International Enescu Society

  George Enescu
  News and events
  About us

Suspect composing

Symposium on Pascal Bentoiu and Stefan Niculescu at Oldenburg University, Germany, Nov 23-25, 2007
Organised by Prof. Violeta Dinescu and Joerg Siepermann of Oldenburg University and the International Enescu Society


[ Deutsche Version ]

The stricter a dictatorship the more attention is she paying to her music. The Soviet Union and the People's Republic of Romania played a special part where the fabrication of theoretical guidelines and their practical enforcement were concerned: the ideological adaptation of music has nowhere else been performed in a scientifically more thorough manner than in those two countries of the former Eastern Block. The composers of the Soviet Union were however under close international scrutiny, while the control of Romanian music developed as a hermetically secluded process of which factually no information was accessing the interested circles abroad.

The norm for the development of a new, traditionally not bound music was given by Chrennikov's established Socialist Realism, compelling for the entire Eastern Block, yet implemented in an especially severe manner in Romania. The "Commission for the Regularisation of Creative Work", founded in Romania as soon as the late 1940s, intended to "lead the activities of composers in channelled courses" in a both insisting and precise way by analysing, evaluating, allowing or forbidding thousands of Romanian compositions each year while presenting the composers with direct advice for the improvement of their works. The musicologist Octavian Lazar Cosma writes about the predominant atmosphere at the beginning of the 1950s: "Composers were sacked, pushed aside, some of them imprisoned and sent to forced labour camps like the one meant for the construction of the Danube - Black Sea channel; open meetings with musicians were arranged, where they were confronted with social charges, that resulted in grave consequences for their further professional and musical careers."

A vast majority of Romania's composers abided by the dictate and started to write chants for the masses and hymns for Stalin. There were however some very few who defied the narrow limits set by the party and accepted sanctions. Pascal Bentoiu and Stefan Niculescu, both born in 1927, when Romania was still a monarchy, started their musical careers under similar circumstances. Both studied composition with Enescu's master student Mihail Jora, both were partly influenced by George Enescu's music, Romanian folklore and Byzantine music on the one hand, while being also very much in tune with the music of the Western European avant-garde of the second half of the 20th century. In spite of those similarities, each one of them did however develop a completely different, individual musical language, systems and methods of his own. They built bridges between East and West, between tradition and the future.

The fact of being forbidden to perform their works and to teach (although Niculescu received a chair at the University of Music in Bucharest in 1993, when he was already 66 years old) notwithstanding, they both can show a substantial oeuvre comprising almost all genres and standing out among those of their peers. György Ligeti used to name Stefan Niculescu as "one of the greatest composers of our times".

The symposium "Suspect Composing - Pascal Bentoiu and Stefan Niculescu" proposes to throw a spotlight on the works of those two composers, who are both among the most important ones in Romania, realising however that a direct comparison of them is factually impossible. The other topic of this gathering will be the peculiar political and esthetical situation in Romania during the second half of the 20th century. A concert performed by musicians belonging to the composers' entourage will present some of their works. Musicologists from Germany, Romania, France and Great Britain have been invited to take part with papers presenting both the musical-historical and political situation in Romania as well as singular aspects of the two composers' oeuvre. Pascal Bentoiu and Stefan Niculescu have both celebrated their 80th anniversary this year. It is therefore high time to look back on composing in times of feudalism, Stalinism, national communism and democracy, composing during shifting times, that could not have been more controversial.

Pascal Bentoiu (born in Bucharest on April 22nd, 1927) studied from 1943-48 composition with Mihail Jora at the Academy of Music in Bucharest and from 1945-47 law at the Bucharest School of Law. Son of a former member of cabinet, who died in a communist prison, Bentoiu was not allowed to finish his studies. He was employed at the Institute for Folklore Research in Bucharest from 1953-56, from which time on he remained a freelance composer and musicologist.
After the downfall of the Ceausescu-regime Bentoiu was elected first president of the Romanian Composers' Association, a position he stepped down from in 1992 in order to be able to concentrate on his creative work. He has been distinguished with numerous awards throughout Europe. Among his scholar works there are many publications to be found about George Enescu like his famous "Enescu's Masterworks" (1984).

Stefan Niculescu (born in Moreni, Dâmbovita on July 31st, 1927) studied from 1941-57 at the Institute of Polytechnics, the Royal Academy of Music and Performing Arts and the Academy of Music in Bucharest, there also as a student of Mihail Jora's. Between 1966-69 he was a guest of the Darmstadt Masterclasses (composition class of Mauricio Kagle), he has been teaching at the University of Music in Bucharest since 1992 (in 200 he was also named honorary rector of this institution). In 1992 he has been appointed member of the Romanian Academy.
Already his very first works (two cantatas and a symphony) were groundbreaking for the formation of a first Romanian avant-garde, his familiarity with Enescu's work led him to heterophonia as a central technique of composition. His oeuvre is also characterised by mathematical influences and his studies on Byzantine, Gregorian and non-European music. "It is through Niculescu's music that Romanian culture gains a new relation with the "great music" in general" (C. D. Georgescu).

Deutsche Version