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Conductor Valentin Radu: Vox Ama Deus
Web site: www.voxamadeus.org
PCM: You are starting this season with a new cd release.
Valentin: The actual Vox Ama Deus season starts on October 8th with the Grand Mozart Festival. It seemed like the right time as this year is the 250th birthday of Mozart. When I mentioned to my agent the idea of a Mozart recording he said , "I hope you donít want to do the Requiem. I asked ďWhy?Ē. ďBecause there are so many of themĒ, he said. I was surprised: he knows that everything I do is very different in terms of performance and approach.
Do you have a copy?
Valentin: Mozart never completed the Requiem, he died while writing it. So it was not considered that valuable because he never finished it. In fact, that is not true. Mozart sketched out his work and it was completed by Xaver SŁssmayr, his protťgť. Mozart followed Bach in that practice, as Bach always sketched out his pieces and worked with the melody and then the bass line. Mozart used to do the same thing. Also the Requiem is like a testament, itís all Mozart in many ways and non-Mozart in many ways. It is very romantic, powerful and emotionally complex. Composition-wise there is an incredible sense of harmonies, complex chords and voice treatments.
What I also like about this recording, and what I have done with all my previous recordings, is that we performed it first live at a concert setting and then recorded it with the same group of people. Thereís something about a live performance versus just a recording. Thereís an emotional factor which unites the performers. We recorded it the day after we performed it at the Kimmel Center, and we were all still emotionally charged with the performance spirit.
PCM: When you say, "spirit" - Iíve noticed that in the recording which I liked more than I thought I would. I have also felt that presence in your live performances as well.
Valentin: I do hope that audiences pick that up. I walk a very fine line between being very strict towards the performance style of the period of the composer and the fact that we are in the 21st century with all of the improvements to the instruments, approach to the articulation, balance and rhythm. I have learned along the many years since I started to do early music that it is the conductorís task to put a concert together and decide how it is to be performed. But I would like to give credit to the superb and sublime musicians I have been very privileged to work with. As a conductor, it can be very frustrating when I cannot obtain from the instrumentalists or vocalists what I have in mind.
PCM: Speaking of working with superb musicians, last Novemberís Mozart Celebration at the Kimmel Center you conducted your mentor, pianist Dan Grigore.
Valentin: Dan Grigore is my dear friend and mentor. Yes, last year I conducted maestro Grigore in Mozartís piano concerto No. 20 in d minor. That was very pleasing, emotional and symbolic. Many years ago, I made my debut on the stage with the Bucharest Philharmonic playing Piano concerto No. 20 in my native Romania, under Grigoreís tutelage. He taught me everything I know including that very piece, and now I was on the podium with our roles reversed.
PCM: How did that make you feel?
Valentin: How does it make me feel? Fabulous! I have a phenomenal relation with him. When we work together it is just an unbelievable experience. Itís artistic, itís friendship, itís spiritual. When he and I perform together, I feel that nothing matters in the world, I go into a spiritual intensity.
Maestro Grigore usually arrives to the U.S. for a week, he traditionally gives a concert at the Kimmel Center on the first Friday of November, followed by a benefit recital at the Romanian Consulate in Philadelphia. What I like about him is that he is first an incredibly knowledgeable musician. He is a very big guy, I canít believe he sits down and plays so delicately. He has his own style, which was not stolen from anyone else. I remember he would say to me when I was a kid ďYou will do it this way now as I show it to you. But I donít expect you do it this way all the time because I want you to have your own style.Ē
Going back to your question about how I feel conducting Dan Grigore, it is a very satisfying and humbling experience. I also feel as though I donít deserve to be up on the podium when he is on the piano. I have such admiration and reverence for him that sometimes I feel as though I am not worthy. I actually spoke to him about this and he patted me on the back. He was very touched, he said, "I understand". He said his wish was that I wouldnít feel that way, we are both servants of the music. We are equal, it is not about us, we are messengers of the composer we are performing.
PCM: I saw the two of you play together on the piano at last yearís fund raiser after most of the guests left. The two of you were in a world that no one could touch and the music was amazing. Could you ever do that in concert?
Valentin: Itís very hard to create that air on stage, plus we have not found a venue for that. What we basically did was let our guard down and just had fun.
PCM: Has Dan Grigore told you how he feels about your achievements?
Valentin: Maestro Grigore is invited all over the world to perform. He only accepts invitations from who he wants to perform with. In the United States Vox Ama Deus is the only group he performs with. In interviews when he is asked who his favorite group to perform with is he always says, "Vox Ama Deus in Philadelphia".
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