Balanescu Quartet

Maria T
Mute 2005

      Part One

  1. Spotdance
  2. The Young Consort and the Moon
  3. Empty Dance Space
  4. Turning Wheels
  5. Life and Death

      Part Two

  6. Mountain Call
  7. Aria
  8. Interlude
  9. Lullaby
10. Wine's So Good
11. Lullaby Dream

Maria T

I see this project as a very ambitious one, both in its musical aims, and in the means of achieving these aims. Following on from my work on the album Luminitza, for which I took elements of Eastern European folk music as sources of inspiration for new musical material, on this particular project I took the songs of Maria Tanase as a basis for new compositions. Like in the album Luminitza, my intention was not to make transcriptions or arrangements of the ethnic material, but to develop through my own particular musical perspective a new personal language, while always remaining true to the spirit of the original source material.

I'd like to achieve great variety in dealing with different songs-compositions, but the main idea is that there is a kind of meeting, bridging the years and the cultural divide between us and Maria Tanase; that is why sometimes I use Maria Tanase's actual vocals, combined with live material. I find the idea that we can meet somehow with the help of new technology, really exciting.

I have chosen to work with these songs for many different reasons, the main one being a kind of gut feeling of affinity. Also, I think Maria Tanase, notwithstanding her legendary star state in Romania, has the potential to be more widely known. I think she was the possessor of a truly great voice, with all the multitude of nuances of expression ranging frail, theatrical to almost operatic. From my research I also get the sense that she was a very interesting personality, coming from an economically deprived background, which she tried to escape all her life. This was the main engine in a relentless and passionate search for an identity. Apart from everything else, Maria Tanase was very glamorous, living life to the full and, like all great singers, singing about her own joys, sorrows and aspirations. For me these songs embody the essential spirit of Romanian poetry and philosophy.

As an eternal foreigner, I attempt repeatedly to reconnect myself to the cultural background of the country where I grew up, Romania. That is why, recently, I chose the songs of Maria Tanase, as the nucleus of inspiration for new musical material.

Maria Tanase was born in 1913, and died in 1963 in Bucharest, Romania, becoming the greatest Romanian popular singer and creating a musical genre which is completely unique.

She collected and reworked traditional songs from different regions of Romania, and made them very much her own. At the core of her art is the fatalistic Romanian folk philosophy, with its central idea of the transience of existence. She used her voice as an instrument of extreme emotion; desperation, elation, sarcastic bitterness hysterical laughter, intoxicated joy and sadness, all meshed together with complete control. Ultimately, she passed on a bittersweet message about the transcendence of daily suffering by ordinary people.

I used this legacy, rich in emotional and musical material, as a catalyst for new pieces. In the same way that Maria Tanase collected songs and transformed them, I took this material and recomposed it, filtering it through my own personal experience.

Alexander Balanescu

Wikipedia: Balanescu Quartet
Wikipedia: Maria Tănase