Mihai Constantinescu: “We are already talking about the Berlin Philharmonic returning in 2019”

The “George Enescu” Festival’s executive director talked about the difficulties he overcame while organising this years’ edition and disclosed a few surprises of the 2017 edition.

Which are the events that take place at this edition of the “George Enescu” Festival?

There are two types of events: those significant for the Romanian people and those important for a festival program. For the Romanian people, the highlights are the Berlin Philharmonics, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Christian Thielemann, Andris Nelsons, Orchestra Concertgebouw, Murray Perahia, and David Garrett. For a festival program there are Wozzeck by Alban Berg, that is being played for the first time in Romania and I believe it shall not be played again in the near; Elektra by Richard Strauss, that is being played for the first time with an excellent cast.

Then, there are the concerts given by the orchestra Les Dissonances that shall play the Caprice for violin and the Concertant Symphony for cello by Enescu, the Third Symphony by Enescu together with the Philharmonics from Liverpool with Petrenko and The 8th Symphony by Mahler. These are the events that break some patterns, that maybe are not so important for the Romanian people, but they define a festival.

In the end, the series of contemporary music represents an event, because a foreign journalist believes that these are interesting concerts, more interesting that the Israel Philharmonics playing in Bucharest as part of their tour – meaning it can be also heard on other world scenes –. Therefore, this is not an event that the festival critics observe. In the same way, the past editions had Bernstein`s Missa, Messiaen`s Turangalîla or Wagner`s Tetralogy, events that did not attract a lot of public, but they attracted many specialists who have a taste for these sort of events. I believe that the Romanian public must be given more of this sort of works, valuable interpretations, because they are unique pieces in the musical history.

If we were to make a comparison with England, for example, why is there such little contemporary music playing in our country?

England`s public is well educated. There is a much wider presentation range; they have contemporary music festivals that already have their own public. Here, you know very well how many people come at the Contemporary Music Festival organized by the Composers` Union.

We do not have an education yet, because it is not possible, such valuable pieces are not played here, we do not have soloists and conductors able to make such music, and even if they sometimes make it, they do not make it very well. In the past edition Schoenberg`s Gurre-Lieder was played, a much more romantic music, yet let`s see what will Wozzeck do. In 2017 we shall have Mathis der Mahler by Hindemith, with an extraordinary cast conducted by Lawrence Foster. Let`s see how that will go. Either we want it or not, the Festival also has the aim to educate the Romanian public.

Who was the artist most difficult to get?

As an artist, it was Anne-Sophie Mutter. As a band, it was the Berlin Philharmonic. I am referring to the negotiations. Thielemann was also a difficult one.

Are they reluctant to come and play in Romania?

They certainly are. I have realized the way we invited them in 2001 or in 1995 and the way we discuss things now. It is a huge difference. I waited for fifteen years for the Berlin Philharmonic, but now we are already speaking of them coming back in 2019; we don`t need another fifteen years to convince them. Anne-Sophie Mutter is coming this year, after almost twenty five years of negotiations, but she will come also in 2017.

What is the repertoire of the orchestras and of the soloists?

The orchestras must play Enescu. This is a must that we are asking, but it is not an easy one, because the Enescu pieces are difficult and (I am not talking from the view point of the musician, but of the salesman) long. It is a difficult task for an orchestra, who is on a European tour, to learn a half an hour piece, to play it there and then also here. This means a lot of rehearsals. The Liverpool Orchestra with Petrenko, who is already a festival`s fan, plays the Third Symphony by Enescu, the same way that Jurowski played, and the same way Papano shall play it in 2017.

For the others, if they are soloists, we try to suggest what we are interested in and we are already starting to go with a more contemporary repertoire. Any festival must have symphonies by Beethoven or Brahms, it is something normal, but we are already going with newer works.

