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I never know what surprises a package from Command Central is going to bring; and truth be told, after listening to the new arrivals, not a few of them go right back to where they came from. As readers and colleagues know, music of Modernist tendencies—I’m talking about the real hardcore stuff—is not my thing, and I’m generally wary of composers born after World War II, though there have been quite a few exceptions.
Călin Humă, whom I had never heard of before, as I suspect not many others have either, is one of those exceptions. He was born in 1965 in the region of Romania known as Moldavia. Quoting from Guild’s album note, “Humă was able to follow a commercial career alongside his musical studies before being appointed Romanian Honorary Consul to the United Kingdom.
He has lived and worked in Britain for over twenty years, his diplomatic duties running alongside his development as a composer. Humă is not a prolific composer. He has been a slow developer in arriving at his mature work, which has been mostly concerned in recent years with larger symphonic forms, at the head of which stand two symphonies (2015 and 2019) and the Symphony-Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2018).”
Jerry Dubins, Fanfare Magazine, USA
"Ces enregistrements des créations mondiales de deux partitions de Călin Humă sont à la fois déroutants et séduisants. Déroutants, car, comme le dit la notice, ses compositions « ont été qualifiées de néoromantiques, car il y cherche des éléments nouveaux tout en restant dans le cadre de la tradition tonale », à laquelle il est si profondément ancré qu’en cas d’écoute à l’aveugle, on attribuerait plutôt cette musique à un XIXe siècle finissant. Séduisants, car l’inventivité mélodique est convaincante et vaut de beaux moments concertants et orchestraux qui plairont aux amateurs de romantisme intemporel.
Né en 1965 à Lasi, dans le nord-est de la Roumanie, Călin Humă, dont nous découvrons l’existence, bénéficie, avec le label Guild, d’une notice bien documentée, écrite par Robert Matthew-Walker, traduite en français, qui permet de bien appréhender un parcours qui a abouti depuis plus de vingt ans en Angleterre, et plus précisément au Pays de Galles.
Călin Humă est programmé avec succès au Royaume-Uni, mais aussi en Allemagne, ainsi que dans son pays natal. Après avoir mené de front des études commerciales et un apprentissage musical, il a accompli une carrière qui l’a mené à des fonctions diplomatiques : il a été nommé consul honoraire de la Roumanie en Angleterre, où il vit, dans le Hampshire. En mai 2019, dans la Cathédrale de Winchester, un nombreux public a applaudi la création de sa Symphonie n° 2, sous-titrée précisément « Hampshire ». Ce compositeur peu prolifique prépare un concerto pour violon. Sauf erreur, c’est la première fois que deux de ses créations paraissent sur CD.”
Jean Lacroix, Crescendo Magazine, Belgique
"Călin Humă forty-minute Symphony No.2 was given in an orchestration (including organ) by the conductor, who has previously performed, and recently recorded, Humă’s First Symphony and Piano Concerto. The setting for this premiere was perfect, for the character and nature of this singular composition arises essentially from a creative mind that is more fully contemplative than urgent; not for Humă the manic bustling of aspects of modern life, as the listener is, from the spacious opening pages, drawn into a creative world by a genuine musical craftsman, inspired by the eternal verities of human existence than any temporary fashion.
Humă’s Second Symphony speaks to the listener in language never forbidding or difficult to grasp – structurally, there are aspects of an almost Brucknerian breadth, a definitive strength of total integration and sureness of expression, but this is music that does not hurry the listener or throw the argument with unrelated ideas. The tonal plan of this work deserves mention: although beginning in a somewhat relaxed C-minor, and ending with a powerfully affirmative extended coda in D, one would hesitate to ascribe their juxtaposition as fully organic: this music remains itself. The composer must have been thrilled by the reception."
Robert Matthew-Walker, Classical Source, UK
Breakthrough with his first symphony
For Călin Humă, music is a central pillar, but it is not the only aspect in the life of the Romanian. After studying music, his life journey took him to Great Britain, where he became Honorary Consul of his home country. The compositional work is therefore free from the pressure of existence, reflects personal passion without having to prove himself or anyone else.
