Mar 13, 2009

Gheorghe Costinescu

Gheorghe Costinescu, born in Bucharest in 1934 and residing in New York since 1969, has been active as a composer, conductor, pianist, musicologist, and educator.

After earning an MA in composition from the Bucharest Conservatory in the class of Mihail Jora, he continued his studies with Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne and with Luciano Berio at The Juilliard School in New York. In 1976 he received a PhD with Distinction from Columbia University, where he studied with Chou Wen-chung.

His chamber, choral, orchestral, and stage works have been performed in the main cities of Europe and the United States, and at the Royan, Shiraz–Persepolis, and Tanglewood festivals.

His stage work The Musical Seminar, a winner in the League-ISCM National Composers Competition, was premiered at Lincoln Center in New York City. The European premiere took place at the Stuttgart State Opera.

Mr. Costinescu has received grants and awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and the Ford Foundation. He has been a Fulbright Scholar and has also received the Romanian Academy’s George Enescu prize.

His theoretical writings include studies and articles on contemporary music, essays on comparative aesthetics, and A Treatise on Musical Phonology.

Gheorghe Costinescu has held teaching positions at The Juilliard School, Columbia University, and the New School for Social Research. In 1982, he joined the faculty and subsequently directed the electronic music program at Lehman College of the City University of New York, where he became Professor Emeritus of Music in 2003.

Sonata for the Piano (1957, rev. 2007-08)

I composed the initial version of my piano sonata in 1957, while a conservatory student in Romania. I revised it, or rather re-composed it, exactly fifty years later in the United States. I mean by “re-composing” updating, restructuring, and expanding already existing material.

Of the three movements of the work – Moderato energico, Andante poco rubato, and Presto con fuoco – the first and the third are structured more or less according to the classic sonata form; the second movement uses a combination of ternary and variational forms.

Since making a studio recording of the last movement for the Romanian Broadcast in 1957, I have had none of the movements performed in public, feeling that their full potential was not yet realized.

The Sonata’s main themes, some rather pungent and chromatic, others more lyrical or with modal inflections, followed me through the years. Recently, I felt urged by my compositional and life experiences to complete the work as I first imagined it. It came, however, as a surprise that the last movement, especially in the coda, turned out to integrate, in addition to echoes from the preceding movements, elements of ragtime and jazz. These emerged as if pointing to where the long journey of composing this work was to end.

G. C., New York, 2008