GRIGORAŞ DINICU (1889 - 1949)
Growing up on the outskirts of Bucharest, Grigoraş Dinicu’s childhood was permeated by the sounds of Romany folk music. In his birth year (also the year of the opening of the Eiffel Tower) his father and grandfather took the gypsy tune Ciocârlia (The Skylark) to the Paris Universal Exhibition where it became instrumental in popularising Romany ethnicity. Deeply committed to his roots and his home city of Bucharest, Dinicu made a living for many years in hotels and restaurants, drawing great soloists from around the world to hear traditional Romany music. His evangelism caught the attention of noted playwright Ion Luca Caragiale, who became his patron.
During both world wars, Dinicu discontinued his restaurant appearances in favour of charity concerts, also forming an elite band of musicians to take music to the front line in World War II. Between the wars he travelled to London and was warmly received at the Green Park Hotel, appearing on the recommendation of Mischa Elman. He subsequently met George Enescu and Fritz Kreisler in Monte Carlo, both of whom were enthusiastic exponents of the gypsy idiom. During this period Dinicu was also involved in the ethno-political movement of the Roma (Gypsies), headed the Bucharest-based Junimea Muzicală (Musical Youth) and was made honorary president of the General Union of the Romanian Roma. His finest hour in concert performance came in 1935 with Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor, which left a Romanian audience enraptured by an interpretation imbued with native tradition.
The recordings Dinicu made for Columbia in 1927–1928 reveal a powerful and well-projected sound, garnished with a very wide vibrato together with prominent and slow portamenti in more melodic passages. In faster passagework his tone is clear and vibrant, allowing a considerable variety of colour, whilst his trills and ornamental passagework are scintillatingly delivered. Although Dinicu’s discography defies direct comparison with many of the more ‘classical’ artists in this book, his style makes an interesting juxtaposition with that of Je˝no Hubay, director of the Budapest Academy, who, although from an arguably more ‘elevated’ artistic position, embodies recognisable elements of Dinicu’s sound-world.
Dinicu’s legacy is probably best represented by his generous output of small-scale compositions and arrangements, mostly for violin and piano. Best known is his 1906 showpiece Hora staccato, a short, fast work in a Romanian dance style that has become a favourite encore, requiring an exceptional command of both up-bow and down-bow staccato. Heifetz made his own popular virtuoso arrangement of this work in 1932 and famously performed it in Vienna. It is a matter of regret that, despite Heifetz’s accolade—dubbing Dinicu the greatest violinist he had ever heard—his important place in the heritage of twentieth-century performance is not well represented in the annals of string playing.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)