Complex sentence structure
Free of current fashions and far from the hustle and bustle of London, he rethinks in the 21st century a late or maybe even a Neo-romantic diction very imaginatively - with Nordic colouring and not without trace elements from his Eastern European homeland. The first major work on this CD recording is titled „Symphony Concerto“. The solo piano is gently woven into a multilayered structure. All of this is predestined to plunge into a deep quiescent state, borne by a singability that is almost sentimental, but ultimately very plausible here. Soft timbered strings make the horizon bright and colourful, so that the pianist Sergiu Tuhutiu unfolds with clear touch finesse his own storytelling art without words.
Breakthrough with his first symphony
Călin Humă made his breakthrough with his first symphony, also called „Carpatica“, which is now performed in many countries. According to his own statements, Călin Humă feels significantly influenced by Jean Sibelius. Two Largo sets precede an Allegro, but the continous breathing bow is even more important. The present recording also likes to favour a more powerful gesture, such as the ruggedness with which the brass trumpets boast - because such images evoke the remote mountain landscapes in Moldova, a part of Romania. But then the sensitive soul speaks again - and a finely tuned, very intelligently designed coexistence of pathos and tender emotion dominates.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Christopher Petrie, is empathetic and motivated to enter these perennial areas of longing. Subtle noblesse shines in the string parts and the woodwinds sing their songs of gentle melancholy and joy. Călin Humă`s works can unfold their full charisma on this basis: as symphonic-composing creations, which have matured as if they were deeply calm and also appear to be somewhat timeless.
Stefan Pieper, Klassik 21, Germany
Original German version: CD-Besprechung
Music for yourself
Călin Humă recently made his breakthrough with his First Symphony, ,Carpaticaʼ, which is now recorded on this CD. On this matter we are listening to the symphony concerto for piano and orchestra, performed by pianist Sergiu Tuhuțiu. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales is in charge of performing it, conducted by Christopher Petrie.
Călin Humă is a special case in recent music history: as a Romanian Consul General in Great Britain, he does not earn his livelihood as a composer, but, despite his professional training and rather as a hobby, he can approach his compositions and develop himself, regardless of any influence from the outside. This music does not have to prove anything to anyone, it does not have to appeal to anyone, it was born purely out of love for the beauty of sounds.
Humă's catalog of works is correspondingly narrow, and yet the composer ventures into extensive large forms headed by his two symphonies and the symphony concert. According to his CV, he is currently working on a violin concerto.
His style reveals deep roots in the tradition of tonality, which is never breached. There are quite a few daring twists, possibly not even intended, which, however, are barely noticeable and immediately fit into the overall picture, thus even adding some flavour to it. A closeness to the Russian tradition of the 19th century can still be distinguishable, Humă himself mentioning Sibelius particularly as a great role model. In the symphonic works he creates a width and grandeur, maintains a continuous softness and outstandingly appreciates the delicate expressions without acridness or protruding contrasts.
Without wanting to follow suit with the exuberantly comparing and constantly illustrative booklet author, I cannot avoid making a direct comparison: the symphony concert could almost have been written by Rachmaninoff, especially the proximity to his C minor concerto No. 2 astonishes. Humă only lets go of his full grip and rhythmic drive so that they could break the resilience of his crystalline style. Despite the symphonic breadth and carrying capacity, it is a fully grown piano concerto with a demanding solo part, including ostentatious cadenzas.
The style of the symphony is clearly similar to that of the symphony concert, with Humă paying more attention to balanced orchestration and having to leave certain echoes of pithiness to the brass and the deep strings, where the piano previously counterbalanced. In terms of their formal design, both works sometimes rotate in a circle and do not lead in a straight line, which, however, also creates a certain dreamy, almost enthusiastic sphere in which one likes to get lost. Because this music touches directly and invites you to sink into it.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Christopher Petrie, starts with purity and emotional lightheartedness in order to achieve a gentle and friendly performance. The orchestra creates undulating surfaces and sets up a leisurely panoramic view across the endless expanse of Humă's forms. In the symphony concert, Sergiu Tuhuțiu adjusts as primus inter parens, follows the orchestra without focusing on himself. In this way the work lives up to its title, which does not leave the soloist alone. Tuhuțiu doses his stroke well, brings impressionistic lightness and delicacy into the solo part, thus giving him weightlessness.
