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CLAUDIU IONESCU


Talking to

Right Worshipful Brother BUJOR PRELIPCEAN,

Assistant of the Grand Master of NGLR



Bujor Prelipcean earned a solid reputation in the field of classical music. He has founded "VOCES", the most significant quartet in our country. I first listened them 20 years ago and since then I have never missed any concert in Bucharest. I also found him in Masonry and I was pleased to tell him my admiration for their art. Obviously, I asked him for an interview for FORUM MASONIC.

Bujor Prelipcean

Let's begin our discussion with a natural return to the core of your art, your first steps in.music. Did it happen by chance, was it fashionable or family tradition?
My mother discovered my talent. Instead of going out in the courtyard and playing with children, I used to listen to music, especially classical and opera music! And I played by ear. Amazed by the joy that I had to reproduce what I heard, my mother realised that I am prone to music. And since in the 50s the fashionable instrument was the violin. Later, I, as well as others, figured out that I was able to learn easily. This is how I started to develop myself in this direction. Definitively, it was an inborn skill.


But nothing is possible without study .
It's true, and my mother asked a fiddler from North Moldavia to teach me. He was my first teacher. I remember as if it happened yesterday, not half a century ago.The first songs that I learned from him were very fashionable: "In the Beloved Bucharest" and "Suliko", Stalin's favourite song. Meanwhile, my mother divorced and we moved to Galati. There, I found a musical environment which was extremely propitious for developing. I entered the school of a teacher to whom I shall keep a pious memory for the rest of my life - professor Nachmanovici. I consider him one of the greatest teachers Romania has ever had. I affirm this based on the fact that many of his students have an international career today: beginning with Eugen Sārbu, an exceptional musical multi-talent, who has won at least 35 international contests! He has a fantastic career. Since I've been the director of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Iasi, he has concerted a few times there. The list of Mr. Nachmanovici's students may continue with Avy Abramovici (concert meister of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Tel Aviv), Elena Popescu (concert meister of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Palermo), Liviu Cāsleanu (concert meister in Beethoven Halle in Bonn), and the last on the list, if you please, myself.The professor taught us the techniques' basis, so necessary later on.


It's not a usual thing for two of a family's children to be professional musicians. Was there a competition between you and your brother, the cello player Dan Prelipcean?
On the contrary, we supported each other. He stood by me for all my life. It has been a great joy and delight to play together ever since I can remember. He is one of the closest persons to my soul, the brother God gave me.

There have been years when I couldn't understand my mission and I wished to follow the Medical College. I wished to become a surgeon. On my mother's request, along with that of the people who came to my concerts, I went to the Music Academy. And I even had another impetus, that my brother started to coquet with the cello. He progressed extremely fast and we had the great pleasure in playing chamber music. In the attic of the house we had moved in, we found a book of Church music. This is how I started, along with my brother, playing Church lieds on 2, 3, 4 voices, with double strings. And now, after some decades, we're making music together. Dan is the cello player of the Voces Quartet. He is the Atlas who supports, with his solemn instrument, the whole performance of the quartet. If I'm permitted to draw a comparison with the difficult art of the circus, he is the strong man holding the metallic rod onto which we, the skinny people on top, do acrobatics.


Now, in this very moment, what reminiscence comes to your mind from your student years?
I came to Iasi in 1967 because this city had always attracted me with its moderate, mild, beautiful and calm people. I remember that when I came to Iasi to take my exam at the Music Academy, there was a marvellous scent in the air, the flowers of the linden tree were blooming. In the morning, when I opened the window, I would feel that scent that blended with the strong essences of the Nicolina mud, that cures even today the rheumatic people.

I was accepted in the Music Academy with no problems. Here, I also met a professor that raised - thanks God! - many talents. I'm talking about Gheorghe Sārbu. The proofs of this teacher's talent are his two daughters, Mariana and Magda Sārbu. Mariana Sārbu is a very well-known name, she played at the last edition of the Enescu festival with a notorious band from Rome; she is the leader of the Academica Quartet. Magda Sārbu, the last born, is a concert meister at the Suisse Romande Orchestra in Geneva. I was a close friend to other great personalities of the violin school, teachers like Alexandru Garabet, Leonid Popovici, Stefan Lory. They always had a competent and good advice for me. Not only once did their advice save my career. They were the ones who smoothened my way to the great performance.

During those years, I used to work 8-10 hours a day, probably to recover the period that I lost in my childhood and youth. But I didn't feel the effort; I was captivated by the thought and the idea of the grant that I got in Moscow, where I studied with David Oistrach. Those were the years when I progressed a lot technically, instrumentally, musically, but also as a human being. Those years fulfilled another side of me, feeding the wish to make chamber music. In my freshman year in Iasi I founded a quartet. It had several members. Then we - me and my brother (who became a student at the Music Academy in 1969) were attracted to the pre-classical music. These were the headstones for the future building, born in 1973 - the VOCES Quartet.