With regards to the recitals, things are different. There are piano players with whom you can discuss things; there are others with whom you cannot. You cannot negotiate with Perahia, but with Leonskaja or with Zacharias you can talk things over. For 2017 we have a different phase. We shall have sonatas for violin and piano by Enescu played by Vengerov, Capuçon and Kavakos. Then, we shall have the Third Symphony with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra conducted by Antonio Pappano, so we get into another discussion phase.

Who were you not able to bring to the Festival up to now?

Maurizio Pollini. I have always courted him, but he was impossible to bring. It is not the fact that he doesn`t want to come to Romania, it is just the fact that some soloists just do not do festivals. Then, there is Cecilia Bartoli, the artistic director of the Salzburg Festival; this festival takes place at the same time with the Bucharest festival. Itzhak Perlman never comes to Europe for just a single concert. During that time he cannot make it. I have spoken with Krystian Zimerman for about ten times. He comes with his own piano, but September is not a good month for him.

I meet many people who tell me that I don`t bring the artists I used to bring in the `60s, like Richter, Karajan, Menuhin. They have the impression that less valuable artists are coming now. The problem is that those people are no longer alive, and the ones we bring nowadays are world class. We have the first four orchestras in the world and also Mutter, Perahia so how can anyone say we do not offer the same level as at the previous editions? This whole idea has to do with education

How did the Festival manage to become a part of the European cultural circuit? How did you sign up the partnership with Mezzo at the prevprevious edition?

We didn`t court them, it was the other way around – Mezzo, Euro Media, CNN – they came to us looking for partnerships. We keep on saying that the Festival became part of a circuit but we are not doing anything to increase its value. We don`t have touristic programs that bring people to the festival, the Ministry of Tourism is not interested in doing such a thing, the tourism agencies are also not interested or just a few of them care to do this. For example, only four agencies came and told us they would like to buy tickets. The other foreigners come on their own; they look on the internet and plan their own trip. Then, there are the fan groups; the Amsterdam Orchestra is coming with their own fan group.

It is us who are not doing anything. We could make a tourism package for 2 days in Bucharest, for the festival, two days at the seaside, another two days in the Delta or in the mountains. When the people from Mezzo came with that cruise trip there were two hundred of them paying between 7.000 and 9.000 euros… Why can`t we produce something similar? There would be the same conditions, whether we organize it or the Westerners do. This lack of interest is impossible to explain.

Why is Bucharest`s musical life so poor in events between the editions of the Festival?

First of all, it is related to the financing part. One cannot make the return on investment. You pay the artist, let`s say 20.000 euros, you also need money for advertising, for renting, for taxes, etc. It is a hard job. Sala Palatului does not provide the necessary conditions to accommodate a concert. For the festival, we need to set up the hall and the acoustics are very costly.

The concerts organized at Sala Palatului use microphones, but you cannot use microphones for a big orchestra. We also use amplifiers, but they represent approximately 10% of the sound, because we cannot have it any other way. Anne-Sophie Mutter said it very clearly – she wants to sing at the Athenaeum. Likewise, Perahia wants to play only at the Athenaeum, this means that he wants a hall with a clean acoustics and no amplifiers.

What are the surprises of the 2017 edition?

If I were to tell them to you, they wouldn`t be surprises anymore. I will mention just a few names: Lang Lang, playing a recital, then Anne-Sophie Mutter; Martha Argerich is coming again with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit. We shall open the festivalwith Enescu`s OEdip, in the concert version, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, together with the London Philharmonic, we shall have Mathis der Mahler, Faust`s Damnations, and Thomas Hampson, Dmitri Hvorostovsky will also play. Truls Mørk shall play Simfonia concertante by Enescu with the French National Orchestra, a piece that is presented in the opening of the French season, we shall have the sonatas for violin by Enescu that I mentioned before.

Santa Cecilia and Pappano shall came and also Scala with Chailly. We shall close the festival with the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Daniele Gatti. And we hope that the new artistic director of the 2017 edition will be confirmed shortly.