Music: Haratiu Radulescu - Piano Sonata No. 4 - 2 vids - Bio - Article by Bob Gilmore. Remembering Horatiu

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Horațiu Rădulescu 

Piano Sonata No. 4
Part 1

Horațiu Rădulescu (Romanian pronunciation: [hoˈratsiu rəduˈlesku]; January 7, 1942 – September 25, 2008) was a Romanian-French composer, best known for the spectral technique of composition.


Rădulescu was born in Bucharest, where he studied the violin privately with Nina Alexandrescu, a pupil of Enescu, and later studied composition at the Bucharest Academy of Music (MA 1969), where his teachers included Stefan Niculescu, Tiberiu Olah and Aurel Stroë, some of the leading figures of the newly emerging avant garde (Toop 2001). Upon graduation in 1969 Rădulescu left Romania for the west, and settled in Paris, becoming a French citizen in 1974. He returned to Romania thereafter several times for visits, beginning in 1991 when he directed a performance of his Iubiri, the first public performance of any of his mature works in his native country. (Rădulescu nonetheless commented that in the interim he had dedicated many of his works to a "virtual and sublimated" Romania) (Rădulescu, cited in Krafft 2001, 47).

One of the first works to be completed in Paris (though the concept had come to him in Romania) was Credo for nine cellos, the first work to employ his spectral techniques. This technique "comprises variable distribution of the spectral energy, synthesis of the global sound sources, micro- and macro-form as sound-process, four simultaneous layers of perception and of speed, and spectral scordaturae, i.e. rows of unequal intervals corresponding to harmonic scales" (Rădulescu 1993). These techniques were developed considerably in his music of subsequent decades. In the early 1970s he attended classes given by Cage, Ligeti, Stockhausen, and Xenakis at the Darmstadt Summer Courses, and by Ferrari and Kagel in Cologne. He presented his own music in Messiaen's classes at the Paris Conservatoire in 1972-73; Rădulescu recalled that while Messiaen himself was sympathetic, later calling him "one of the most original young musicians of our time" (Rădulescu 199), some of the students were more reticent, not understanding his music's "colourful, dreamy, mystical" inclinations (Rădulescu cited in Krafft 2001, 48).

Beginning in the early 1970s Rădulescu's works began to be performed at the leading contemporary music festivals, including Gaudeamus (Taaroa, 1971; in ko 'tro - mioritic space, 1972), Darmstadt (Flood for the Eternal's Origins, 1972), Royan (fountains of my sky, 1973; Lamento di Gesù, 1975), Metz (Wild Incantesimo for nine orchestras, 1978; Byzantine Prayer, 1988) and Donaueschingen. From 1979 to 1981 he studied computer-assisted composition and psycho-acoustics at IRCAM, although his work makes relatively little use of electronic means of sound production. In 1983 he founded the ensemble European Lucero in Paris to perform own his works, a variable ensemble consisting of soloists specialising in the techniques required for his music. In 1991 he founded the Lucero Festival.

In the mid-1980s Rădulescu was based in Freiburg, Germany, though for many years he retained an address in Versailles. In 1988 he lived in Berlin on a DAAD fellowship, and in 1989-90 he was a resident in San Francisco and Venice as a laureate of the Villa Médici hors les murs scholarship. In the mid-1990s he moved to Switzerland, living first in Clarens and later in Vevey. He died in Paris on September 25, 2008.
Musical style and technique

From his earliest works Rădulescu's musical concepts, and the techniques he invented to realise them, were unconventional. For his final exams in Bucharest he composed the orchestral work Taaroa, named after the Polynesian god; this displeased his teachers, who found the idea mystical and even imperialist (Rădulescu, cited in Krafft 2001, 47); only the composer Anatol Vieru supported him.

