This is the first episode of a new podcast series that we will run throughout the year. Here's a modern take on the sounds and music of historical Romania, through an intimate journey into the music universe of Anton Pann, a distinguished personality that shaped the Romanian culture of the past two centuries.
Anton Pann was a man of many talents. A composer, writer, musicologist, poet, folklorist, translator and schoolteacher, he was born at the end of the 18th century in today’s Bulgaria. Born Antonie Pantoleon-Petroveanu, he was among the first major collectors of Romanian folklore in 19th-century literature. His creations have been celebrated for their familiar tone, during a period when literary language was beginning to rely on formalism and a large number of neologisms. The writer himself made frequent excuses to the more educated of his readers for any flaws they were to find in his texts.
Anton Pann showed interest in other musical traditions too; in his churchly practice, he endorsed the tradition of Byzantine chants and removed intonations of Levantine inspiration, while being among the first of his generation to use modern notation and Italian markings for tempo. He was a passionate collector of classical-Ottoman music, as well as religious Byzantine music. He used the diverse sources of his work to complement his own view of the world. Reflecting on the perspective of simple folk, Anton Pann’s poems often show sarcastic remarks on social contrasts, Westernisation, superstitions, as well as tensions between estate lessors and workers, in a unique style borrowed from traditional storytelling.
In modern times, most of Pann’s music repertoire is collected, documented and performed by the Anton Pann Ensemble, a music group founded in 2004 and comprising of Constantin Răileanu (conductor, composer, vocalist, percussionist, and kanun player), whom I've had the pleasure to talk to, Sabin Penea (violin), Alexandru Stoica (lute), Andrei Nițescu (cello), Issam Garfi (ﬂute / bansouri / ney) and Oana Benko (video-projection).
Their performances shine new light on these classical sounds and bring the Byzantine repertoire into contemporary consciousness. They include music once played at the courts of Romanian princes and boyars, but also songs that sprung from slums and villages. The Ensemble’s youthful interpretations regenerate Anton Pann’s legacy and offer an accessible approach to traditional music.
In this episode, my guest Constantin Răileanu talks about his research and study of Anton Pann's work, how he founded the Anton Pann Ensemble and his endeavour to decontextualise the music of Dimitrie Cantemir. The show presents a wide selection of music* from different interpreters, musicians, groups and ensembles who approached the music of Anton Pann throughout history.
*special thanks to Victor Plastic for the contributions
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*This article is part of the project Music & Conversations in the Attic, co-financed by AFCN.