A complex personality, with multifarious concerns in research as well as in composition, Constantin Catrina (1933-2013) was active as a folklorist, historian, musicologist, Byzantinologist, composer; he dedicated his entire life to the research of the Romanian music, viewed in all its manifold manifestations: folklore music, Orthodox church music of the Byzantine tradition as well as lay music. His investigations were directed mainly towards the area of Brasov and its surroundings. He diligently studied documents about the musical life of the city in archives and libraries, discovered interesting information about the cultural personalities of this old Transylvanian city, with rich cultural traditions and diverse influences. He also managed to reveal their connections with other cultural centres in Romania. He was a pioneer in the field of Byzantinology, filling a space left empty in the history of Byzantine music by emphasizing the activity of an important centre of church music teaching and education in central Transylvania – the School of “Saint Nicholas” Church in Scheii Brasovului between the 15th and 20th centuries. In terms of folklore research, he investigated the areas related to Brasov and collected a rich ethnographic, literary and musical material which he published in reputable collections. In all three lines of activity, he wrote and published an impressive number of articles in the local and specialised national press, thus proving to have a genuine passion for research and for the dissemination of its results to the specialists and the general public.
The volume titled O istorie filocalică a muzicii [A Philocalic History of Music] by the musicologist Petruța Măniuț-Coroiu offers an unusual approach to the relationship between music and religion. At the core of its demonstration lie the possible relations between the texts in the Ladder of the Divine Ascent from the Philokalia of Saint John Climacus and the masterpieces of Romanian and universal art music. In this volume, the author presents, step by step, the 30 “words of wisdom” without straying from the original text, using direct quotes from Saint John Climacus’ work, putting forward topics such as the renunciation of the world, repentance, obedience, humility, etc. The steps, representing the ladder of spiritual fulfilment, should be climbed so as to leave a mark on the souls of those who ascend. It is worth remembering than once a step is reached the others should not be forgotten, but furthered for the rest of one’s life. Each of the 30 chapters is preceded by quotes from the Old and the New Testament, or from the writings of great representatives of the Orthodox faith (Saint John Chrysostom, Maximus the Confessor, Dumitru Stăniloae). Besides the semantic dimension specific to this kind of approach, the book may also be linked to the field of art therapy. It is worth noting the author’s easiness in identifying the most representative religious texts and their matching musical pieces, as this fusion produces numerous opportunities to acquire apophatic knowledge and intense spiritual experiences.
Byzantine music is the chanted prayer of the Orthodox Church left to us as a spiritual legacy by the holy masters of hymnography and hymnology ever since the early centuries. This music serves a precise purpose, i.e. to enhance the mood of prayer and to lift man closer to God. The Holy Liturgy, the mystical centre and the reference point of a man’s entire existence, represents man’s private meeting and communion with Christ, and the moment of this meeting is steeped in an atmosphere of meditation and inwardness created by a series of ample, slow, and vocalization-rich chants, called koinonika. It is a moment of ultimate inner appeasement and preparation. Early composers managed to capture this meditation effect in their koinonika, both through their compositional techniques and, especially, through an inner state of grace. However, in the 19th century, two phenomena became apparent: on the one hand, some of the new composers no longer succeeded in attaining the same ethos as the old masters, and, on the other hand (particularly from Ioan Popescu-Pasărea on), the music tastes of the time caused these ample chants to be replaced with simpler melodies, which, often, were even harmonized. This study has a threefold aim: first, it reasserts the fundamental role played by the koinonikon in the Holy Liturgy, by arguments that underline the ancientness of this practice as well as its survival in other Orthodox areas (such as Mount Athos and Greece). Second, the paper signals the publication, next year, of the first Romanian collection of koinonika signed by Byzantine and post-Byzantine composers (13th-19th centuries). Third, our study aims to show that these ancient chants have a special ethos, representing melodic as well as aesthetic archetypes and, par excellence, the true Classicism of Byzantine melos.