Theodor Grigoriu

1926 - 2014

Romanian

Summary

Theodor Grigoriu, born in 1926 in the Danube harbour city Galatzi, was one of the central figures in the Romanian music scene of the second half of the twentieth century, both as a composer and a musicologist. Besides his broad oeuvre spanning almost all genres of classical music, Grigoriu also was a renowned film music composer.

Grigoriu’s music impresses because of its lyrical qualities which also reveal his ability to control and develop sounds in a highly dramaturgical fashion. This becomes directly clear, when one looks at a score: Grigoriu gives very specific expression markings. Though the expressive power never turns into sentiment. The lyricism of his works is spontaneous and continuous. Grigoriu himself characterises this as ‘elegiac lyricism’.

Theodor Grigoriu died on May 21 2014, leaving a rich collection of works yet to be truly appreciated outside of Romania.

Biography

Theodor Grigoriu, born in 1926 in the Danube harbour city Galatzi, was one of the central figures in the Romanian music scene of the second half of the twentieth century, both as a composer and a musicologist. Besides his broad oeuvre spanning almost all genres of classical music, Grigoriu also was a renowned film music composer.

Grigoriu studied violin at the Bucharest Conservatory (1934-1936); violin, music theory and music history at the Conservatory ‘Pro Arte’ in Bucharest (1936-1940); and composition with Romeo Alexandrescu (1940-1949). He then obtained his post-graduate qualifications at Moscow State Conservatory P. I. Tchaikovsky (1954-1955), studying composition with Aram Khachaturian, polyphony with EK Golubiev, and orchestration with D.N. Rogal-Levitzki. During this period, he also completed his architectural studies at the Faculty of Architecture in Bucharest (1949-1954).

Throughout his career Theodor Grigoriu was granted multiple awards including the George Enescu composition award in 1943, multiple awards from the Romanian Composers Union (1953, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1984, 1992), the Romanian Academy Award in 1975, the Gold Medal of the French Academy "Arts-Sciences-Lettres” in 1990, the Grand Prize of the Romanian Composers Union in 1998 and the second international composition prize in Metz in 2000.

Grigoriu’s music impresses because of its lyrical qualities which also reveal his ability to control and develop sounds in a highly dramaturgical fashion. This becomes directly clear, when one looks at a score: Grigoriu gives very specific expression markings. Though the expressive power never turns into sentiment. The lyricism of his works is spontaneous and continuous. Grigoriu himself characterises this as ‘elegiac lyricism’.

Even though Grigoriu eagerly engaged with the main currents of musical thought in Europe throughout his career, his work is rooted in Romanian poetic sensibility and traditional melody, which Grigoriu considered to be of enduring quality in contrast to the transient ‘assimilated’ music styles of Western-Europe. Two works particularly demonstrative of this assertion are his Symphonic Variations on a song by Anton Pann and Three Shepherd Songs; the themes and spirit of authentic traditional folk music is overt and instantly recognizable. He strongly believed that true innovation must be sought in musical ‘substance’ and not merely in the means used, regretting that the focus on the latter often led to ‘sterile spirit’.

Grigoriu’s effort to innovate the musical substance goes hand in hand with his inquiry into the concept of ethos. The concept of ethos is best understood here as the guiding beliefs of the Romanian society. An essential work founded on this idea is Columna Modala, whose subtitle is Investigations in the ethos of Romanian music. This work could be considered as a storage of ethos. By collecting these guiding beliefs of the Romanian society, and by extension of human existence, Theodor Grigoriu tried to archive a world idea of a human collectivity.

Further, Grigoriu also had a keen interest in scientific ideas. In his symphonic poem Cosmic Dream, he researches how the human race relates to the cosmic phenomena. The work was inspired by the launching of the first artificial satellite of the Earth.

Grigoriu’s fostered a keen interest in technical detail and the micro-language of sound. He gave great attention to the discovery of unusual instrumental tone colours in his orchestrations, explored the possibilities of different rhythmic cells, introduced the heterophonic style in Romanian music with his Homage to Enescu, and played with choral sound in his symphony, Sea Vocalisms.

Theodor Grigoriu died on May 21 2014, leaving a rich collection of works yet to be truly appreciated outside of Romania.


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