Rădulescu's spectral techniques, as they evolved through the 1970s and beyond, are quite distinct from those of his French contemporaries Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail. His compositional aim, as outlined in his book Sound Plasma (1975; see Sources) was to bypass the historical categories of monody, polyphony and heterophony and to create musical textures with all elements in a constant flux. Central to this was an exploration of the harmonic spectrum, and by the invention of new playing techniques to bring out, and sometimes to isolate, the upper partials of complex sounds, on which new spectra could be built.

The harmonic relationships in his music are based on these spectra and on the phenomena of sum and difference tones. The opening sonority of his fourth string quartet (1976–87), for example, is based on partials 21, 22 and 43 of a low C fundamental; this is an example of what Rădulescu referred to as "self-generating functions"[citation needed] in his music, as partials 21 and 22 give in sum 43 and in difference 1, the fundamental. (On a C fundamental, partials 21, 22 and 43 are all different, microtonally distinct kinds of F, the 21st partial being 29 cents lower than tempered F, partial 22 being 51 cents higher and partial 43 12 cents higher.) Much of his music for strings makes use of a "spectral scordatura", where the open strings are retuned, often to simulations of the partials of a single harmonic spectrum. For example, in Lux Animae (1996/2000) for solo cello or viola, the open strings are retuned to the 3rd, 4th, 7th and 11th partials of a low E.

Many of Rădulescu's later works derive their poetic inspiration from the Tao Te Ching of Lao-tzu, especially in the 1988 English version by Stephen Mitchell: the titles of his second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth piano sonatas, and of the fifth and sixth string quartets, are taken from this source. The piano sonatas, as well as his Piano Concerto The Quest (1996) and other later works, make use of folk melodies from his native Romania, integrating these with his spectral techniques.
Selected works

    Taaroa (1969) for orchestra
    Credo for 9 celli (1969)
    Flood for the Eternal's Origins (1970) for global sound sources
    Everlasting Longings (1972) for 24 strings
    in ko 'tro - Mioritic Space (1973) for 11 recitors, string orchestra, electronic and nature sound
    Capricorn's nostalgic crickets (1972/1980) for seven identical woodwinds
    Hierophany (1973) recitation in 42 languages with 42 children
    Wild Incantesimo (1978) for 9 orchestras, 162 players
    Lamento di Gesù (1973–75) for large orchestra and 7 psalteries
    A Doini (1974) for 17 players with sound icons (bowed vertical concert grand pianos spectrally retuned)
    Thirteen Dreams Ago (1978) for 11x3 strings –11 live with two pre-recordings (or 33 strings live)
    Doruind (1976) for 48 voices in 7 groups
    Do Emerge Ultimate Silence (1974/84) for 34 children's voices in groups with 34 spectrally tuned monochords
    Fourth String Quartet – "infinite to be cannot be infinite, infinite anti-be could be infinite" (1976–87) for 9 string quartets, i.e. 8 (spectral scordatura of 128 strings) around the audience and one in the center
    Outer Time (1980) for 23 flutes or 42 gongs or trio basso or two spectrally retuned grand pianos or 8 brass - 4 trumpets and 4 trombones
    Inner Time (1983) for solo clarinet; Inner Time II (1993) for 7 clarinets
    Iubiri (Amours) (1980/1) for 16 players & sound icons (if live, another 3 players)
    Clepsydra (1983) for 16 players with sound icons
    Das Andere (1983) for viola sola or cello solo or violin solo or double bass solo tuned in perfect fifths
    Astray (1983/84) for two duos: each of one player with 6 saxes & of one player with a sound icon - score on color slides
    Awakening infinity (1983) for large ensemble of 25 players
    Frenetico il longing di amare (1984) for bass voice, octobass flute, sound icon
    Dizzy Divinity I (1985) for (bass, alto or grand) flute
    Sensual Sky (1985) for ensemble: fl in G, cl., alto sax, trombone, sound icon, violin, viola, cello, double bass
    Intimate Rituals (1985) for 4 sound icons with or without other soloists
    "forefeeling" remembrances (1985) for 14 identical voices
    Christe Eleison (1986) for organ
    Mirabilia Mundi - music for the Speyer Basilica (1986) for 7 large groups - up to 88 players
    Byzantine Prayer (1988) for 40 flautists with 72 flutes
    Dr. Kai Hong's Diamond Mountain (1991) for 61 spectral gongs and soloists
    Second Piano Sonata - "being and non-being create each other" (1991)
    Animae morte carent (1992/95) for oboe d'amore and spectral piano
    Third Piano Sonata - "you will endure forever" (1992/99)
    Angolo Divino (1993/94) for large orchestra
    Amen (1993/94) for organ
    Fifth String Quartet - "before the universe was born" (1990/95)
    Piano Concerto "The Quest" (1996)
    Sixth String Quartet "practicing eternity" (1992)
    Fourth Piano Sonata "like a well ... older than God"" (1993)
    Amor medicabilis nullis herbis (1996) for soprano, clarinet and violoncello
    lux animae for violoncello (1996) or viola (2000)
    l'exil interieur (1997) sonata for cello and piano
    Fifth Piano Sonata "settle your dust, this is the primal identity" (2003)
    Cinerum (2005) for four voices and ensemble with period instruments
    Sixth Piano Sonata "return to the source of light" (2007)


