An Interview with Oana Marinescu, the Enescu’s Festival Communication Director
The International Music Festival “George Enescu” is not just a festival, it’s a state of mind. It’s incredible how for almost a month Bucharest becomes the capital of classical music, and the lights at the Atheneum and the Palace Hall announce almost every evening that this is were “magic” happens.
During walks on Calea Victoriei I remember seeing people coming or going to Enescu concerts. Elegantly dressed, exhilarated at being able to listen to Elisabeth Leonskaja or Sarah Chang.
This year the festival was attended by some of the biggest stars among classical music orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the best in the world. It took 15 years of negotiations, but every second of the long wait was worth it, especially since the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has decided to return in 2019 after seeing the reaction of the public.
We reached Oana Marinescu, communication director of the Enescu Festival and managing director of OMA Vision, for an account of this edition and learned that 2015 was the strongest so far.
What was the balance sheet of the George Enescu Festival, 2015 edition? We heard that some of the tickets sold out minutes after they went on sale.
The balance sheet of the 2015 Enescu Festival looks good and can be summed up in one sentence: it was the strongest edition of the Festival so far. It’s a success that makes us rejoice, but at the same time it raises the bar for the future. Over 90% of the concerts were sold out. At some of them all the seats were taken within a few hours or within days after we started selling individual tickets. At the Atheneum the season tickets were sold out in a few seconds in January, when they were put on sale.
Almost 25,000 individual tickets were sold out within an hour after we started selling them. Most tickets purchased from abroad, practically by foreign tourists, went to England, Germany, United States of America and France. We even had customers from Japan and Puerto Rico. It’s just more proof that the Enescu Festival is a real magnet for foreign tourists coming to Bucharest.
Apart from this, the Festival’s program was exceptional: all four top orchestras in the world at the moment, Berliner Philarmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Philarmoniker and Amsterdam Concertgebouw played at the Festival. Three of them had works by Enescu in the program.
We had a record number of Enescu’s music pieces played, 22, some of them generated a resounding and revealing success, for example Rhapsody no. 1, conducted by Kristjan Järvi and the National Youth Orchestra, in the opening of the Festival, or the Third Symphony conducted by Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Saint Petersburg Philharmonic played a splendid Concert Overture on popular Romanian themes, op. 32, and David Garrett, a famous violinist, played the Ballad by George Enescu on the stage of the Romanian Atheneum.
“Enescu Festival is at the moment the main promoting agent for Enescu’s music and Romania’s strongest cultural promotion vehicle.”
Creative Bucharest was exceptionally well attended with 23 projects. Organizations and artists got involved in transforming the city and bringing magic to the streets and places other than the concert halls.
Moreover, the Enescu Festival has a mission: to promote George Enescu’s music and his values here and abroad. The fact that some of the most famous foreign artists come to Bucharest, get acquainted with Enescu’s music and play it is due to the Festival and it’s a huge gain for Romania. Some foreign artists fall in love with Enescu’s music and then play it on international stages or reintroduce it to the international repertoire.
For example, this happened with the conductor Vladimir Jurowski, who discovered Enescu thanks to the Festival and presented the Third Symphony at the 2013 edition, then took it to London for a concert that ended with applauses and standing ovations, and now he is preparing Oedipus, in order to bring it both to the BBC Proms and to the Enescu Festival 2017.
Therefore, the Enescu Festival is at the moment the main promoting agent for Enescu’s work and Romania’s strongest cultural promotion vehicle. Enescu’s works are not interpreted enough by Romanian artists, and the foreign orchestras complete the picture by bringing Enescu’s music to the forefront of the international stage through world class, modern interpretations.
Then the Enescu Competition, which since 2013 has taken place separately from the Festival, is an independent event with great power for George Enescu’s music. All of the competitors are young artists and will become big names on the international stage of tomorrow. They all have to interpret essential works by Enescu for the competition. Thus a circuit is created. All great composers were first discovered and promoted, then became a part of the world heritage.
George Enescu is already a part of this heritage, we just have to play and present him more, all over the world.
What was the feedback you received from the public? I know that you count on regular people having access to the “magic” of the Festival. What is the perception of the Festival now, compared to previous years?
The reaction of the audience is like a drug, not only for the artists who go on stage and need to feel their public during the show, but for the organizers alike. When I see smiles and joy on people’s faces, when I read messages that express people’s pride in having this Festival and being a part of the experience, when I see faces that are transfigured with emotion and happiness, all of this is a source of motivation and energy for me and for my colleagues in the team behind the Festival.
“We, Romanians, just need to change the viewpoint from which we regard ourselves and favor complaints less, while getting into action with confidence and optimism for what we can do.”
Many times I was touched to the point of tears, including the first evening of the Festival, when I listened to the Rhapsody no. 1 by Enescu in Kristjan Järvi’s interpretation. I sensed the force and vitality I feel is hidden in our veins, as Romanians.
Rhapsody no. 1 is very much about us, Romanians, we just need to change the viewpoint from which we regard ourselves and favor complaints less, while getting into action with confidence and optimism for what we can do.
