„Retrăind lumea cu ochii de atunci…”
Living among great people sometimes makes you think you’re living in a fairy tale, not sure if you’re one of the characters or the narrator, if there’s a director somewhere to cast the actors in their roles or if you’re free to choose your own. I liked to be a character, because I liked to communicate my ideas. The real world intimidated me, and I had in a certain way intuited, even if I could not put it into words, that there were sufficient fairy tales in this world to find one that would fit my own path through life. How I could express that path, I didn’t quite know. What I did feel, and very strongly, was the pure emotion of walking on it. I still feel it as the decisive inner energy, and I never experienced, with regard to this feeling, fear, which can so many times be overwhelming.
He had asked us to come to his house that day. It was the first class, during the first days of October. We weren’t there to show him what we had written, but rather to listen to music with him. As training composers, our minds were to be shaped by the skilled art of the creators at the end of the 20th century. And we came, open to experiment and to artistic pleasure in perfect harmony.
We had been to his house many years earlier, sometime before 1989, while carolling at Christmastime. I still remembered one winter evening, warming up, barely controlling our anxiety when we realized that we had already left the boulevard and, going by the church square, we were announcing the Nativity to another host.
This time it was midday, on an autumn day. I was mentally following the map of the surroundings, the emotion of celebration now the emotion of discovering a beautiful place in a patchwork city. Amazing how the good threads are woven! I found myself once again astonished by the name of that street, Mătăsari: was it the silk workers [the individuals], those who spent their time raising textile finesse, was it the bird of the same name [the Bohemian waxwing, mătăsar in Romanian], those small singers in woods and parcs? Possible answers involuntarily fused with the name of a military hero from several houses further down the street, with Xenakis’ clouds and with the piercing gaze of an energetic spirit called Ștefan Niculescu, whom I was lucky to call my teacher.
Long-term richness is how I would summarize such a day as that one. The few steps, the entrance, the furniture, the paintings, the small objects fulfilled me, and were also reminders of a similar ambiance, which had shaped me in my grandparents’ house. Such a space helped me gather the knowledge I had acquired at the Conservatory, in the separate fields of the laboratory of music. The Professor & Composer in his environment was the impetus to put our previous reasonings together. Splitting all structure, and with ease, we could now analyse.
Voice is fascinating, I always loved to sing. As a student I had had the privilege to perform the vocal version of Ștefan Niculescu’s Psalmus. A prayer. The repeated going through a composer’s musical fruit makes you be able to break away from the score in a possibly happy way, different from when you are its listener. I can say today, after almost thirty years, that that occasion was an immense gift. And a step forward into deepening our meeting.
Sometime in November, a month after the first class at the newly learned address, I chose a text whose force I had the mission to transfer to sound: the Prayer of Manasseh, the last chapter of the Old Testament. It was during a time that was still divided between my own work and the Conservatory’s requirements. The year that I was about to start a vocal-orchestral piece. That choice was my own and my own only, but I was bound by duty to reveal it to a man with whom I hadn’t as yet had a real dialogue. He had ben there in my observations, my reading list, my musical score diggings, but he had been the one to talk to me. The mătăsari returned on a less cloudy day, but they brought with them all the good fabric of the first “visit”. Stepping again on that same pavement was stepping towards a dialogue as yet unclearly defined. And… should I reveal my thoughts? Should I leave out what I believe must be kept a secret? I had formed a plan, but I had forgotten that events are governed and impossible to know.
He asked me to read out the text. I understood then that he didn’t want to become acquainted with the choice, but wanted me to offer him the biosystem that I and the text formed, to help him find out how that prayer had become mine, and how I had translated the struggling heart of a king from a very long time ago. It wasn’t just an invitation, it was a natural wish to hear me, and to hear me speak. At the end of my reading, he allowed the blessed rest to breathe. And then, in a simple man’s voice, he added the joy of sharing the instance.
Life as a wreath of encounters. Mine with Ștefan Niculescu happened between two prayers.