    Intimate Rituals. Sub Rosa, 2006. Contains Das Andere, Agnus Dei, Lux Animae II, Intimate Rituals XI. Vincent Royer, viola, with Gérard Caussé, Petra Junken and Horațiu Rădulescu.
    Lao tzu Sonatas. cpo, 2004. Contains Piano Sonatas nos. 2 (being and non-being create each other), 3 (you will endure forever), and 4 (like a well... older than God). Ortwin Stürmer, piano.
    Streichquartett nr.4 (infinite to be cannot be infinite, infinite anti-be could be infinite) opus 33. Edition RZ, 2001. Arditti Quartet.
    The Quest: Piano Concerto op.90. cpo, 1998. Ortwin Stürmer, piano, Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt conducted by Lothar Zagrosek.
    Sensual Sky op.62; Iubiri op.43. Adès, 1996. Ensemble Polychromie conducted by Nvart Andreassian.
    Inner Time II op.42. Auvidis, 1994. Armand Angster Clarinet System.
    Horațiu Rădulescu. Adda, 1993. Contains Dizzy Divinity I, Byzantine Prayer, Frenetico Il Longing di Amare, Capricorn's Nostalgic Crickets II. Pierre-Yves Artaud, flute, Orchestre Français de Flûtes conducted by Horațiu Rădulescu assisted by Pierre-Alain Biget.


    Gilmore, Bob. 2003. "'Wild Ocean': An Interview with Horatiu Radulescu". Contemporary Music Review 22, nos. 1-2 (March–June): 105–22.
    K[rafft], N[athalie]. 2001. "Horatiu Radulescu: la composition des nuages". Le Monde de la Musique 255 (June): 46–49.
    Möller, Hartmut. 2001. "Trying to Understand Horatiu Radulescu's String Quartet op. 33: 'Infinite to Be Cannot Be Infinite; Infinite Anti-Be Could Be Infinite'". In The Ratio Book: A Documentation of The Ratio Symposium, Royal Conservatory, The Hague, 14–16 December 1992, edited by Klarenz Barlow. Cologne: Feedback Studio.
    Radulescu, Horatiu. 1975. Sound Plasma - Music of the Future Sign. Munich: Edition Modern.
    Radulescu, Horatiu. 1985. "Musique de mes univers". Silences 1:51–56.
    Radulescu, Horatiu. 1993. Liner notes for Horatiu Radulescu (Adda, 1993: see Discography).
    Toop, Richard. 2001. "Radulescu, Horatiu". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.

