Anatol Vieru

Anatol Vieru (1926–1998) was a music theoretician, influential pedagogue, and a leading Romanian-Jewish composer of the 20th century. A pupil of Aram Khachaturian, he composed seven symphonies, eight string quartets, numerous concertos, and much chamber music. He also wrote three operas (Iona – 1976, Praznicul Calicilor – 1981 and Telegrame, Tema si variatiuni – 1983). He was awarded Herder Prize in 1986.

“Anatol Vieru’s music occupies an unusual middle ground between the age-old and the ultra-new: his initial musical impulses were born of the Romanian folksong he heard around him as he grew up, though he soon evolved towards the mainstream of European modernism. (…) The first piece that Vieru acknowledged was a Suite in the Ancient Style for strings, which he wrote in 1945, at the age of 19 (before beginning his formal studies), and which won the George Enescu Prize a year later. He was to garner a number of prizes in the course of his life: his Cello Concerto won the Reine Marie-Jose Prize in Geneva in 1962, and four years later he won a Serge Koussevitzky Prize in Washington. Among Vieru’s other distinctions were a Romanian State Prize (1949), another George Enescu Prize (1967), that of the Union of Composers and Musicologists three times (1975, 1977, 1979) and the Herder Prize (1986).

His early works manifest an interest in combining modality with folk elements, but his language soon began to take on a more radical accent, even as early as the oratorio Miorita (“The Ewe”, 1957). And from around 1964 Vieru began to apply serial techniques more explicitly to his Romanian inheritance. The result, a method of composition he adhered to for the rest of his life, he called the “sieve principle”, using it to generate a soundblock of 61 notes. Vieru systematised his approach to composition in two theoretical treatises: Cartea modurilor (“Book of Modes”, 1980) and Dela moduri la timpul muzical (“From Modes towards Musical Time”, 1990). Cartea modurilor, Vieru said, “gives coherence of system to my findings and offers new suggestions for the future”.(…)Vieru was not afraid of the larger forms. His worklist includes four operas: Iona (“Jonah”, 1972-76), Praznicul Calicilor (“The Feast of the Cadgers”, 1978-81), Telegrame, Tema si Variatiuni (“Telegrams, Themes and Variations”, 1982-83) and The Last Days, The Last Hours (1990-95). There are six symphonies (1967-89), much chamber music (including eight string quartets), many concertante pieces (including, most recently, a concerto for the rare combination of two cellos and orchestra), and a generous quantity of cantatas and other vocal music.

Vieru was active in a number of other capacities. In his earliest adulthood he was a conductor at the Bucharest National Theatre (1947-50) and immediately thereafter (1950-51) took over the editorship of the journal Muzica. In 1970 he founded the concert series “Parallel Musics”, and was to conduct its concerts for many years, presenting an enormous range of music, from Lassus via Ives, Scriabin and Schoenberg to Varese and Schnittke. He also wrote on a wide range of musical topics, often on aspects of the theory of modern music.(…)”
Martin Anderson, 1998

MUSIC: Centaurus