Verva Op.102 for orchestra (2003)
(b. Brăila, 16 March 1967)
average duration: 18’
first performance: Bucharest, 30 November 2003, Radio Hall, Romanian Radio Orchestra, conductor Horia Andreescu
Composed in 2003, Verva represents the opus no. 102 of a prominent contemporary Romanian composer. Dan Dediu was born in 1967 in Brăila, the same city that, through an amazing coincidence, was also the birthplace of Iannis Xenakis.
Educated as a musician before the 1989 political events in Romania, Dan Dediu benefited from the guidance of Ştefan Niculescu and Dan Constantinescu, while at the beginning of the 1990’s, along with the change in political system, the opportunity to study abroad would open up new horizons. Thus, from the Bucharest University of Music (called the “Ciprian Porumbescu” Conservatory when he graduated in 1989), Dan Dediu becomes a post-graduate student of Hochschule für Musik Vienna, between 1990-1991, studying composition with Francis Burt. From this moment on, the direct contact with international music is facilitated by fellowships from prestigious institutions such as the Alfred – Toepfer Foundation in Hamburg, Alban Berg Foundation in Vienna, New Europe College in Bucharest, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Zuger Kulturstiftung Landis & Gyr in Switzerland, Villa Concordia in Bamberg.
But who actually is Dan Dediu? At the same time he could be considered a virtuoso pianist (with numerous concerts), an outstanding composer (his output is often played in Romania and abroad and recorded for local and international record labels, as well as receiving national and international composing awards), a dedicated pedagogue (he teaches composition since 1993 at the National University of Music in Bucharest, whose rector he is since 2008), a music promoter (artistic director of several contemporary music festivals and the “Profil” ensemble, also a television and radio host), an original theoretician of music (with important studies, articles and published volumes).
The labels often attributed to Dan Dediu are those of “protean”, “versatile”, “dynamic” “prolific composer”. His means of expression are constantly changing, unattached to a single genre, type of instrument/ensemble or method of composition. Chameleonic, he doesn’t follow trends and cannot be included in a specific current or generation. His overflowing imagination can reach different spheres of sensibility and his unrelenting compositional research finds multiple forms of musical expression. He broached with an equal enthusiasm different genres such as four symphonies until now, numerous pieces for orchestra, from which one can name Verva, Narcotic Spaces, Ornaments, Studii-motto, Spaima, Frenesia, Mantrana, Grana, the cycle Hyperkardia, Tabula Angelorum and Hecatomba stand out. Besides that, five concerts (for saxophone, violin, viola, piano), five string quartets, chamber music, piano pieces, cantatas, the operas Post-ficŃiunea, Münchhausen, Eva! and A Lost Letter, ballet music, electronic music, choirs, lieder.
The persistency of an image or impression, of a secret scenario, the uniqueness of the sound or appropriating a new composing technique can become for Dan Dediu a creative impulse. Verva is such an example: its own substance is inscribed in a larger field, in the aesthetic category entitled Visceralia by the author, that includes works from the same class such as Vaier, Lacrimae, Vertiges de la Lontaneité, Frenesia, Grana, Spaima. Other cycles approach territories grouped on other thematic chapters – Personae, Solaria, Sacralia, Stilistica or Lost Continents. Moreover, there are subtle filiations between the works belonging to different chapters, possible intersections through associations of different moods and characters, metaphysical ascensions and descents, oscillations between wit and sorrow.
“I’d like to believe I write tumultuous music, where urgency and adrenaline mix”, confesses Dan Dediu. Being receptive to the new tendencies, the composer is sensitive and open to the multitude of
musical styles of the moment. From classical to jazz, from traditional music to cinematic tones, Dan Dediu’s scores accomplish unique syntheses. The memory of the past assimilated as a “prehistory reservoir” adapts in his case to the rapid rhythm of transformations in contemporary musical language. Many times, he can hide behind stylistic constructs that he appropriates, melting and reinventing them with extraordinary imagination. But his music will always have vibrancy, colour, engagement and substance and the capacity to return to the focal points of sensibility in an ever-changing environment.
The self-portrait which the composer sketched is eloquent: “I found my place, but this cannot be expressed by referring to a certain type of music, but rather to five names of writers: Ionesco, Vargas Llosa, Garcia Marquez, Rushdie and Kundera. Actually, I imagine myself riding a rhinoceros, me, a Macondo storyteller, teaching midnight children about the unbearable lightness of being. How would such a music sound? Coloured, rich and burning. And I’m coming back to Cioran, who said that music must turn you crazy. I totally agree.”
Verva was composed as a commission from the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Company for its 75th anniversary in 2003. It is at the same time dedicated to the conductor Horia Andreescu and to the National Radio Orchestra, who performed and recorded the piece for the the first time.
The intention to evoke the radio influenced many aspects of the form, the material and the tone of the general enunciation. From the mentioning of the first radio signal, imitation of the rooster’s song – a nostalgic icon from its beginning – to the survey of a kaleidoscope of musical genres – correspondence to the idea of changing channels through the push of a button -, the arch of the piece builds a multicolour universe, a meta-history of the radio in musical key which means diversity, different combinations, tolerated or encouraged contrasts. They are multiple mirrors of the mixed styles in the audio torrent, whose impressions oscillate, as Dan Dediu confesses, between “folk dadaism” and “surrealist romanticism”.
The fragmentation of the internal structure common to a rhapsody of alternate moments sheds light on essentially distinct sources – traditional music, jazz or Byzantine, echoes of pop or hard-rock. For the change of perspective, orchestral moments interrupted by solo interventions, frequent breaks in tempo or the shifts of metric pulsation are used with sure hand.
And yet, the general feel is one of continuity and fluidity. The coherence of discourse is subtly supported by a very tight correlation of few prevalent motives. The surface metamorphoses possess a small vocabulary of melodic fragments that suffer significant transformations along the piece. An eloquent example is represented by one of the central themes, a deceiving quote or sample of something that “seems to be” the well-known leitmotiv from Ravel’s Bolero, but “it isn’t” quite the same. While vibrancy and frenzy reach the limits of madness, musical substance is contaminated by the timbre virtuosity of the dialogue between the orchestra’s sections. Thus, confesses Dan Dediu, “the encounter between the spirit of radio and music gave birth to a constant tremor, a diversity of styles and methods (from traditional music to avant-garde, from jazz to rap, from folklore to musique concrète), all of them contained in a vision that encompasses the present, the past and the future.”
The copyright belongs to the composer. To get hold of the parts, the performers are asked to contact the Romanian Union of Composers and Musicologists (Bucharest), the UCMR-ADA department, www.ucmr-ada.ro.
Antigona Rădulescu Translation: Simina Neagu
Read full Romanian preface > HERE