Piano Sonata No. 4

Part 2

His Site


 Remembering Horatiu
Bob Gilmore remembers his friend, the composer Horatiu Radulescu

By Bob Gilmore to The Journal of Music

When i was in the Hospital Cochin in Paris last September visiting Horatiu Radulescu on what turned out to be the last evening of his life, a phrase kept going round my head and wouldn’t leave. It’s the title of his Third Piano Sonata, one of my favourites of his works: ‘you will endure forever’. When a dear friend dies the richness they have brought to your life does not simply evaporate; it is a permanent gift, a sort of immortality. So it is with Horatiu, who brought such fun, such colour, such joy, into my life. And such wonderful music. The title ‘you will endure forever’ is taken from the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu in the translation Horatiu loved by Stephen Mitchell, the text that inspired so much of his later music. Section 33 of the Tao Te Ching ends:

If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.

Horatiu Radulescu was a man who stayed in the centre. He was totally unconcerned with fashions in the arts, with opportunism, with career-building. He was prepared to work hard to secure good performances of his music by interpreters he trusted. He could be pushy at times, and probably seemed arrogant to some; but what concerned him was making music, making art, of the highest integrity, and sometimes that effort involved a little pushing. In a composing lifetime of over forty years, and through 110 opus numbers – his total catalogue is much larger as many works exist in multiple versions – he created a body of music that is among the most courageous, most beautiful and most inspiring of the modern era. Early in his creative life Horatiu discovered the universe of possibilities within a single tone, the insight that led him to formulate his ‘spectral technique of composition’. He spent his life being true to that vision, to what he liked to claim was ‘the truth known to Pythagoras, to the Hindu mystics and to the ancient Byzantine chants’. These ancient verities – ways, he once wrote, of scrutinising the ocean of vibrations that is music – were values that he believed musicians must always strive to reanimate, to make relevant to their own time.

Horatiu was a fully contemporary artist and yet always struck me as a man who was not entirely of this world, who seemed to have a direct connection, a sort of hotline, to Lao Tzu, or Beethoven, or Leonardo Da Vinci. Horatiu’s Lucero Print, the publisher of his scores, is named after the Clos Lucé, the mansion in Amboise in the Loire Valley where Leonardo spent his last years. One of the many things I learned from him was that there was no contradiction between the ancient and the modern – that it was possible both to talk knowledgeably about the latest mobile phone and to love Josquin des Prez. On my various visits with him over the years we would discuss his radically new compositional techniques until my head was spinning; for example, a spectral tuning he had devised for string instruments that would allow them to play as high as the 641st harmonic. Then he would drive me somewhere (usually at high speed) and there would be CDs of Bach and Gesualdo in his car, or Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. He loved Michelangelo and Machaut, and the purity of Webern, Paul Klee and Georg Trakl. I found this connection – a love of the great traditions and yet a burning need to push ever forward – to be tremendously exciting.

Horatiu adored many kinds of music, from ancient traditions worldwide to the present day, and had a deep love of the traditional music of his native Romania. He found Beethoven ‘the Himalaya of our psyche’, especially the Beethoven of the late quartets, the Diabelli Variations and the Hammerklavier Sonata; but he also loved Wagner (especially Tristan), Schoenberg (Verklärte Nacht) and Strauss (Metamorphosen). Among the immediately preceding generation he had much good to say of Messiaen, Ligeti and Xenakis; he felt more ambivalent (though generally positive) toward Stockhausen, and had no time for Boulez. About his own generation it is probably best not to quote him; but then, few composers are all that generous toward the music of their peers.

Quite apart from music there was the delight of Horatiu’s language. To string players he would talk about little devils (his term for an irregular melody of very high harmonics at the bottom of the fingerboard); or u du ’u du (a special phase-shifting bowing technique he developed and used in many of his compositions); or alphorns (irregular melodies, very high on the string, sometimes in two voices simultaneously). He would occasionally use Romanian terms like doina, a style of music associated with Romanian shepherds, which he parsed as meaning longing, ‘to long with sound’. However mystical or exotic they sounded, these terms always meant something absolutely precise. There was a sort of mysticism, too, in Horatiu’s fondness for (and virtuosity in handling) the numbers that described the spectral harmonies of his music.

