In memoriam – Ștefan Niculescu

Ștefan Niculescu (Puiu) was my colleague during my first year at the Conservatory. He was older than us, he had already graduated from another college. We called him “The Engineer”. He was very considerate and polite, but he kept his distance from us freshmen.

We met again in 1962, when we played together Bach’s arrangement for four harpsichords of Vivaldi’s RV 580 at the Radio Concert Hall in Bucharest, then eleven years later, in a slightly different line-up, at the Romanian Athenaeum. He had by then established himself as a teacher and composer, but was still the same courteous, gentle Puiu of my Conservatory years.

I would say that I finally got to know him a better only after 1982, when I was allowed to return to Romania. What an erudite, what a modest, kind man! Our last meeting took place during the 2007 Enescu Festival, when, after a concert, Puiu invited me to join him and his wife back to their place. I was surprised to see, in the living room, a huge Christmas tree! Puiu explained that they like Christmas trees so much, they have them all year round.

Many years have since passed, and I often reminisce about that tree. I think I understand its meaning now – I think it reflects Puiu’s need to offer beauty and light to those around him. The “magic of Christmas” was indeed his generous soul whose childhood candour and joy were intact.

Puiu knew his time was coming, and was waiting for the fatal moment with a saint’s tranquillity. Before he flew to be with the angels, he left us a final masterpiece, POMENIRE – un Recviem românesc [In Memoriam – a Romanian Requiem], a 7-movement work for choir and orchestra inspired by the Romanian Orthodox Divine Liturgy and whose title is inspired by Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem. When, I wonder, will a commercial record of this music be released, to light up our souls, like Puiu’s Christmas tree?

Liana Șerbescu

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