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Radu Lelutiu

I grew up in Sibiu, a small town in Romania rumored to have once been visited by Brahms. The lack of entertainment options and my inability to play sports eventually led me to my dad’s sizeable collection of books and classical-music LPs. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood and teenage years are of the weekly auditii muzicale, during which we would listen to LPs from my dad’s collection and my dad would invariably pontificate on why some music was divine while other was abominable. (Most often, there was no middle ground.) Another reason these affairs are quite fresh in my mind is because they invariably annoyed our neighbors and, consequently, my mother.

After my dad’s untimely passing, I left Romania with the hope of becoming a pianist. (My dad had once dreamed of being a musician, but after pressure from his family he became a doctor.) The erratic musical education I had received in my home town and my perennial dislike for playing scales eventually made me realize that this pursuit would end in failure. I quickly changed course and, like many once-aspiring musicians, I trimmed my hair, went back to school, and eventually got a real job. Nevertheless, music remains one of the most important parts of my daily life, and I simply cannot live without it.

Over the years, I developed an extensive record collection that surpasses severalfold that which my dad managed to assemble in communist Romania, and I now have all the recordings on my dad’s lengthy wish list, for example, the Beethoven quartets with the Alban Bergs, Debussy’s piano music with Walter Gieseking, Brahms’s concertos with Wilhelm Backhaus, etc. Several years after my dad’s passing, I began to think that he was not always right. For example, I now think that the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s lone Piano Sonata is quite exquisite, thereby saving the whole from being the "big zero" my Dad once proudly proclaimed it to be. But I also now know that some other things he said, which at the time I dismissed as exalted tall tales, are in fact true. I am now certain, for instance, that he was right when he told me that death waited patiently outside Schubert’s door so that he could finish his last piano sonata, and that Dinu Lipatti’s last recital is irrefutable proof that man may someday prevail.

It has been more than 16 years since I sat down for an auditie muzicala. Nowadays, I most often listen to music on my iPod to ensure that neighbors and co-workers do not get annoyed. But every time I listen to a piece of music, I ask myself: "What would he have to say about it?"


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