In everyday conversation he would reduce me to helpless laughter with some of the things he said, many of them quite vulgar but to me highly delightful. Anything that annoyed him, even a CD that refused to burn correctly, was a putain (a prostitute) and was dismissed with merda rossa! (red shit!). Things that he thought were stupid would elicit c’est la folie furieuse!, but things or people that pleased him would be described, with softly rolling ‘r’s, as corrrrect. He occasionally would describe himself as being in the cacapoufi (in the shit), as for example when he’d had a row with someone who wanted to commission a new work, or once when his credit card refused to give him money. On the phone he would insist on greeting me in Italian – ‘Salve Bob, come stai?’ – knowing full well that I don’t speak a word of the language; but it was so charming, so natural a way of conveying his love of the different sounds and rhythms of the many languages he spoke, that I couldn’t possibly object. (If he tried to call me and couldn’t get me he would generally leave messages on all three of my phones; I’m glad I wasn’t paying his phone bill. For Horatiu everything was urgent.) My partner and I had him several times to stay with us in Amsterdam, and we loved his company, no matter how demanding he could be of our attention, no matter how many cups of coffee he wanted me to make him all day long. On his last visit, which was five days in duration, he managed to get though the best part of four jars of honey, either in his coffee or as a sort of continuous amuse-gueule between courses. One night before bed, after a long day of exacting rehearsals on his Sixth String Quartet with Amsterdam’s Zephyr Kwartet, he sort of groaned; I asked him if he was tired and he replied, with his wonderful English pronunciation, ‘No, I am full of honney.’

Horatiu’s main contribution, as I see it, was nothing less than to help rethink the language, particularly the harmonic language, of modern music. Earlier composers had tried to base harmony more closely on the natural resonance of sound rather than on the falsifications of tempered tuning, but their efforts had only gone part of the distance. Messiaen, for example, made use of what he called a ‘chord of resonance’ based on the partials of a particular segment of the harmonic series; but their exact vibrational proportions are rendered almost unrecognisable in his music as the chord is quantised to the available notes of the tempered piano keyboard. Other composers introduced microtones – ‘the notes between the cracks’ – to try to address the limitations of equal temperament, but the resulting expansion of vocabulary was not always accompanied by a coherent grammar that would enable the ear to make sense of the result. Horatiu’s spectral techniques, as they evolved through the 1970s and beyond (independently from those of his French contemporaries Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail) offer new ways of navigating the potentially infinite space of musical pitch relations. His compositional aim, as outlined in his book Sound Plasma (1975), was to bypass the historical categories of monody, polyphony and heterophony and to create musical textures with all elements in a constant flux. Central to this was an exploration of the harmonic spectrum, and the invention of new playing techniques to bring out the upper partials of complex sounds, on which new secondary spectra could be built. The harmonic relationships in his music are based on these spectra and on the phenomenon of sum and difference tones, psychoacoustical by-products of the behaviour of musical tones in the air.

For all his fluency in matters theoretical, Horatiu would be just as inclined to explain his ideas in poetic terms. In a passage from Sound Plasma he describes his ideal of a steady-state musical texture without disruptive elements in a beautiful metaphor: ‘Gaining and losing stars in the late evening and before dawn, we cannot determine a precise instant for it, and we enjoy a “trembling time” feeling.’ He was able in this way to open the door for some musicians to his particular musical visions. The titles of his pieces often have a kind of otherworldly quality that reminds you of the strange, haunted imagery of a Romantic poet like Gérard de Nerval or the melancholy, heart-stopping canvasses of Georgio de Chirico: Faint Sun, Late Universe, These Occult Oceans, Thirteen Dreams Ago, Twilight Intricacy, Capricorn’s Nostalgic Crickets. Horatiu’s world was full of a special sort of awe and a trembling excitement, a longing for the beauties of the universe, both outer and inner. His is music that makes your heart beat faster with glimpses of new universes still to be explored.


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Music: Haratiu Radulescu - Piano Sonata No. 4 - 2 vids - Bio - Article by Bob Gilmore. Remembering Horatiu 

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