Oliver Fraenzke, The New Listener, Germany
Original German version: “Musik für sich selbst”
a brilliant and melodious piano part
Born in the part of Romania known as Moldova, the composer Calin Huma, born in 1965, did not pursue a “normal” career, but lived a double life: sent to Britain as a honorary consul, he developed his creation only slowly, which culminated in large works for the past five years, two of which were recorded here on CD. The “Symphony Concerto” for piano and orchestra dates from 2018 (the 1st symphony on this CD from 2015).
Pianist Sergiu Tuhutiu, who is also from Romania and trained there as in Germany, has taken on the difficult task of this concert as the soloist with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under the direction of Christopher Petrie. Why difficult? When the orchestra takes up the themes presented by the pianist, the piano is completely submerged in the tutti sound. But there are enough solo passages that also have a perfectly tonal language. This concert sounds almost late romantic, with influences from English and Russian composers of the late 20th century.
But there are the unusual harmonic “deviations” that reveal underlying tones from Moldova. Not everything is ingeniously orchestrated, there are outlandish and almost eerie harmonies as well. But still this concert is an audible one that combines the best things that make up such a concert: a brilliant and melodious piano part. And the performers are fabulous in their undertaking.
Repertoire value: 4/6
Calin Huma | Symphony-Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (+ Sinfonie Nr. 1 “Carpatica”)
Piano: Sergiu Tuhutiu | Conductor: Christopher Petrie | Guild Music 7824 | Distribution: Klassik C
einen brillanten wie melodiösen Klavierpart
In dem Teil von Rumänien geboren, der als Moldawien bekannt ist, hat der 1965 geborene Komponist Calin Huma keine „normale” Laufbahn eingeschlagen, sondern ein
Dopelleben geführt: Als Ehrenkonsul nach Großbritannien entsendet, entwickelte er seine Schreibweise nur langsam, die erst in den vergangenen fünf Jahren in großen Werken gipfelte, von denen hier zwei auf CD gebannt wurden. Das „Symphony-Concerto” für Klavier und Orchester stammt von 2018 (die 1. Sinfonie auf dieser CD von 2015). Der ebenfalls aus Rumänien stammende und dort wie in Deutschland ausgebildete
Pianist Sergiu Tuhutiu hat sich der für einen Solisten schwierigen Aufgabe dieses Konzerts mit dem BBC National Orchestra of Wales unter der Leitung von Christopher Petrie gestellt. Warum schwierig? Wenn das Orchester einmal die von dem Pianisten vorgestellten Themen aufgreift, geht das Klavier vollkommen im Tuttiklang unter. Aber es gibt genügend Solo- Passagen, die zudem eine vollkommen tonale Klangsprache aufweisen. Fast schon spätromantisch klingt dieses Konzert, mit Einflüssen von englischen wie russischen Komponisten des späten 20. Jahrhunderts.
Aber da sind die ungewöhnlichen harmonischen „Abweichungen”, die unterschwellig Melodien aus Moldawien erkennen lassen. Nicht alles ist genial instrumentiert, da gibt es eigenwillige wie fast schon schräg anmutende Zusammenklänge. Aber dennoch ist dieses Konzert ein gut hörbares, das die besten Dinge verbindet, die ein solches Konzert ausmachen: einen brillanten wie melodiösen Klavierpart. Und die Interpreten sind famos in der Ausführung.
