Monday, March 31, 2008

György Ligeti

The famous Hungarian composer György Ligeti (1923-2006) was born in the Transylvanian town of Târnaveni, Romania, to a Hungarian Jewish family. Ligeti recalls that his first exposure to languages other than Hungarian came one day while listening to a conversation among the Romanian-speaking town police. Before that he hadn't known that other languages existed. He moved to the important Transylvanian city of Cluj with his family when he was 6 and he was not to return to his birth town until the 1990s. Ligeti received his initial musical training at the Cluj Conservatory. His education was interrupted in 1943 when, as a Jew, he was forced to labor by the Nazis. His brother, at the age of 16, was deported to Mauthausen; his parents were both sent to Auschwitz. Following the war, Ligeti returned to his studies in Budapest, graduating in 1949. In December of 1956, two months after the Hungarian revolution was put down by the Soviet Army, he fled first to Vienna and eventually took Austrian citizenship. Many of his works are well known in classical music circles, but to the general public, he is best known for the various pieces featured in the Stanley Kubrick films 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut.

Source: Wikipedia

Saturday, March 29, 2008


In the period 6th-13th September 2001, we guided Albert Wirtzbaum (US) through several places in Romania, so that he could find information of his ancestrals, who used to live in different shtetls in the area of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and were called Wirtzbaum, Solomon, Blau, Friedman and Fried. The main places of his trip were Bucharest, Sighisoara, Cluj-Napoca (synagogue on the picture) and Oradea. In Transylvania he visited the shtetls Borod, Cornicel, Solduba and Saldabagiu de Munte, and was received as well by the Jewish genealogy specialist Peter Winter. Because of the 9/11 events, he got stuck in Bucharest and we've assisted him in his prolongated stay.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"Je préfère mon nouveau dégoût à l'ancien goût dégoûtant"

Born into a Jewish family in Botosani, northeastern Romania, Isidore Isou (born Ioan Isidor Goldstein, 1925-2007) started his career as an avant-garde art journalist during World War II. With the future social psychologist Serge Moscovici, he founded the magazine Da, which was soon after closed down by the Romanian authorities. He then moved to Paris, having developed many concepts that intended as a total artistic renewing starting from their lower levels. He called himself a Lettriste, a movement of which he was initially the only member (at the age of 16 he had published the Manifesto in 1942) and published a system of Lettrist hypergraphics. Others soon joined him, and the movement continues to grow, albeit at times under a confusing number of different names.

Source: Wikipedia

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Brancusi: the best artist of the 20th century

On March 17th in the morning, Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi was on the leading position of the chart of the most significant 500 Artists of the 20th century, published on the site of the famous Saatchi Gallery from the United Kingdom, based on votes by internet users. On Monday, Constantin Brancusi totalized 27,099 votes, that set him on the first place, followed by Pablo Picasso (13,713 votes), Egon Schiele (13,572 votes), Paul Cezanne (13,568 votes), Claude Monet (13,088 votes), Gustav Klimt (13,016 votes), Paul Gauguin (12,957 votes), Henri Matisse (12,941 votes), Marcel Duchamp (12,925 votes) and Pier Mondrian (12,912 votes). Last week, Brancusi was on the 35th position of the chart, and the Austrian Egon Schiele, French Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso from Spain were on the leading positions. The same chart includes the Romanian painter of Jewish ethnicity Victor Brauner, currently on the 302 position, with 3,997 votes. Any visitor of the Saatchi Gallery website may cast only one vote for his favourite artist. The “Best 500 Artists of the 20th Century” Chart is inspired from “The 20th Century Art Book”, an album released by the Phaidon Publishing House.

Source: Nine O'Clock

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Maramures guidebook

The Finnish publishing house Metaneira has just launched the most detailed travel guide to Romania's region of wooden churches: Maramures.

The travel guide with more than 750 full-color photographs, 100 drawings and 24 maps shows the best of this little known corner of northern Romania. Geographic and historic overviews with plans, maps and timelines are followed by a portrayal of the traditional way of life and the wooden architecture typical to the region.

Photographs, drawings and texts guide the reader through 500 pages around 47 wooden churches built in the Maramuresean gothic style. Due to their uniqueness, eight of them are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Cornblum & Alter

In the period October 3-8, 2004, we guided Martin and Rebecca Rosenblum (US), father and daughter, through Bucharest, Focsani, Iasi and Podu Iloaiei, back to their Moldavian roots. They were able to meet with the Jewish Community and visit all Jewish sites in Iasi and Focsani, as well as the Jewish cemetery in Podu Iloaiei. They were also allowed to research at the National Archives in Iasi about their relative families Cornblum and Alter (photo). In Focsani they located a family house and even talked to old neighbors who had known their relatives.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Transylvanian fortified churches

In June 2007 it was launched in Bucharest the multimedia CD-ROM Saxon Fortified Churches of Transylvania. This a result of the successful collaboration among Mioritics Association, the German World Heritage Foundation and the UNESCO Office in Venice.

