Reclaiming lost masterpieces for the Festival of Chichester

There are plenty of masterpieces that have slipped through the net.

String Dimensions
String Dimensions

Bogdan Vacarescu is determined to catch a few of them for this year’s Festival of Chichester. A regular at the festival, Bogdan is back this year with String Dimensions, a new London-based chamber ensemble of international soloists united by a passion for discovering and performing music rarely heard today. As part of the Amici Concerts series within the festival, they will be performing on Monday, July 9 at 7.30pm at St Pancras Church, Eastgate Square, Chichester. They are promising a delightful, versatile programme of duos, trios and quartets by Corelli, Cherubini, Grieg, Enescu and Liszt.

“This group is something that I have been meaning to do for a long, long time, a chamber music group but the point of it is to bring back to life and to the public the masterworks of the 18th and 19th and early-20th century that at the time were considered as extremely high-quality string quartets and trios and other pieces, but which have been forgotten now. We will be offering some of them for the festival.

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“I think there are basically two reasons why some of these pieces get lost. One of them is simply injustice, but the other is perhaps simply the fact that there were not recordings around at the time and they have just got lost.

“The injustice can come from music critics who maybe had personal feuds with the composers. I know personally that it happens and that it still happens now. People are marginalised because of politics and the masses can’t hear them. It could be actual politics or just sometimes a critic does not like the music for some reason even though the music is great for other reasons and perhaps out of personal taste they have tried to destroy the music, especially before the internet when there was no way for the composer to fight back.

“But also there were composers and writers, people like Kafka, that used to burn their own works. They didn’t think much of their own compositions. They just played them and they didn’t bother to print them in their own lifetime or perhaps they just didn’t have the means to have them printed and so the works got lost in their attics or wherever and are only just being discovered again now.

“Take someone like Bazzini. He had many awards for his chamber-music writing. Verdi personally asked him to collaborate with him. He taught harmony to Rossini, and yet somehow he has been forgotten. He was a huge celebrity in his time. He toured just as much as Paganini himself, encouraged by Paganini. He was a major phenomenon in his time and yet he has been forgotten. I am sure he was amazing. But perhaps it was that he didn’t really know how to sell himself. Paganini was a brilliant salesman. But maybe Bazzini just didn’t sell himself properly. Maybe he just didn’t know how to create an image. Bazzini was more interested in creating music, and he just went back to composing.”

As Bogdan says, there has to be an element of the composers wanting to survive, but also they need to know how: “Sometimes you make a wrong move from the point of view of your marketing and then people forget you – and then you have to wait for people like me to try to come and find you again! I find the music. Most of it there are no recordings to be found, so first I read it and then I try to understand it in my head, and if I like it, I take it to my colleagues and generally they think that I have found something pretty good!”