romanian conductors; he changed the status of the autochthonous conductors from "craftsman" to "professional," from local artist to universal personality. His name was George Georgescu. His forbearers Eduard Wachmann (1836-1908) and Dimitrie Dinicu (1868-1936) managed to impose conducting at the national level, while George Enescu (1881-1955) was the first to be internationally successful. But Georgescu coagulated a "Romanian Stradivarius" in the new philharmonic orchestra, which was made up of the country's most authentic talents. That orchestra was an instrument of European value, which he conducted confirming his exceptional qualities that imposed him as the first universal professional conductor. The special merit of the young maestro was that, as the conductor of the Bucharest orchestra, he made it possible for many young Romanian conductors to grow and distinguish themselves: Mihail Jora, Jean Bobescu, Ionel Perlea, Alfred Alessandrescu, Egizio Massini, Ion Nonna Otescu, Constantin Bobescu, Antonin Ciolan, Theodor Rogalski, and Constantin Silvestri. Leading them, Georgescu glittered like the Morning Star among so many bright stars.This "lord of the Romanian conducting" understood, without personal vanities or ambitions, that his name would never get its true karats until he surrounded himself with the best national and international conductors. So, in only a quarter of a century (1920-1945), George Georgescu brought to the Romanian Athenaeum the greatest European conductors: Felix Weingartner, Bruno Walter, Hermann Scherschen, Pierre Monteux, Oskar Nedbal, Hermann Abendroth, Eugene Iochum, Vaclav Talich, Karl Boehm, Philippe Gaubert, and Herbert von Karajan, along with composer/conductors Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Vincent d'Indy, Maurice Ravel, Karol Szymamovski, and Pancho Vladigerov.Such soloists as Claudio Arrau, Henrik Szeryng, Dinu Lipatti, Lola Bobescu, and Valentin Gheorghiu made their debuts and distinguished themselves with Georgescu conducting, to say nothing of people he worked with on a permanent basis, and who brought joy to his soul for over half a century: Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Arthur Rubinstein, Bela Bartok, Sviatoslav Richter, Alfred Cortot, Enrico Mainardi, Jacques Thibaud, Zino Francescatti, Gaspard Cassado, Pablo Casals, Walter Gieseking, Wilhelm Kempff, Emil Sauer, Margueritte Long, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonid Kogan, Monique de la Bruchollerie, Christian Ferras, Ruggiero Ricci, Daniel Safran, and so on. With such conductors and soloists brought to Bucharest, the Romanian conductor turned Bucharest into a virtual European capital of music.But Georgescu was a complex conductor, who crossed the line between symphonic and opera music. During three terms as the director of the Romanian Opera in Bucharest (1922-1927, 1930-1933, and 1939-1940), he changed the permanent repertoire policy there, producing The Flying Dutchman, The Valkyrie, Salome, Der Rosenkavalier, Boris Godunov, Parsifal, Falstaff, La Fanciulla del West, apart from Aida, The Magic Flute, Fidelio, Carmen, and Prince Igor. Yovita Fuentes, Aureliano Pertile, Franca Somigli, Maria Cebotari, and Bianca Saroya sang in those shows, and Pietro Mascagni, Felix Weingartner, Gregor Fitelberg, and Clemens Kraus conducted, so the most important opera in Romania became a world-class theater. Apart from the shows he conducted in Bucharest, George Georgescu had international successes in Washington and Berlin with La Boheme, in Florence with Boris Godunov, in Berlin with Aida, in Washington with Carmen, and so on. We do not even have to remind people that he imposed the Romanian masterpiece A Stormy Night by Paul Constantinescu, following the revised premiere of the score during the Romanian Music Week in 1951.Born on September 13, 1887, in Sulina, a Danube port town, George Georgescu went to the Bucharest Conservatory to study double bass and cello. After advanced studies in Berlin, the Romanian cellist joined the Marteau Quartet (replacing his teacher, Hugo Becker), and appeared to be making a brilliant career as a virtuoso. But an irremediable cramp in his left hand changed his fate: he replaced the bow with the baton, made his debut conducting the Berlin Philharmonic (1918), and had triumphal success, starting a new life. At the age of 33, he began to conduct the symphony orchestra in Bucharest, with which he had world consecration, with only a three-year "time-out." On September 1, 1964, one week before the opening of the third George Enescu International Festival, George Georgescu passed away in Bucharest. He remained the most authentic conductor of Richard Strauss' work, and a great performer of Beethoven, Brahms, and Enescu. Although he could have made a prestigious career abroad, he preferred to stay in this country, closely tied to the George Enescu Philharmonic, which he turned into a unique institution in Southeast Europe. With Georgescu conducting was not a profession, it was a vocation. The Philharmonic was not just another orchestra as far as he was concerned, rather, it was an ideal in his life, a lung through which the great artist breathed. He was a conductor who had to be seen as well, not just listened to on the radio or on records, because he was transfigured before the instrumentalists, whom he inspired with his ample, expressive, and balanced gestures. He was the truest "lord" of the Romanian 20th century conducting. He confessed in an interview: "If I had not been a conductor, I would have liked to be a cardinal." However, the audience at the Romanian Athenaeum thought he was the "pope" of the inter-war music.

by Viorel Cosma (b. 1927)