The CD includes an interactive map, sketches, descriptions and photo galleries of 44 fortified churches, local tales and glossary, all accessible through an intuitive and user-friendly interface.

The history of the fortified Saxon churches started in the 12th century, when King Geza II of Hungary assigned more than 2500 German colonists to protect and develop the southeastern part of Transylvania. A document issued in 1224 by King Andrew II gave to these colonists special rights and privileges which ensured their autonomy and significantly influenced the development of their villages.

As a sign of recognition to their uniqueness, seven out of the over 150 Saxon churches are on the UNESCO's World Heritage list. Other organizations are currently trying to restore several sites so as to rescue as many remnants of the Saxon civilization in Romania as possible.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Beauty is not the goal itself, it is the lure"

Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) was one of the most gifted conductors of the 20th century. Born in the town of Roman, in northeastern Romania, he spent his childhood in the Moldavian town of Iasi, becoming interested in musical composition at an early age. He studied mathematics, philosophy and music in Iasi, and later in Bucharest and Paris, and went to Berlin in 1936 to study composition at the Berlin Academy of Music. Two years later he enrolled to study conducting under Walter Gmeindl, and subsequently graduated from the Friedrich Wilhelm University with a dissertation on Josquin des Pres. At the same time the young Celibidache became attracted to Zen Buddism.

Despite the many accolades and the great following he had, Celibidache was just as well-known for refusing do recordings. His main reason was that the epiphenomena, which added to the total experience of a "live" performance in a concert hall, could never be captured on record. Hence, the magic and uniqueness of a "live" performance would be lost in a recording, the artificiality of which he used to compare to going to bed with a photograph of Brigitte Bardot.

Source: article written by Soo Kian Hing at The Flying Inkpot
Visit the Celibidache Foundation website

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

World Philatelic Exhibition in Bucharest

This year there will be celebrated 150 years from the issue of the first Romanian postal stamps, the famous “Bull Head”. To celebrate this, between 20-27 June, Romania will host in Bucharest, at Romexpo, the “EFIRO 2008” World Philatelic Exhibition, followed on the 28th June by the 70th FIP Congress.

The exhibition will be organized by the Romanian Post Office together with the Romanian Philatelic Federation, under the patronage of Fédération Internationale de Philatélie (FİP), which was granted at FIP Singapore Congress of 2004, under the patronage of International Association of Philatelic Journalists (AIJP) and also under the high patronage of the Romanian Presidency.

Source: EFIRO 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Garfunkel from Iasi

Art Garfunkel is a famous American singer-songwriter and actor, best known as half of the Grammy Award winning folk duo Simon and Garfunkel. Arthur Ira Garfunkel was born in 1941 in New York City. He is of Romanian Jewish ancestry. Garfunkel's Jewish grandparents arrived in Ellis Island around 1905 from the town of Iasi, in northeastern Romania. Art Garfunkel is an avid reader, and his website contains a year-by-year listing of every book he has read since 1968. Currently the list contains more than 1,000 books. Garfunkel has undertaken several cross-continental walks in his lifetime, writing poetry along the way. In the early 1980's, he walked across Japan in a matter of weeks. From 1983 to 1997, Garfunkel walked across the US, taking 40 excursions to complete the route from New York City to the Pacific coast of Washington. In May 1998, Garfunkel began an incremented walk across Europe.

Source: Wikipedia and Art Garfunkel official website.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Romanian "King of Tierra del Fuego"

Julius Popper (1857 - 1893) was an engineer, adventurer and explorer of Romanian Jewish origin. He is responsible for the modern outline of the city of Havana, Cuba. As a "conquistador" of Tierra del Fuego in southern South America he was a controversial but influential figure. Popper was born in Bucharest, son of professor Neftali Popper, a prosperous antiques merchant. He studied in Paris before arriving to Argentina in 1885 hoping to find gold. On September 7, 1886, together with 18 people, he as captain, chief engineer, mineralogist, journalist and photographer, they started the "Popper Expedition" and found gold dust on the beach of El Páramo, a peninsula in Patagonia. Expedition was rigourosly and stricly enforced after military standards with heavily armed men with Popper in direct command of everything. He succeeded in unearthing great amounts of gold and his Compania de Lavaderos de Oro del Sud realized enormous capital gains at the Argentine stock exchange. In Patagonia, Popper gained dominance with a private army and he issued his own coins and stamps to symbolize his power.

Source: Wikipedia