Constantin C. Nottara

Composer, violinist, teacher, conductor and music critic, Constantin C. Nottara (1890-1951) was one of Bucharest’s important cultural figures in the first half of the 20th century. Born in the capital to great actor Constantin I. Nottara and to singer and pianist Elena Nottara, it was this latter, a former student of George Ștephănescu, that introduced him to music. He first trained with violinist Nicolae Cerchez, then entered the Conservatory of Music and Declamation where he studied with Robert Klenck (violin), Dumitru Georgescu Kiriac (theory of music and solfège) and Alfonso Castaldi (harmony, composition, conducting). He continued taking violin classes in Paris with George Enescu and Henri Berthelier, while also studying composition and attending, from 1909, the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, in the class of violinist Karl Klinger.

Once back in Romania, Constantin C. Nottara was extremely active: one of the founding members of the Romanian Composers Society, he also founded the string quartet of the same name and the Orchestra of the City of Bucharest. Performing as a solo violinist, conductor or chamber musician – he premiered George Enescu’s String Quartet no. 1, op. 22 alongside the composer –, he was also a music critic, writing for Romanian magazines as well as for the prestigious Zeitschrift für Musik in Leipzig. For almost three decades, he taught violin, chamber and orchestral music at the Bucharest Conservatory.

As a composer, Constantin C. Nottara chose a blend of directions, always interested in the traditional sound-world – Romanian, Russian, Czech, French or Portuguese. He wrote in most musical genres, his melodic gift manifest in chamber music works, compositions for solo instruments and orchestral ensemble (his Poem for Violin and Orchestra received the George Enescu Composition Prize), operas and ballet music. His most important work for stage is his unfinished Ovid, after Vasile Alecsandri’s play.

If his father Constantin I. Nottara lived for a long time on Regală Street (today Câmpineanu Street) close by the old National Theatre (destroyed during World War 2), Constantin C. Nottara inhabited, beginning in 1931, the superb villa on 105 Dacia Avenue, finalized with donations from the Dramatic and Lyric Artists Union. The ground floor, initially called the Nottara Community Centre, belonged to his father, while the upper floor was his and his family’s. According to the No. 14 plus minus website, “Ana Nottara, the composer’s wife, tried to set up a library in the basement, for the use of students at the theatre and music faculties. The two apartments, the actor’s and the composer’s, are placed symmetrically, are cross-shaped and are identical spatial organisation-wise […] From the respective large, spacious entrances you could see a bedroom (on the left-hand side), a salon (ahead) and an office (on the right-hand side)”.

In 1956, on the initiative of Anna Nottara and in memory of the two great artists, the C. I. and C. C. Nottara Memorial Museum was opened in the building, functioning until 2016. The villa is currently on sale by its owners.

Monica Isăcescu Lup