Few late 19th-century artists enjoyed a life as long, as rich and as colourful as Cella Delavrancea’s. Daughter to writer and lawyer Barbu Ştefănescu-Delavrancea and to teacher Maria Lupaşcu, Maria Cella Delavrancea was born on December 15, 1887 in Bucharest. She and her three sisters had the benefit of a privileged familial context, as their parent’s friends were leading figures in Romanian culture: Alexandru Vlahuţă, Ion Luca Caragiale, Gala Galaction, Constantin Brăiloiu, Matei Caragiale, Nicolae Grigorescu, Theodor Pallady and Octavian Goga. “We were raised in an environment where people talked only about literature, art and music. We were allowed to listen and learn from those talks. That climate had sort of become our natural climate, I simply cannot image one different”, Cella Delavrancea, who first learned to play the piano from her mother, later recalled.
Training at the Conservatory of Music in Bucharest, Cella Delavrancea pursued further studies at the Conservatoire de Paris, where she was awarded First Prize. In the capital of France, she drew the attention of Gabriel Fauré Faure, of Alfred Cortot – “I only regret one thing, Miss: that you weren’t my student” – and of Ferrucio Busoni (who dedicated her an impromptu), meeting Constantin Brâncuşi, Ignacy Paderewski, Monique Haas and Monique de la Brucholerie. Her international career took off soon after she completed her studies, and one of her frequent collaborators was none other than George Enescu.
Cella Delavrancea was friends with the greatest cultural and political luminaries of the inter-war period – her close relationship with Queen Marie of Romania is common knowledge. After divorcing from banker Aristide Blank, founder of the Marmorosch-Blank bank, she was given the building on 151 Eminescu Street, where she lived until her death on August 9, 1991 (she was 103). In the same courtyard, a smaller house was inhabited by her sister, Henrieta Gibory, one of Romania’s first women architects.
Cosmopolite Cella Delavrancea also excelled in music criticism, writing, from 1935 onwards, hundreds of reviews and various texts on music, all of them a model of rigour, finesse, culture, and stylistic balance – she was for that matter a talented writer as well, making her literary debut in 1929 in Tudor Arghezi’s satirical publication Bilete de papagal and continuing to write (stories, novels, memoirs).
Between 1950-54 Cella Delavrancea taught piano at the Music High School in Bucharest, subsequently taking a position with the Bucharest Conservatory and coaching, until her retirement, such famous names as Radu Lupu, Nicolae Licareţ and Dan Grigore.
Cella Delavrancea remains the first Romanian artist to take part in her own centennial, in December 1987, at the Romanian Athenaeum, when she played with Dan Grigore.
Author: Ioana Marghita
Translation: Maria Monica Bojin