Is the Romanian public ready to be part of a Festival like this? I’m asking because I read some comments regarding people’s behavior in the concert hall.
The public is totally prepared for the Festival. It’s a public that evolved with the Festival and the Festival stands to gain a lot from its audience. You should know that the great orchestras don’t come to Enescu simply because they receive a fee and an invitation. They come to Enescu because they enter a magic state when they are on the stage and they receive the audience’s reaction, their warmth, enthusiasm, appreciation.
I interviewed violonist Renaud Capucon after the concert and I asked him to define the audience at Enescu with one word. The word was passionate and his face lit up when he found it. The artist still felt the vibration of this passionate reaction in his heart.
That’s why there are many great orchestras and renowned artists who return to the Festival. For example, right after the concert in 2015 Berliner Philarmoniker announced that it will return to Enescu in 2019. ARTEXIM, the Festival organizer, negotiated for almost 15 years until this orchestra, the best in the world, agreed to grace the stage at the Festival.
On the other hand, it’s true that some members of the audience have to learn some rules of etiquette and common sense in the concert hall. We should arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the concert, turn off our phones, we shouldn’t takes photos or video during the concert, as it’s also a question copyright and legality. If we’re late, we should wait outside until intermission, not enter impetuously and search for our seat after the orchestra is already on stage. I am convinced it’s a question of time until these things are learned.
“George Enescu is a model for us Romanians to follow, and a source of inspiration for keeping our spine straight in a world where the standard seems to be the hump of compromise.”
In the last few years, Enescu Festival got closer to the audience. I couldn’t help noticing a more people-oriented communication strategy. How would you describe the role of the communication director seen from behind the stage?
It was a strategic direction followed in a consistent and coherent way ever since we took over communication in 2012, opening up the Festival towards the public, taking George Enescu outside of the concert hall.
The communication strategy of the festival is modeled after George Enescu. We try to prompt people to discover not only the music written by this genius, but also his character. George Enescu is a model for us Romanians to follow, and to know him [as he was] as a person may be as valuable as discovering a key clue to understanding life, a source of inspiration for keeping our spine straight in a world where the standard seems to be the hump of compromise.
My role as a communication director is akin to a weaver. I have to weave a very complex fabric with a lot of care in order to ensure that the many actors of the project don’t disturb the meaning, mission and value of the Festival with their own agendas, but instead they consolidate it.
It’s very scrupulous and demanding work, but I enjoy it, and my team is wonderful and creates its own magic. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without my OMA Vision team, where everyone is in love with the Festival, and without the exceptional partnership and trust that we have with ARTEXIM.
Is George Enescu’s music appreciated for its true value in Romania? Are we musically educated in regard to classical music?
Unfortunately, not only foreigners, but also Romanians themselves have to rediscover Enescu. This is the great sadness of the Romanian nation: it doesn’t notice its own values, it doesn’t recognize them, it doesn’t integrate them into daily life. As people in charge of communication this is our greatest challenge: to bring Enescu into the lives of Romanians.
But in order to do so, we need Romanian musicians to play Enescu well, to understand and love him. We help in our own way. We develop the Enescu Competition and the young musicians can see the value added by the competition in the development of their career. After the Competition they have the chance to get on the stage of a Festival ranked 4-5 in the world and then go on to other international events.
We bring new interpretations to the Festival and the young musicians can listen to the international artists talk about Enescu’s music. They can see them dive into exploring the universe of a creative genius with so much passion. Therefore the young musicians have a real opportunity to understand the creations of our great composer.
But for this to happen, they need to be more open to new things, more passionate, instead of reluctant when facing difficulty. Once the artists play Enescu more often, the public will listen to his music more. Without the artists, Enescu’s creation is left on paper and lost. Paper is a silent witness.
How do you as a member of the audience view the Enescu Festival? Is the magic of music a refuge for you?
I don’t manage to be a spectator during the Enescu Festival. During this edition of the festival I made myself listen to all the Enescu works and I managed to do so, with one exception, which I still regret, when I had to attend a client event.
“Enescu Festival is a project that shows us and the entire world how valuable and beautiful we are. And George Enescu is the one who drew the lines of this identity, synthesized them so well out of our national fiber, […] aligning us as people with great universal cultures.”
It was a test for myself, since our communication theme this year was “Discover Enescu!” and I wanted to test not just the message, but also to experience a journey in Enescu’s footsteps, within the Festival and to listen to his music being interpreted by artists that are so different. It was an extremely powerful and beautiful experience.
Otherwise, I was never able to remain in the concert hall for the entirety of the concert, as I always had to go backstage and solve things. But I listened from there… For me the magic of the Festival resides in a combination of factors: the music, the artists, the huge challenge of the project, the coherence of the strategic planning, the implementation of a large project and the audience’s emotional reaction of joy.
For me, the supreme form of magic comes from the meaning of this experience: a project that shows us and the entire world how valuable and beautiful we are. And George Enescu is the one who drew the lines of this identity, synthesized them so well out of our national fiber. Without aggressiveness, quibble, obtusity and aligning us as people with great universal cultures.
Translated from the Romanian by Elena and Paul Richard.