Notes and Editorial Reviews
Trinity Concerto. The Great Passage. The Eternal Return
Ian Hobson, cond; Sherban Lupu (vn); Andrei Tanasescu (pn); Snf da Camera
TOCCATA 0131 (77:32)
Theodor Grigoriu is a modern Romanian composer who was born in 1926. Educated in Bucharest and Moscow, one of his teachers was Aram Khachaturian. Grigoriu concentrates on creating music that relates to Romanian traditions. This disc, entitled
Byzantium after Byzantium,
gets its title from a book
by Nicolae Iorga that encouraged people to trace the influence of the Byzantine Empire on the social, cultural, and intellectual development of the area that includes present day Romania. Grigoriu’s music is often a meditation on what we know of Byzantine culture, much of it preserved by the Christian Orthodox Church. In 1994, at the behest of Romanian-born American violinist Sherban Lupu, the Trinity Episcopal Church of Indianapolis, Indiana, commissioned the first piece on this disc, the
It celebrates the 75th anniversary of their building. For Grigoriu, it was the beginning of a project that would include a sonata for solo violin and a sonata for violin and piano as well as the concerto. He completed the solo violin piece, which he called
The Great Passage,
in 1994 and the sonata for violin and piano,
The Eternal Return
, in 2004. Grigoriu, who was trained as an architect as well as a musician, was thrilled to hear his concerto performed in the great American cathedral. He loved the idea of Byzantine melodies being heard across the ocean and he writes that he believes that listeners who know they are created in God’s image will understand his music. For the first and by far the longest movement of the concerto, “Panmelodion: The Song’s Long Journey Up to Heaven,” he concentrates on the relationship between God and humanity. The second movement called “Threni: Oh Golgotha, Threni” refers to the lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah and “Golgotha” to the place where Jesus was crucified. The third and final movement, “Diaphania: The Eternal Movement,” summarizes the relationship between the Almighty and mankind with the voluptuous sonorities of Lupu’s violin. This most significant concerto pits the soloist against a harmonically evolved orchestration with a background reminiscent of ancient Orthodox music. Old melodies and a melancholy longing for the eternal combine in its chromatic development. Grigoriu’s music demands virtuosity and Lupu plays the solo part with great intensity and exquisite grace. British conductor Ian Hobson never lets the tension sag in this 1996 live performance by the Sinfonia da Camera at the University of Illinois.
The sonata for solo violin has four movements: “Psalm: Lord, stop the passage”; “Murmur: I know that where there’s no death there’s no love”; “Pastel: Long clouds have passed over the plains”; and the dual “Epilogue: I kneel in the wind. There is no road that takes you back.” Despite its religious terminology, this is a universally interesting sonata with spiking rhythms, astringent sonorities, and complex harmonies.
The Eternal Return,
the sonata for violin and piano, provides a song-like dialogue and some colorful drama, making it a fitting finale for this fascinating disc. Violinist Lupu and pianist Andrei Tanasescu play its complex harmonies with energy and devil-may-care abandon. Grigoriu’s music deserves to be far more widely heard and it’s possible that recordings will do that. This Toccata recording has clear sound and the balances are well organized, but most importantly, it is fascinating music. I think many readers will want to own this CD.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Works on This Recording
Trinity Concerto for violin & orchestra by Teodor Grigoriu
Sherban Lupu (Violin)
Date of Recording: 10/17/1996
Venue: Live Krannert Center for the Performing Arts,
Length: 34 Minutes 11 Secs.
The Eternal Return, sonata for violin & piano by Teodor Grigoriu
Andrei Tanasescu (Piano),
Sherban Lupu (Violin)
Venue: Romanian Radio Television Studios
Length: 24 Minutes 22 Secs.
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