Anton Pann

He looks at us intently with his scrutinizing eyes, sporting the fashionable moustache and the customary brimless tall hat. This is Antonie Pantoleon, initially Petroveanu and the future Anton Pann, born (probably) in 1796 in Sliven, Bulgaria, into a reportedly Aromanian family. Following his father’s death, the “witty as a proverb”, as poet Mihai Eminescu affectionately calls him in his poem Epigonii [The Epigons] young boy settled with his mother and two brothers in Chişinău, and it was with the city’s Cathedral Choir that his musical career started.

Later, in 1812, we find Anton Pann in Bucharest, sacristan with the Olari Church and chanter with Biserica cu Sfinţi [a church whose exterior decoration shows philosophers and sybils, which the people thought were saints]. Studying church music at the Bucharest Metropolitanate with Dionisie Fotino, he also attended the classes offered by the Nicolae Șelari Church (1816-18), learning the Byzantine notation that Petros Ephesios had promoted and which the Church of Constantinople had adopted in 1814. Chanter with various churches and monasteries throughout the country, he returned to Bucharest to become teacher of Byzantine music at the School for Chanters (1828-32) and the Theological Seminary (starting 1842).

Music teacher, but also poet, translator, composer, Anton Pann collected, wrote down, arranged and edited songs, lăutari melodies, collections of folk stories, anecdotes, proverbs, fables, the universe of which in its turn inspired and supported his own creativity. He was particularly interested in the traditional urban music specifically as performed in Bucharest, his compendia thereof a precious mirror of the time’s musical practices. His work as a collector bore fruit in the shape of original pieces influenced by the richly ornamented, modal and rhythmically varied traditional music.

Buying a printing press in 1843, Anton Pann published books of church and secular music as well as his own compositions, initially in the sacred genre too. He allegedly wrote, while a refugee of the Revolution of 1848 in Râmnicu Vâlcea, the Romanian anthem Deșteaptă-te, Române! [Awaken Thee, Romanian!] on lyrics by Andrei Mureșianu (the music is strikingly similar to another of his songs, Din sânul maicii mele [From When I Was at my Mother’s Bosom], a romance on Grigore Alexandrescu’s lyrics that he published in 1832).

Back to Bucharest in 1848, he bought a house close to Saint Stylianos – Lucaci Church, the only one he ever owned. On November 2, 1854 he contracted a fatal typhus, and now rests in a tomb in that church.

From Anton Pann’s collections: Versuri musiceşti [Church Music Texts] (1822); Poezii deosebite sau cântece de lume [Poems and Party Songs] (1831); Spitalul amorului sau Cântătorul dorului [A Hospital for Healing Love, or Singing That Love Out] (1850 – 1852).

From Anton Pann’s original works: Irmologhiu sau Catavasier [The Heirmologion Katavasion] (1846); Heruvico-Chinonicar [Cherubic Hymns and Kinonikons] (1846-57); Epitaful sau slujba înmormântării Domnului şi Mântuitorului nostru Iisus Hristos [The Epitaphios, or the Service of the Burial of Our Lord Jesus Christ] (1853).

From Anton Pann’s didactic works: Bazul teoretic şi practic al muzicii bisericeşti sau gramatica melodică [Theoretical and Practical Bases of Church Music] (1845); Mică gramatică musicală teoretică şi practică [A Concise Theoretical and Practical Musical Grammar] (1854).