About Cella Delavrancea, with Mr Constantin Bălăceanu Stolnici

Cella Delavrancea is a symbolic figure in Romanian school of piano, both a great name and a colourful personality. So far, we only learned about her rich life from dry memoirs, books, and biographies. But you knew her personally, and this offers us invaluable insight into her life and character. So, tell us, please, what do you remember about when you first met her

I knew Cella as an artist, a writer, an intellectual, but also as my patient, when she came late in her life for a treatment to stimulate and invigorate mind and body at Otopeni Clinic. She was already a hundred, but physically she was in excellent condition, and mentally she was like a 60-years-old. I first met her in 1942. I was a student at the time. On Sundays, Gheorghe Mironescu, former prime minister and Bragadiru’s son-in-law, would have me over for lunch, and Cella and her then husband Filip Lahovary were there too. You can imagine how interesting it was to listen to all those intellectuals and artists talking!

And what did you think about Mrs Delavrancea?

She was intelligent, charming, she knew how to talk, she was eloquent, and very cultured. With a sense of humour, too, observant, and analytical. Especially when they were commenting on some concert just broadcast from the Romanian Athenaeum, Cella simply shone.

And as a pianist – you liked her, surely?

I went to almost all her concerts, including her last one, in 1988, when she celebrated her 100th birth anniversary on stage with fellow pianist Dan Grigore. That was a wonderful surprise, both artistic- and biology-wise. As a geriatrist, I saw it as a geriatric success for a 100-year-old to have such finger dexterity. It was most interesting.

Could there be a reason for Mrs Delavrancea’s extraordinary longevity, both physically and mentally?s

It was the good gene, apparently her grandparents had both lived to be a hundred.

Would you say there was a difference between the artist and the woman?

It’s hard to say. Cella was very open, not at all conceited, she easily made friends and was good-natured. She was also an extrovert – Aghiuță [little devil], playwright Caragiale called her. So, no, I wouldn’t say there was a difference between her two personas. She was amiable – her sentimental life did shock one, I must say!

Between the 1940s and the time she was admitted into your care, did you meet again?

Indeed, we did, at Mrs Hoisescu’s, her distant cousin. I saw her there, as well as her sister, the architect.

How did people perceive Mrs Delavrancea back then – her personality, her artistry?

I was a student at the time, and didn’t have too much of a social life. I do know that she was admired and liked by those who knew her, because she was good-humoured and kind. That’s about all I know, because medicine is a difficult job, one has to study hard and I didn’t go out much…

And when you yourself were in her company, what did you talk about?

About everything! She had an easy conversation – we talked about medicine, the piano, about music, from time to time about her stormy life. She would tell me about Filip Lahovary, because she knew he was of my circle, but everybody knew that her great passion was Nae Ionescu, with whom she stayed literally until his death, he died with her by his side and she closed his eyes. She would also talk about Caragiale – him, I didn’t meet, but I was friends with one of his daughters, Ecaterina, who was also Cella’s friend.

Mrs Delavrancea was the prototype of the multi-faceted artist: modern, cosmopolite, educated, interested in writing…

She was indeed a good writer.

…I read her stories and I liked them. Do you think that all these adjacent sides of hers helped highlight her artistic qualities?

Yes, of course. The human brain is a very complex machinery. The more you fuel it from a variety of sources, the more intensely and beautifully it works. Cella herself was a complex person – a writer, yes, but also a good music critic. And she was a daughter of fortune, too!

Yes, she was privileged, she was fortunate… was she simply lucky, would you say?

I would – she was able to remain in her apartment on 151 Eminescu Street (where now the Templul Soarelui restaurant is located) through the tempest of communism. What more could one ask? She was a fortune’s darling, but she had her tragic moments too: she witnessed the death of Caragiale while playing Schumann’s sonata, the death of Nae Ionescu… she wasn’t immune from tragedy. All in all, she was however a daughter of fortune until the end of her life – Dan Grigore especially spoiled her.

And when she was a hundred and came to your institution, how did you find her?

She was quite alright, she wasn’t bedridden like the other patients, she moved a lot, walked down the corridors at Otopeni – and they are very long –, she talked, she wasn’t an invalid, she was like someone who had just come over for a couple of days’ stay.

Interview by Ioana Marghita

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