Quartet

I know that VOCES studied with the most appreciated quartet in the world - AMADEUS...
VOCES took heart quickly because we won several international prizes. In 1974, we won the 1st prize at the International Competition for Chamber Music in France and two years later we received the 2nd prize in Bordeaux. We culminated in Hanover, in 1979, with the 2nd prize at the largest competition of chamber music in the world. The prize consisted in a two-year grant at the Music Academy in Köln, where we studied together with our idols, the members of the AMADEUS Quartet. We were fascinated by them from the very first moment we heard them. Until we met AMADEUS, we had worked with other great masters of the chamber music, the lamented George Hamza, Master Wilhelm Georg Berger (who wrote three quartets for us), Amadeo Baldovino and many other sacred monsters. I have always felt the need to know, to perform.


What was the first thing to learn from AMADEUS?
A soloist who appears on stage needs charisma, also. And this can be learned. Many play good, but they don't have charisma on stage, the public doesn't like them so much. You have to be a poet, a magician, a good story-teller too, you need to have the capacity to catch the public's breath and to take them through all the beautiful states, make their minds wander on the waves of the music, where their human nature and cultural level can take them. I, the musician, have to be the one who has the power of suggestion, I have to make you sweat, cry, shiver, have emotions, have goose bumps. This is about everything we learned from the Amadeus Quartet. Technically, we didn't learn many things, but we learned how to present this art in order to become a drug for those who want to listen to you.


Did this "lesson", of playing with the souls, in the noblest sense, keep you together during the time? Do you have the same membership from the beginning?
The present membership has been the same since 1983. The changes haven't been always so gentle; one of them has been a real earthquake in the life of the quartet.At a certain moment, suddenly, one of our colleagues remembered he had German origin and asked for citizenship. With a quartet formed by.three members, we, the others, didn't see the meaning of staying and playing abroad where we had arrangements.Today, our ex-colleague regrets having renounced a worldwide notorious quartet for an orchestra pit in a small town in Germany. He still has the nostalgia of our concerts, he told us about it many times. All the more so, as today, when he plays in the pit, his nostrils are invaded with the thin dust on stage, the sawdust that is falling in the pit when the dancers do their number. On stage he would have been a king, whereas in the pit.


Have you ever been tempted to move abroad, having so many international recognitions and contacts?
There have been many moments when we could have stayed abroad. The first was in 1969, when we toured for the first time with the quartet in France, as representatives of the Students' Cultural Club. They made us play popular music too, in order to save the daily allowances!!! I remember getting off the train in the East Paris station and looked all around me with big, lost eyes. I was shocked! It wasn't at all as we learned in the political sciences courses.we were supposed to see in the "decadent capitalism" every bad thing on this world, but it wasn't like that.The contrast may have very well blown your mind easily!

In 1971, there was a small tragedy.we had to play in Freiburg for about 54 times "The Story of the Soldier" by Stravinsky. Our role, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Iasi, was to accompany at a conducting festival, whose director was Vaclav Neumann, the director of the Philharmonic in Baden Baden. Master Neumann was so enthusiastic about the way I played that he got on the stage at a certain moment and proposed, in front of all, to hire me as concert meister at his Philharmonic! I remember that in that moment master Ion Baciu, the conductor of our Philharmonic, who was on tour with us, took off his glasses, leaned on the desk, turned white and was about to faint.As for me, I recognize, I got scared and I said that I was just married. "No problem, we'll bring your wife here, too!" was the quick answer. I said that I had some contracts with the Philharmonic in Iasi and other places. "No problem, we have a good lawyer, we can cancel all the contracts". Seeing that I prevaricated, and as he interpreted my perplexity and my "home-bound", he proposed a bigger salary, of 4.500 marks, as well as a flat and some financial help to buy me a good violin.All these in front of the collective of the orchestra of Iasi! Confused, I told him that my brother stayed in Romania, that he played music and I cannot leave him alone.That moment his "hostilities" stopped!!!

There have been some other moments when I was proposed to stay. But I was conscious of the fact that I gave birth to a "baby" and I owe him. It's about the VOCES Quartet. If all of us had remained, there would have been no problem, the way the Athenaeum - Enescu quartet did.

We could have remained abroad in 1979, when we were winners of the greatest international competition; we had a fabulous amount of money, we were students at the Music Academy in Köln, with a very good grant for those times. But we didn't. This fanaticism for playing chamber music proves that I didn't care at all for where I worked.All I was interested in was playing Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn. Every one of us knows that life during the last years before 1989 was terrible. But I wasn't interested in the fact that the programme on TV was only two hours long. It's true, I swore when electricity was cut off, but I knew that in six hours the refrigerator couldn't have defrosted completely.The fact that I was making music, that we were a state quartet in Romania, that we were recognized and appreciated made for the lack of electricity.When my son was born, there were 24°C inside. Not in one room, but in the entire apartment, if we had summed up the temperatures in each room!!! This wasn't a reason to remain abroad. The food was scarce? It's true, but thanks to our name and contacts, we were able to find meet for our families. Every time we came back from abroad with something, we could handle it. Music had to be on the first place.


