Pages from the Secret History of Romanian Music1

Romanian Musicians. Biographies Hidden in Archives (I)
Ars Docendi Publishing House, 2011

Ioana Raluca Voicu-Arnăuţoiu


          As the files of the political police (Securitate) on Romanian musicians become available – for instance, George Enescu’s file was made public in 2005 –, the recent history of music goes into an inevitable process of rewriting. And not only by finding some missing links which have prevented, until recently, the understanding of certain events and phenomena, but also by shaking much certitude. (The “myth” according to which Enescu died in poverty while in Paris is such an example). Raluca Voicu-Arnăuţoiu’s volume, based on a rigorous documentation in the archives of the National Council for Studying the Archives of Securitate, aims to shed light on “underground” biographical areas of some of the most visible composers and conductors in the first half of the twentieth century: Mihail Jora, Paul Constantinescu, Alfred Alessandrescu, George Georgescu and of course, George Enescu. The author reconstructs several events, but also emotional reactions, based on the zealously written documents of Securitate agents.
          Mihail Jora’s case is eloquent in describing the efficiency of the repressive communist apparatus. Although renowned for his intransigence, the composer – disabled since the First World War and a convinced royalist – accepted in the ‘50s to write a socialist-realist ballet (When Grapes are Ripe), which brought him the respect of authorities. Without clarifying certain biographical details – surrounded by an incomprehensible silence even after the ‘90s –, Jora’s gesture may seem inexplicable. Raluca Voicu-Arnăuţoiu’s study sheds light on a very important detail: his wife was arrested, an event that utterly destroyed the composer and justified his ulterior submission. “Jora is very affected by Lily’s misfortune, […] every night at three he cannot sleep and cries like a baby” – an informative note explains.
          Absurd situations can be read about Paul Constantinescu, first persecuted by the Legionary Movement (far-right organisation) and then by Communists for sympathising with the Legionary Movement or about Alfred Alessandrescu, put under surveillance just because he had “uttered insults to the Communist Party” or about conductor George Georgescu, considered a potential spy by Securitate.

          Whereas for Enescu’s exile, the discoveries are flabbergasting. Taking into account the political stake – his return to the country would have meant a great victory of communism in Romania -, Securitate invested a lot in this case and proved to be extremely inventive. The chapter George Enescu – the exile years seems to be a truly espionage story, in which the musician’s acquaintances are either Securitate agents or double agents. What is more, money comes in: when Romania bought Enescu’s violins, a huge amount of money disappeared – 1 million francs.
          The author sketches the portrait of an old Enescu, stricken with illness, forced to withstand with diplomacy the extremely invasive actions of the Bucharest regime. The cited documents outline the real dimension of the compromise made by Enescu, when he accepted to include his name in the list of candidates for The Block of Democratic Parties. “As homage to his Royal Highness King Mihai I and as a sign of love for our peasantry, I accept to be on the list of intellectual deputies independent of any party. I must stress the fact that I don’t do politics and have no obligation on the political field”, wrote Enescu in an official telegram.
          Raluca Voicu-Arnăuţoiu doesn’t point an accusing finger neither to the agents of Securitate, nor musicians or their weaknesses, but enables the reader to draft their own conclusions. And these can only be bitter.

Florinela Popa
(English Version by Simina Neagu)

1 Review published first in Romanian, in Dilemateca, no. 68, November 2012