Calin Huma | Symphony-Concerto für Klavier und Orchester (+ Sinfonie Nr. 1 “Carpatica”)
Sergiu Tuhutiu Klavier (k.A.) | Ltg.: Christopher Petrie | Guild Music 7824 | (Vertrieb: Klassik Center)
"Romantic to the bones"
THE NEW LISTENER INTERVIEW
Composer Calin Huma in conversation with René Brinkmann, The New Listener, Germany
German version: HERE
Dear Calin Huma, your career as a composer can be described as untypical these days: You were born in Iasi in Romania, but then embarked on a career as a businessman in Great Britain in the early 1990s. Today you are Honorary Consul of the Republic of Romania in the UK and only made your first appearance as a composer about twelve years ago. But when and how did you get into music in the first place?
It sounds a bit eclectic, doesn't it? Perhaps the clash between these material preoccupations in metamorphosis with a metaphysical world, projection of my own philosophy, constitute the reservoir of emotions from which I sublimate my musical voice.
My daughter, Ruxandra, was formed from an early age as a pianist. Throughout this period, I got closer to the inspiring world of classical music. Listening to her through countless hours of rehearsals lightened a fire ready to erupt. Although I did not have anyone in my family in music, I grew up with the Classics, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Enescu, Sibelius.....which proved to be the base on which to start building a musical profile. I started to play with the piano, never being drawn into interpreting but creating. It just happened as if my inner self was ready to explore its potential through music rather than other forms of thought expression.
When did you start composing your own works, and how did it come about?
I had started then to 'articulate' small tunes, emotionally driven, until a point when I became self-aware of my genesis. It was if the music was shaping me deeply, dematerialising the particles of my existence and rearranging them into an evolving human being aspiring to a better self.
Let's not forget that I grew up in a communist Romania under the dictatorship of Ceausescu, which surely deluged its vile stench into the melting reservoir of thoughts, sensations, and conflicting ideas that were the primordial 'substances' of my formation as an adult. It was a definite conflict with part of me, forming in the shadow of illuminate classicism being literature, painting, theatre, music, or other forms of artistic manifestation. Luckily and not only, altruism prevailed, and through a few bars of music, I found that I was able to express which I could not in a thousand words. And so I continued.
Was there also a time when you actually did compose but did not bring your compositions to the public because you were probably unsure whether your Music would be accepted? If this was the case: What was the decisive reason to finally go public with your compositions?
This was not the case. I always involve a small number of people, usually friends, into the early stages of all my compositions. I play to them during the development of my pieces. Their reaction is priceless as their emotional response gives me an indication of whether I can communicate with the listener. For me, and I am afraid some will disapprove, 'Vox Populi, Vox Dei'.
'Unsureness' about my music is a constant feature of my life! You see, through music, one cannot lie. My music is an open book deep into my soul; it reveals the best-hidden secrets of my being, my life's philosophy. However, not being classically trained as a musician helps, as I do not share the profession's fears and preconceptions. I am not afraid of the 'truth,' and I am prepared to take criticism.
As my daughter finished her studies at the National Welsh Conservatoire, she and her boyfriend then, Christopher Petrie training at the time in conducting, gave me their time and ear and helped me to consolidate my compositions into something more structural. This was when I jumped from piano solo to orchestral. I had a piece for large orchestra, Miorita Ballade, a famous Romanian poem, performed by the Craiova Philharmonic Orchestra in Romania in 2013. The work was very well received, and its warm reception gave me the 'wings' needed to start my 'flight'! Later, Ruxandra and Chris formed the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of London, an Orchestra of young professional musicians. I will never forget their first performance in Cadogan Hall in London with Grieg Piano Concerto interpreted by Tom Poster and Tchaicovky's no 6 Pathetique Symphony.
Being inspired by them, I have consolidated my output and came out with my Symphony no1 'Carpatica' in 2015. The London premiere at Cadogan in London sold out the box office. And here we are today.
Many reviewers have compared the music on your first album – the "Symphony Concerto" and the First Symphony – with Rachmaninov's style. Is Rachmaninov one of your sources of inspiration? What other sources of inspiration do you have?
