Raluca Brumariu, Aurel Stroe’s daughter, interviewed by Petre Fugaciu
From his birth and until he left the country, Father lived on 35 Luigi Cazzavilan, near the Radio Hall and the Conservatoire, in the house that his parents, doctor Aurel Stroe and Haideea Stroe, had built. It wasn’t nationalized but, as with all private owners at the time, tenants had been imposed on the family, and so part of the house was inhabited during Communism by such tenants.
When was the house built?
In the 1930s.
The family no longer owns it.
No, they don’t, it was quite damaged by the 1977 earthquake, and Father sold it after 1995. As a child, his parents had a house in Urlați, it was a manor with a vineyard. It was requisitioned by the Communists, they simply forced the family out of their home one night, they shot the horses, they shot the dogs, and forbade them any access to it. We weren’t able to take it back. In memory of that house in Urlați – he refused to go back – Father built another house, in Bușteni, where he wrote most of his works.
Did maestro Aurel Stroe often go to Urlați when he was little?
Yes, it was there that he spent part of his holidays, in that manor with its large vineyard. In Urlați several families, the Bellus among them, had manors, it was like a summer holiday reunion! My grandfather also took him to Bușteni, and so he fell in love with the mountains – and afterwards he did mountain climbing.
But he wasn’t able to go back to Urlați.
Indeed, he wasn’t. When the house was requisitioned, it was turned into an IAS [State Agricultural Enterprise] building. Neither of us could go back, not until after the Revolution of 1989. The house was simply destroyed, they put down the door to the wine cellar, to the house, with bulldozers. After 1990 Father and I asked to have our house back, but the request was refused. And the land we asked for, they gave us another parcel somewhere else, claiming the vineyard is not subject to retrocession. Father was very upset. It was one of the most painful moments of his childhood, he had a vivid memory of what had happened then, how they were kicked out, how much grandfather suffered… The house looked deplorable after 1990, it was inhabited by day labourers, agricultural labourers, nobody had taken care of it, they had but burned everything inside, even the floors were burned. We last saw it in 1999, when we again petitioned to have it back.
When was that manor built?
I couldn’t say for sure, in the 1930s, too, I think.
And how about the house in Bușteni, what is its story?
It was built in the 1970s and it’s our home, it’s where we live. The Community Arts Centre in Bușteni for that matter bears Father’s name, and we hope to have a statue, a bust, erected, in memory of the place where he wrote a great part of his works. Until he left the country in 1985, he lived in Bucharest, taught at the Conservatoire, but he spent all his holidays, even his week-ends, in Bușteni, where he worked. The house there had been designed as a holiday home, as a place of retreat and a place to work. Thus it only has for instance a very small kitchen, instead it is provided with a large, very bright living room – Father wanted to see the mountains, to have light from all sides, he had also placed his table so that he could always see the mountains. He wanted light, and he wanted a stone construction, both on the inside and on the outside.
Did maestro Stroe only write when he was in Bușteni?
No, he composed in Bucharest too, he was always composing. But he worked for the most part in Bușteni, because the place offered some continuity, he could stay there days on end and not be interrupted by the claim of some other tasks, as it happened in Bucharest, where he taught. It was nevertheless in Bucharest that he met with the musicians he worked with.
Did he have a work routine, on Luigi Cazzavilan?
He used to compose in the piano room, which he called “the parlour”, a room with a sofa and the piano. He would sit down at the piano, or at the table beside it, and write. He ate breakfast, worked for several hours, went for his daily walk, had lunch, rested in the afternoon, wrote again, and closed his day with an evening walk.
Who were maestro Aurel Stroe’s guests, in both of these wonderful residences?
In Bușteni, there were Dr Berceanu, Lucian Mețianu, Ștefan Zorzor, Iosif Sava… In addition to those musical evenings, he met with friends in Bucharest –Myriam Marbé, Ștefan Niculescu, Anatol Vieru, he visited them or they came to us … Costel Ionescu-Vovu was a regular, they worked together. Then there were Ludovic Bács, Cristian Brâncuși, Tiberiu Olah, or composers of his own generation.
And what did they do during these meetings?
Sometimes it was just friends’ reunions, when they talked music, other times, when they were preparing some concert, it was a working meeting.
What kind of music did you listen to, growing up in your father’s house?
