Ion Voicu

Ion Voicu, violinist (1923 – 1997)

“Magical violinist” – this is how once was rightly described the artist born on October 8, 1923 in Bucharest in a family of Gypsy musicians with a tradition going back a century, and whose undisputable international fame was due to an overwhelming talent, exceptional virtuosity and a repertoire going from Bach to Enescu, Jora, Prokofiev, and Ravel. Impressive and sober stage presence, Ion Voicu displayed a spectacular, brilliant playing defined by clarity, be it intonational and articulation accuracy to stylistic vision and formal, architectural construction. There is a true “Voicu sound”, intense, communicative of expressive tension and élan, marked by his own feverish, unmistakable vibrato.

Ion Voicu began playing the violin aged five, training with such teachers as George Enacovici, Garabet Avakian and Vasile Filip. He also enjoyed the attention and advice of Enescu himself, both in Bucharest and in Sinaia. At the Moscow Conservatory, he studied with Abram Iampolski and David Oistrakh, becoming close friends with the latter.

Member of the Radio Orchestra (from 1940), making his debut as an orchestral soloist at the Romanian Athenaeum (1941) and awarded the Enescu – Menuhin Prize (1946), Ion Voicu was appointed soloist (1951), later director (1972-82) of the Bucharest Philharmonic. Performing in the greatest venues in Europe, the two Americas, and Asia, from 1956 he played on the famous 1702 Stradivari Elder, formerly the Joseph Joachim violin, today the Stradivarius Elder – Voicu and which the Romanian state bought especially for him.

Not only a violinist, sitting in the juries of such prestigious violin competitions as Tchaikovsky (Moscow), Carl Flesch (London), Sibelius (Helsinki), Queen Elisabeth (Brussels), Ion Voicu was also a conductor, as well as co-founder of the Bucharest Chamber Orchestra (today the Bucharest Ion Voicu Chamber Orchestra).

“What had started out as a play, what was first the pleasure of animating this 4-string dead wood turned into work, a lot of hard work. Practicing hours on end for a simple appoggiatura, days on end on a trill… There is no beauty without pain!”, Ion Voicu said in an interview.

His recordings paint a relevant image of his expressive force, as do for instance those for between 1965 and 1972 for Decca (Mendelssohn’s and Bruch’s concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, chamber works by Prokofiev, Milhaud, Debussy, Ravel, Ysaÿe and Enescu – Sonata no. 2 op. 6 – with pianists Monique Haas and Victoria Ștefănescu) as well his Electrecord albums. As for his 1964 rendition of Paganini’s first violin concerto, with the Dresdner Philharmonie conducted by Heinz Bongarz, it is considered a standard, all his recordings reflecting his warm, intense and brilliant, an example of excellence in violin playing which the passage of time has left untouched.

Ștefan Costache