Indeed He is! And what a genial composer He was! He does not stand alone, though. On my imaginary road of music, other amazing composers are flanking the 'path to Heaven' such as the classics, the romantics, not so much the minimalists, structuralists, or dissonance ones. However, I have enormous respect for any artist concerned with the process of creation, in particular, for any artist in general. Their impression on me is quite subjective, revisiting the point I made about communist Romania; listening then to their works was like having access to a different world, not solely esoterical. Still, the very material one beyond the Berlin Wall, as freedom above all, was a pressing desiderate. It is easy, in this context, to understand why they made such an impression on me beyond the lyrical universe of their music and why I cannot escape from their grasp, not that I wish to, of course.
How can we imagine the compositional process in your case: Do you compose on the piano or freely in your thoughts?
On the piano. This magnificent instrument works as a catalyst of which keys sing notes that stick to my thoughts and transforms them into waves, which become my musical voice. Think of it as flakes of snow that form by water, attaching to particles floating in clouds. The piano simply translates those emotional outbursts, emotions suspended in between the material and the metaphysical world, into music and carry them further into the building blocks of a piece. I compose from the base up. Of course, given my limited abilities in piano playing, there are many moments when I develop a tune within the cognitive process of thought.
You have worked with the conductor and composer Christopher Petrie for several years. How did you get to know him, and what is the special bond in this creative partnership?
He was dating my daughter for nine years, time in which we've got to know each other very well. He immersed himself in the Romanian culture with a keen sense of curiosity and respect. We had countless philosophical discussions; we have interacted in all aspects of life. He is the kind of person that will enrich you, and you become wiser after each encounter, always telling you something new. He is somehow able to provoke me into thriving to become a better composer. He is also a point of reference when it comes to structure, arrangement, and orchestration as I have limited knowledge of the way instruments work. I have the complete orchestral work in my head; however, he will tell me what I cannot do, and we go together over every bar of music.
In earlier epochs there were often composers who did something completely different in their main profession: Alexander Borodin was a chemist in his main profession, Goethe's favourite composer Carl Friedrich Zelter was an architect and building contractor, and one could continue the series of well-known names. Nowadays, it seems that, above all else, one needs an academic degree to be accepted as a composer. Why do you think that is so? Were people in the past perhaps a bit more open-minded about music?
There are few ways to listen to music: with your brain, with your heart, and with respect to great composers with both. As always, music reflects the wider political and social conjuncture of where a society is in time and space, of its ideology and its popular or academic beliefs. Take, for instance, the turn of the 20th Century when Strauss raised few eyebrows with his opera Saloma. Then Schoemberg and his disciples would change music forever. As I merely circumnavigate the world of music, I am more like a distant planet on a very loose elliptical orbit. A lot of today's music is concern with structure and sound research above all. For many artists, art is for the artist only! Art is "Sufficient to Itself". As said at the beginning of the interview, to me, 'Vox Populi, Vox Dei".
Your musical language could be described as neo-tonal or even neo-romantic. Did you consciously choose this style, or does it simply represent the music that sounds inside you?
The simple answer is NO! How can I compose what I am not? For me, conscience choice should come at the end of the composing process after squeezing your heart out of the very last ounce of emotivity, which you will structure afterward to form a message that can be understood.
To me, self-fulfillment is human beings' perennial aspiration, burning like a living flame. Its combustion is based on the truth of knowledge, on faith or metaphysics, and, as a completion of one's limits, on art, thus giving an ineffable expression to the mysteries of human existence. In its internal order, music insatiably tends towards the harmonious resonance of the soul's thrill with the 'music of spheres' that Plato once mentioned. As cosmical beings, we project our inner psyche within the celestial rhythms so as to meet the stellar boundlessness. Conceptually, the sound of music is the voice of the absolute, is inexpressible. Through its variations, it objectifies inner tensions metamorphosing the neutral world into the humanised being. Music is thus demiurgic. Through sublimating sound, full of meanings and experiences, music can overcome the absurdity of the question 'Why does something exist rather than not exist?' As cosmical beings, we define the world's purpose, a world unaware of itself, projecting our spirit into infinity. Music concentrates the never-ending longing to embrace and valorise the infinite space into reconciliation of the human micro-horizon with the cosmological mega-horizon. It is music that spreads the soul's wing over the boundlessness: the one outside oneself, in order to be able to decipher the one inside. Due to the miracle of music as a harmonious sound, our journey through the universe passes in a blink of the eye. The inner time and the outer time are melting in the organic act of this purifying experience. It seems as if the very micro-physical reality transforms its indetermination into an ordered sphere of infinite significance. Music is the ineffable GATE between these worlds, the micro and macro cosmos, through which one's spirit flies towards its encounter with the absolute! Our purpose, our mission, our duty is expressed in this concept. Humans reach existential perfection through music, but what a struggle and burning experience! What a cathartic pain!