Prelipcean family

.And, obviously, in this "fight" that was so far away from the universe where music took you to, you had your family with you, because love, respect and understanding transformed the 24°C in hot days!
That's true. Mihaela, my wife, is a physician. She sacrificed herself; she was with me all her life. She's a wonderful woman! One of the reasons why I am so happy at home is because I meet her. She tolerated silently my passion for chamber music. Accidentally, my brother's wife is also a physician. I told you, in the beginning, that I wanted to become a doctor. Maybe there was a trace in my brain.So I found a doctor.The day we'll have another doctor in the family isn't far - Mihai, my son, is a student at the Medical College. He didn't step on the path of music.


If you were to characterize yourself, what would you say?
I think I was born with the sense of housework, which is something they can't teach you in school. I always have this desire to progress. I'm born on the 18th July, under the sign of Cancer. I've been the director of the Philharmonic in Iasi for 5 years. I'm not permitted to do what I would like. But the Philharmonic in Iasi has annually about 5-6 tours abroad, we have computers in every office, the Philharmonic's web site is so good that we've been congratulated by Columbia Artists Management in New York. We have new instruments, a new Steinway piano, a car with which we transport our guest. The salaries of the instrumentalists are among the best in Romania. I create my posters on a new plotter, a recent acquisition, we have recording machines and in about a year we'll be able to produce by ourselves. So, these are part of my characterization! My joy is to help my fellows, to do something good. After the Revolution, I brought all kinds of help to the orphanages in Romania. I'm the vice-president of the Kinder Hilfe International Association in Germany. Many hundred tones of material support were brought to the unfortunate children in Iasi, Bogdanesti, Bucium, Popesti, and the Saint Mary Hospital and many many others. I remember, and I can't help shedding a tear, I'm not ashamed, when I saw the kids who bit from a chocolate bar and then they spit it out because they didn't know its taste.Do you have any idea how this disturbs you?! I left that place and I wanted to do more, and I had the feeling that I did so little.I brought medicines, I had a fight with the Ukrainian custom workers because we had a truck at the customs filled with plasma and blood resources.

But let's get back to music, right? And I shall use the plural, "we", like it's natural! Among the good things we've done on this planet, I want to mention that in 1981, on the occasion of 100 years since the birth of George Enescu, whom we love with fanaticism, I would say, we edited the whole discography of his works. I see that today this whole discography wanders the world, was bought by the Olympia House in London from Electrecord (without our knowledge!)


I notice that you aren't hesitating in pointing out what is annoying you.A look to the immediate future: are there certainties, are there expectations?
In a short time, I will become a full-time professor at the Music Academy in Iasi. I am a honorary professor of the Music Academy in Cluj, honorary professor of the Music Academy in Wurzburg, quartet professor of the Academy in Amsterdam. We concert with the VOCES Quartet throughout the whole Europe. We are permanently invited to the Salzburg festival. In Germany, we have a loyal public. If we put a poster, the size of a tram ticket, the concert will be sold out!!! These are my activities, our activities.

We don't have exclusive contracts with an impresario agency. I have so many friends in Europe that it's enough to call in Paris, Rome, Hanover or Salzburg, and we're immediately called there. We're still appreciated.We have two chamber groups that we prepared, which are very worthy: the "Gaudeamus" quartet of the Philharmonic in Brasov and the "Ad libitum" quartet in Iasi, where two of my ex-students perform. They have three international prizes, just like us. I have students studying violin, too. Among them, 15 are already employed in several orchestras throughout the world - USA, Europe, Israel. I give you a single example: an ex-student, Nicolae Cardos, coming from Arad, who was completely out of order when he had been accepted the last on the list at the Music Academy. He played as if he had used somebody else's hands. He worked immensely; he had a huge power of working and such a great desire to learn that he graduated the first the Academy with the best marks and now he is the chief of the second violin at the Philharmonic in Gottingen. See, there are certainties, born from our hard work and the love for music, impossible to measure!


What determined you to join Masonry?
If Mozart and Haydn, whom I worship, were Masons, it means that it is a great honour for somebody as trivial as I am to belong to Masonry. I knocked at the gates of the Temple to discover myself, to be able to do more for the people, for this country. I think that I am in great harmony with the idea of Masonry, I can say that I was born a Mason without knowing it.

Last year, in February, I was appointed Assistant of the Grand Master. I'm glad that this Orient has accomplished great things. A lodge has been regularised and passed - in corpore - in our obedience. We have a new temple; you saw how beautiful it is. Perhaps the Great Architect of the Universe will help us build a bigger and larger one. The meeting with the Constanta Orient was, as well, a great joy for me. We had the honour to have there Thomas Jackson and West Baytes. It was great. The Moldavian journey was provided by me. Standing next to a man like Thomas Jackson was equal for me to having a virtuoso course with the Amadeus quartet.




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