Ilie Stepan, Horea Crisovan and Mario Florescu close off the Timisoara Baroque Festival

Like I said in my previous article: October has so far been a good month for music, especially last weekend when I got to attend two great events; both of which were outstanding in their own way. Saturday I was at the JazzyBIT concert that brought the house down and Sunday found me at the Philharmonic for the closing concert of the Timisoara Baroque Festival, a gig featuring three very well-known and extremely accomplished musicians: Ilie Stepan, Horea Crisovan and Mario Florescu.

Mario Florescu is the leader of Mario & The Teachers, an ethno-Jazz act I’ve written about before and is an accomplished and talented percussionist. Both him and Ilie Stepan have been around for decades and have been part of some true revolutions – not only in music, as Stepan is known for having been on the Opera balcony giving the proverbial finger to the Ceausescu regime in a time when things were getting pretty hot all over Romania. He is also known for composing the revolutionary anthem “Timisoara” together with Marian Odangiu, while at the helm of rock band Pro Musica.

Still, while I greatly respect both these artists and their indisputable accomplishments, the real reason I attended the event was to see guitar player Horea Crisovan. Horea has got the Romanian musical audience divided: some say that he is one of the best guitar players in Romania while others claim he is the absolute best guitar player in the country. I’ve been following his career ever since the early 2000’s when he was performing with Jazz-Funk band Blazzaj (among many many…many others), a band I was really into at the time. The thing with Horea is that he is involved in so many projects that you never know what you’re going to get. Though he is immensely talented, his talent is not always showcased at maximum potential in some of the bands he’s part of, which is probably the only downside of being a very versatile and very active musician. Still, when I read his name alongside that of Florescu and Stepan as well as the word “acoustic” I knew it was going to be Horea at his very best. Not only was I not disappointed but the show completely exceeded my expectations.

The performance was divided into two parts. The first was a straight-forward showcasing of the two guitar players’ talent, with the main focus on Horea and his incredible speed and dexterity through an abundance of lighthearted compositions as well as some well-known international tracks (“Hotel California” and “Fragile” by Sting). I was completely blown away by Horea’s playing. Perhaps because of his many musical projects, some requiring less of his gifted input than others, it is easy to forget just how amazingly talented and multilateral this man is when it comes to his approach to the guitar. Since I will return to the Philharmonic to see Al DiMeola perform in November I couldn’t help but wonder what the veteran guitarist would think of Horea’s playing but I can’t imagine he would do anything else  but enthusiastically clap with the rest of us.

The second part was what I called the “nostalgia” part, with Stepan and Florescu front-and-center, playing songs from the heyday of their careers, complete with intense and sensitive musical videos and with Horea backing them up on electric guitar. It was a very emotional performance that could be enjoyed in its entirety only with the empathetic connection and involvement from the audience, as many remembered the era in which these songs were in their prime.

Unfortunately, because of the big age-gap, I know I couldn’t entirely connect with the music like a large part of the audience seemed to do and I’m sorry that I couldn’t award this second part of the show the emotional investment that it deserved. Even so, I did enjoy it greatly and the passionate presence of past memories was almost palpable. All-in-all it was a beautiful event that had something for everyone. It showcased the superb talent of a young musician as well as the staying-power of the veteran performers but most of all it demonstrated the beautiful symbiosis between them.

You can watch the entire event live at the following link:

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