From Baroque to everything contemporary. Father was interested in the latest compositions, and because he travelled abroad, he would buy, or receive, records of the most recent music then – Messiaen, John Cage. So, he listened to all that was new, but he also liked Monteverdi very much, he would very often listen to Beethoven’s quartets, to Richard Wagner, Brahms, to everything, in fact – and to Mahler, of course, he was a Mahler specialist, as we all know from his participation in Iosif Sava’s TV shows on Mahler’s symphonies. He also listened to the music of his colleagues, he was very interested in the works of Ștefan Niculescu, Anatol Vieru, Tiberiu Olah, Myriam Marbé, Dan Constantinescu, Pascal Bentoiu – with whom he was close friends, perhaps they also had shared experiences… Doru Popovici too visited us quite frequently.
So, no pop music!
Well yes, when I was younger, I did listen to pop music from time to time, and when I went with him in France, I would buy the latest Queen albums. He wasn’t too thrilled. “Here, Father, come listen to this”, I would sometimes say, but no, he wasn’t really interested.
Can you describe the ambience on Luigi Cazzavilan?
Our Bucharest home was a Neo-Romanian manor. A big house, it had eight rooms, an attic and a laundry room. The rooms were tall, separated by glass partitions, with carpet-laid floors and painting-hung walls. There was a lot of wood, high quality wood, neat doors and flooring… It was generally a rather aristocratic ambiance, different from that in Bușteni, the holiday home, open to everybody at all hours. People would call there at any time, they would just pop in to see if Father was around, or to invite him for a walk – or for a mountain walk, because just outside the house there was the forest and the mountain was only three minutes away. I had my friends there too, friends from Bușteni and from Bucharest, we would play in the yard while Father was writing. He liked it when us children played, he was very open there – in Bucharest he was sterner.
Were there any foreign visitors?
Yes, of course. He worked for example with Daniel Kientzy, the saxophone player, for Eumenidele [The Eumenides], and Kientzy came to Romania for a concert in Timișoara. A frequent collaborator was Bernard Cavanna, who later made a movie about him, a movie which opens with the Communist period, when Cavanna made his first visits to Romania. And there was also Noemi Schindler, the violinist. Usually they lodged with us, but sometimes this was problematic, because they had to notify the authorities on where they stayed; Daniel Kientzy usually booked a hotel, but Cavanna stayed with us, in the house on Cazzavilan.
I would also like to say that Father worked in our Bucharest home all his youth, so, until he built the house in Bușteni. And I think that some of the meetings in Bucharest were frowned upon by Communists – he had Andrei Pleșu, Horia-Roman Patapievici, Ana Blandiana over, they talked about some political moment or other. Many a memoir originated then, by Pleșu, Blandiana, by Father. He was close friends with Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca, whom he often visited abroad, and Lucian Pintilie was also a frequent visitor. There was a strong anti-Communist current developing the, during those meetings, in the last years of the dictatorship.
Do you remember when these meetings began?
They took place especially after 1983. In 1984-85, even after Father left the country, Andrei Pleșu or Ana Blandiana still came around, but after 1986 they stopped coming. I myself wasn’t allowed to leave the country, once Father remained in Germany. It was a sort of a break… I kept in touch with Father, we spoke frequently, but the Securitate [the Department of State Security] would always come, they would burst in telling us that somebody reported us because of our Xerox machine, they ransacked our wardrobes, our desks… They wanted access in the house in Bușteni, claiming they had information that anti-Communists were hiding in the forest there, and they had to keep it under surveillance, they came with a paper for us to sign and to allow them to use our house …
The meetings then took place between 1983 and 1986. Did maestro Stroe see these people again, after the revolution of 1989, during his visits home?
Yes, he did. He had a close relationship with [Horia-Roman] Patapievici, who had been to our house even as a student – he was reading physics, but he was very interested in Father’s musical theories, and Father in his turn was interested in what he could learn from him. It was a mutual interest, and Patapievici visited us for years.
How did maestro Stroe and Horia-Roman Patapievici meet?
I think he came on the recommendation of a mutual friend, most likely Cosmin Georgescu, with whom for that matter Father worked a lot for Oresteia, for all three Oresteias, in fact, and for the catastrophe theory. As for Ana Blandiana, she was a long-time friend, she lived some five, ten minutes away, on Transilvaniei Street. Father was close friends with her and with [husband] Romulus Rusan, they too were under the watch of the Securitate, they followed them around in a car… it was a very close relationship.