In the meantime, your Second Symphony has also been performed. It is called "Hampshire", while your first symphony is called "Carpatia". With these two works, have you paid homage to the two "worlds" from which you come, respectively, in which you live now?
Yes, I did! I am a citizen of both worlds, one through birth and one through adoption. I will always live with a nostalgic scent of my birthplace. This, I hope, will transcend into my music, slightly, as I do not want to wear the 'robe' of ethnicity. I want, as much as I can, to reveal the universal character of the Romanian lyrical universe for the world to appreciate the many things that unite us in harmony. Likewise, the 2nd Symphony, 'Hampshire', pays homage to the region that adopted me and to its people. I had the honour to have amongst the invitees to its premiere in Winchester Cathedral, on 3rd May 2019, both representatives of the Hampshire region and of Her Majesty, the Queen. The Symphony was made a symbolic present to Hampshire in a ceremony after the concert. Hampshire is a wonderful region where present and past are embraced in a continuous pirouette, a fecund space of inspiration.
Your First Symphony was recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and was also played on BBC Radio 3. How did you come to work with the BBC? And how did you come to work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, who first performed your Second Symphony?
I came to work with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales through Chris, who was born in Wales and through Andrew Keener, Welsh as well. The orchestra liked my project and appreciated being on a CD distributed worldwide. They asked if I agreed to have the work broadcast on BBC Radio 3, which I obviously did. As my first recording project, the experience was overwhelming, and working with that orchestra will be forever in my spirit.
For the premiere of the 2nd Symphony, I followed on a project started by the Romanian Cultural Institute in London, where they had the virtuoso violinist Alexandru Tomescu performing a concert in London with the RPO on 1st May 2019. It was logical to keep the same first part of the show, Saint Saence violin concerto no3, and finish with the Hampshire symphony. Working with RPO was another experience that will continue to influence my development as a composer.
Your first violin concerto is just being composed. Can you already tell us a little bit about what we can expect to hear?
I am so pleased to say that I already started to work with Chris on orchestration. Will have three parts. The first part is structured on three soliloquies as pillars for the entire work. I am probably inclining towards an orchestration for strings and horns, as I believe we can extract lots of colour and voices using this structure while making the piece more accessible to different sized orchestras. I hope I could prove to my listeners that I have learned from my experiences; therefore, the Concert will be a step up from my previous works. Of course, romantic 'to the bone'!
In the Corona crisis, it is, of course, very difficult to talk about future plans at the moment, but are there perhaps some dates or performances that are in the offing?
I hope that Alexandru Tomescu will accept the violin concerto and will try to have it performed at the prestigious Enescu Festival in Bucharest in 2021. Meanwhile, I am sending my music to many orchestras around the world and too few in Romania in the hope that there is a chance for any performances. A dream for me would be to have some of my works being performed in my birth town of Iasi in Romania. The image of the 'boy' returning home is too appealing to resist!
Radio Klassik will broadcast.
Is there something you would like to say to the listeners of your music in Germany?
What can I say to such distinguished people like the German listeners? This occasion humbles me and I apologize to them as my music will never be as good as that of the great Germanic composers, but what I do is so sincere, so from my heart, that perhaps merits clemency. All my life is contained in every single note that I compose as if it will be the last!
Thank you for this opportunity!