Romanian Music Online












Anatol Vieru


(Click here to see List of Songs)


Composer Anatol Vieru (1926-2000) is noted as much for his development in the theory of modes as for his compositions, which diverged from the accepted paths in post-World War II Romania. His treatise on modes and the creation of modes has been the subject on international study, even among mathematicians. While not a major composer of Romanian art song, his later songs proved influential upon other Romanian composers, namely those forging a path in avant-garde techniques.

Born in Iaşi , Vieru studied at the former Ciprian Porumbescu Conservatory (now called the National University of Music), from 1946-1951, and supported himself as a conductor at the National Theater. His studies with Sabin Drăgoi, Paul Constantinescu, and Theodor Rogalski, men whose late romantic style was steeped in Romanianisms, surface in Vieru’s early songs. Upon Vieru’s return from study at the Peter I. Tschaikowsky Conservatory in Moscow (1951-1954), Vieru reworked his early songs to incorporate his interest in atonality. Following his first period of study in Russia , Vieru taught at the Conservatory in Bucharest , and took a leave of absence to return for further study in Russia (1955-1958).

Vieru’s works include an avant-garde opera, vocal-symphonic works, chamber music that includes important string quartets, choral pieces, music for films, orchestral works, and art song. His compositions have been performed in Romania , Israel , Europe, and the United States . The recipient of international composition prizes (Romania, Geneva in 1962, and the Serge Koussevitsky prize in 1968), Vieru presented lectures and performed at Sarah Lawrence College and at Juilliard in 1968.


Anatol Vieru-Art Songs

Vieru’s earliest songs draw heavily on traits typical of Romanian folk music, for which he harmonized popular melodies and texts. Five of them were published initially in Moscow (1952), and the following year in Romania by ESPLA. He later reworked his cycle of Five Songs to Verses by George Topârceanu for soprano (1955) to reflect his interest in atonal music, while retaining certain characteristics of Romanian folk music. He revised his final songs for voice and piano, Four Songs to Verses by Eminescu (1948), in 1960. These atmospheric songs were published by the Conservatory in 1987.

In 1959, Vieru began work on his seminal multi-movement work, Muzică pentru Bacovia şi Labiş, a series of three trios scored for solo voice and instruments. The three cycles, Lupta cu Inerţia ( Battle with Iertia), Nocturne şi Rezonanţe (Nocturnes and Resonances), and Destindiri (Relaxation), use various modes of Vieru’s creation as the harmonic organization. In his preface to the published edition, Vieru suggests the work be performed as a whole, or three separate cycles: Lupta cu Inerţia, three instrumental trios for violin, clarinet, and piano, which surround the four songs of Nopţile lui Bacovia for tenor and piano; and Ode pe versuri de Nicolae Labiş (Odes on Verses of Nicolae Labiş), three songs for mezzo-soprano and piano. A second part entitled Nocturne şi Rezonanţe Bacovia (1959) is comprised of three songs: “Clap de noapte” for soprano and piano; “Rezonanţe Bacovia’ for flute and magnetic tape; and “Amurg de toamnă” scored for soprano and piano. The final set, Destindiri, to verses by Labiş, contains three songs for mezzo-Soprano and piano.

Vieru composed the work with specific singers’ vocal timbres in mind. Editura Muzicală published the work in 1967, adding versions in French and German beneath the original Romanian. While the structure of the work was unusual for its time in art song literature, it was Vieru’s use of his personally devised modes that sparked trends in his compositional career and influenced other composers.  The modes were later named. One, the Bacovia mode, became a hallmark of Vieru’s compositions. The structure of Muzică pentru Bacovia şi Labiş was also influential on such composers as Cornel Ţăranu and George Balint.

In Destindiri Vieru uses various combinations of the Bacovia mode derivatives: {Bac0}, {Bac3}, and {Bac 11}. In “Ceară” he integrates several Mioriţa modes: {Mio2}, {Mio4}, {Mio8}, and {Mio10}. The resultant sonorities are evocative, capturing the sense of the text in startling tonal colors.

Vieru’s concepts and transformation of modes appealed to mathematicians worldwide, and became the subject of Vieru’s doctoral dissertation at the National University of Music. It was later published as Cartea modurilor (The Book of Modes) by Editura Muzicală in 1980. An English text of Vieru’s lecture presented at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses of 1984 was published in Perspectives of New Music, in which Vieru explains his system of modes.


Dr. Paula Boire