Pianist Dragos Cantea: My vision for Classix is to establish it as a pivotal cultural event nation-wide

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Born in Iasi,  but now currently living in Norway, artist and pianist Dragoș Andrei Cantea, co-founder and artistic director of the Classix Festival, has returned to Romania for the approaching festival, due February 18th to 25th. He told us in an exclusive interview that his vision for Classix is to “establish it as a pivotal cultural event nation-wide and to make it a beacon of cultural innovation in a transformative society such as Romania’s.”

 

 

How did the early phase of your educational journey in Iași shape your approach to music and contribute to the formation of your artistic personality?

I had the chance or a very dedicated mentor with Ioana Stănescu in my piano practice and the chance of constantly attending top-class chamber music concerts with Voces and Ad Libitum String Quartets. These two dimensions were the basis of my early formation which translated into discipline in my individual practice and curiosity / inspiration for my practice sessions.

You have an extensive international activity, and you are now based in Norway. How does it feel to return to your birth city as a facilitator of cultural exchange, as the artistic director and co-founder of Classix Festival?

It feels like a privilege. To actively contribute to the continuous internationalisation and cultural innovation of my hometown has always been an ambition of mine. To be able to do it through Classix is the privilege.

Can you tell us more about the grants offered to the young artists and the free masterclasses facilitated through the program ”Classix in Art”?

Classix in Art is our outreach programme. I truly believe no good comes back to a closed hand. Before we ask for trust and support from our community we need to be ready to offer something in return. This type of exchange of know-how and a networking platform of this calibre can represent a decisive factor in the development of a young music professional. It certainly was for me and I’m happy we can bring these opportunities at the doorsteps of their practice rooms with no financial burdens at all on their side through 1-on-1 sessions with renowned international performers in the form of masterclasses.

Which role suits you best: being a world-wide performing pianist, a lecturer in chamber music and piano, or a professional dedicated to creative entrepreneurship? How do you integrate these diverse disciplines into your life and career, and what impact do they have on your students?

Each role—performing artist, educator, entrepreneur—enriches the others. My performance experience informs my teaching, my entrepreneurship skills help promote music, and all these roles collectively enhance my impact on students by providing a holistic view of the business around the music.

Having performed across various countries like the UK, USA, Canada, and more, how do you find the musical cultures and audiences in these countries differ? Is there a particular country or experience that stands out for you?

Every audience is different. Some know what to expect from the programme, others are surprised. Some are curious about new musical discoveries, some are more conservative. However, the responsiveness of U.S. audiences, the depth of engagement in Eastern Europe, and the enthusiasm in Norway stand out. Based on these personal experiences, I try to tailor the programmes of each concert accordingly and ideally address the audience beforehand.

Your project at the Norwegian Academy of Music focused on ‘Nationalism in music – an artistic-diplomatic tool for mutual understanding of common values.’ Could you elaborate on this concept and its relevance in today’s global music scene?

First and foremost I identify as a huge patriot, but a non-nationalist. I hope the readers can think about the nuances and differences between the two. Nevertheless, nationalism in music has been identified and regarded as a movement since the formation of the national music schools in Europe, based on strong national motifs, usually folklore. I believe there is much to be learned from programming national composers in different settings, as it militates for a level of unity through diversity which aligns with today’s European value set.

Throughout your career, you’ve collaborated with esteemed conductors and musicians. Could you share how these collaborations have influenced your musical style and performance?

Collaborating with esteemed musicians has been transformative, broadening my musical horizons and pushing my boundaries. I love sharing the stage with other musicians as we embark in a communicative process which feels like the most important act of freedom, filled with emotions, creativity and mutual respect and cooperation. Different people play differently, of course, but is crucial to find openness to accept other opinions & possibilities. Showing versatility to adapt to different scenarios is a traits to great musicianship.

What is your opinion about the collaboration between the pop icons & orchestras or the multiple rock symphonies shows touring all over the world? Do you think the noblesse of the classical instruments diminish through this kind of performances?

Collaborations between classical music and pop icons can enrich both genres, introducing classical music to wider audiences without diminishing its noblesse. Even more so, it portrays the multiple facets of classical music and the numerous exposure possibilities that lie ahead of us if we work interdisciplinary.

What qualities do you look for in emerging musicians, and what advice do you often find yourself giving to the next generation of pianists during the masterclasses you conduct across Europe?

As a rule of thumb, for young musicians, I emphasize authenticity and continuous learning. Understand the roots of classical music but don’t be afraid to forge your own path. Balance discipline with creativity to keep your passion for music alive.

As the coordinator of several interdisciplinary international projects, can you share insights into these initiatives? What are the challenges and rewards of working on such diverse and cross-cultural projects?

Working on interdisciplinary projects offers a unique opportunity to merge different artistic perspectives, creating innovative experiences. The challenges lie in aligning these perspectives, but the reward is creating something truly unique and impactful. You can never expect the final outcome of a collaborative process between a visual artist and a musician or a chef and a poet, but the ongoing creative endeavour is such a thrill which triggers more provocative ideas for all the parties involved.

As the co-founder and artistic director of the Classix Festival, what is your vision for the festival’s future? How do you see it evolving and contributing to the cultural landscape in the coming years?

My vision for Classix is to further establish it as a pivotal cultural event nation-wide that not only showcases the richness of classical music but also explores its intersections with other arts, making it a beacon of cultural innovation in a transformative society such as Romania’s. I hope the values which we address constantly, such as integrity, artistic excellence and respectful communication can be a common ground to as many other adjacent initiatives.

 

About Dragos Cantea

Dragoș Andrei Cantea is an artistic result of the Iași school of music, with Ioana Stănescu as a mentor between 1999 – 2017.  Dragoș is a collaborator of some of the top philharmonics in Romania, having also performed in recitals or with orchestras in the UK, USA, Canada, Finland, Norway, Austria, Germany, Italy or Romania. He collaborated along the years with conductors such as Radu Popa, Ovidiu Balan, Ștefan Novak, Fergus MacAlpine, Pawel Kapuła, Mihnea Ignat or world renowned maestros such as Cristian Mandeal.
He is a triple graduate of the George Enescu National University of Arts (UNAGE) in Iași, at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral levels, under the tutelage of Ioana Stănescu and Dan Prelipcean. Later on, he became an alumni soloist of the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, at the classes of Håvard Gimse and Kathryn Stott, graduating with the project “Nationalism in music – an artistic-diplomatic tool for mutual understanding of common values”.
Since 2019, he has been an invited lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences in Finland, working interdisciplinary teaching piano, chamber music and creative entrepreneurship. He was also invited as a member of the jury of the Quatre Music Youth Piano Competition in Singapore in 2021 and he is often engaged in teaching masterclasses around Europe. As a chamber musician, he performed in previous seasons with cellists Filip Papa and Wen-Sinn Yang and violinists Bjarne Magnus Jensen and Hyeyoon Park.
Dragoș is also a beneficiary of several scholarships such as Roche Continents 2018, Act in Art 2019, or the Rising Leaders programme of the United States Embassy in Norway, according to the Bio section on his website.
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