Hommage a Joseph Prunner
Michael Cretu writes: "In 1999, during a visit to Professor Ion Cheptea in Bucharest, he informed me that the Music Academy were to organise an international double bass competition in 2002. We were both very excited about the event and Professor Cheptea asked me to write a work for unaccompanied double bass for the competition, to be played by the Romanian students.
The piece begins with double stops, inspired by Romanian folk music, and in the middle section I have tried to echo Prunner's belief that the 'cantilena' should be played on one string in higher positions."
Dance and Improvisation
Michael Cretu writes: "This has become one of the most important pieces in my solo repertoire and was premiered at a concert organised by Hull Music Society. Since then, I have performed it at the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester), Cite des Arts (Paris), Royal Academy of Music (London), Edinburgh Fringe, Manchester Cathedral, Wakefield Cathedral and the Romanian Cultural Institutes in Paris and London.
I was inspired by an old Romanian folk tune - Captain of the County performed by musicians in my family for at least 200 years. The piece explores the vast solo possibilities of the double bass by using different bow techniques, left and right hand pizzicato and creating sounds which bring to mind the human voice and the instruments used in folk music. The timing of the piece is fluent, not precise but moving in different directions, giving the performer the possibility of a personal emotional response. The piece is dedicated to the great Czech Double Bassist Frantisek Posta."
Michael Cretu is an internationally recognised musician and composer, whose family has a long musical tradition dating back to the 17th Century. Born in Bucharest, Romania Michael has been playing the double bass since he was 12. At the age of 19, he joined the Romanian National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Michael studied music at George Enescu Music School in Bucharest and he won a scholarship to complete his postgraduate studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Michael is an associate and artist in residence at Salford University. Michael also plays in a contemporary Jazz trio with Ed Barnwell on piano and Mikey Wilson on drums.
In the mid 18th century, during the Ottoman occupation of the Romanian principalities, Walachia, Moldova and Transylvania, musicians from Michael’s family belonged to the monastery of Bistrita and its land. Around that time, Ipsilante, the new King of Moldova and Walachia, appointed by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, bought the lands of the monastery and relocated the Cretu family to the village Odaia Vizirului, by the Danube river. King Ipsilante and his niece (who had married the count of Rome) also had an important residence nearby. There is strong evidence that the Cretu family became musicians and entertainers in residence to the King and his family. In 1848, Petrea Cretu, a member of the family band, who became very famous in the region, moved and became a violinist and singer in Braila. In 1884 he was one of the first folk musicians to talk
and play at the Bucharest Philharmonic.
Michael’s uncle, Johnny Raducanu (Raducan Cretu) - the brother of Michael’s father, pianist Dumitru Cretu, is considered the father of Romanian jazz. and the annual jazz festival and competition is held in his name annually in the city of Braila. In his composition for solo Double Bass, Michael is strongly influenced by Romanian folk music and its connection with the Byzantine world. Michael believes that somehow, miraculously, Romanian folk music brought together the two diverse cultures of the east and west of the Roman Empire; on the one hand the Romanian language, (a ‘gift’ from the Romans) and its strong connection with the folk song, and on the other the vast influences from the Byzantine empire, through the Orthodox Church and Ottoman empire.