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Martin Harris

Minister and Deputy Head of Mission to Russia

Part of UK in Romania

14th September 2011

Bucharest – the Festival City

How good to be in Bucharest now that the ‘George Enescu’ festival is here! When I first saw the programme for this year’s twentieth festival, I could not quite believe my eyes. It looked like one of those conference programmes which promise the President, three Ministers and the British Ambassador, but when you turn up you hear three officials reading their Ministers’ speeches, a dusty academic and, well, the British Ambassador. (I’m not making that mistake again!) But the dream of this year’s Enescu festival has come true. And that dream is to gather for one month in Bucharest some of the greatest orchestras and performers in Europe for a late summer of fantastic music.

This year’s festival has a strong British flavour. Four of the top orchestras in the UK are performing – the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. I’m delighted that Great British culture is so well represented. And I have been enjoying the festival hugely myself. I heard ‘Lohengrin’ at the Bucharest National Opera, the London Symphony Orchestra, and then last night took my daughter to hear the legendary Daniel Barenboim perform Mozart and Bruckner with the Deutsche Staatskapelle.

But it’s not just the orchestras that make a festival, it’s the audiences. The concerts in Bucharest have been packed, with standing room only. It is a special pleasure to be in a hall full of so many people where every seat is full, and every member of the audience is totally absorbed in the music. I especially like the tradition of this festival that when one concert finishes at 10 o’clock at the Sala Palatului, many in the audience cross Calea Victoriei to the Athenaeum to attend the late-night concert. That shows the real dedication of the audience to the music. You can tell that these people are really passionate festival-goers.

As I was listening to the London Symphony Orchestra last week I was struck by the cultural inheritance that we have in common. Here was a British orchestra playing a Hungarian dance by a German composer in the Romanian capital. The nations of Europe each have their distinct identity, but we have shared and swapped our culture with each other – be it Britten and Bartok, Enescu and Elgar, Grieg and Grekhanov, Prokofiev and Puccini. The tradition of great classical music is present throughout Europe, and wonderfully celebrated in the showcase of the Enescu festival in Bucharest this year.

About Martin Harris

I am the Minister and Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Moscow. In my last job I was the Ambassador at the British Embassy in Bucharest. Previously I…

I am the Minister and Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy
in Moscow. In my last job I was the Ambassador at the British Embassy in
Bucharest. Previously I have served at the British Embassies in Kyiv
and Moscow as well as at the UK Delegation to the OSCE in Vienna.
I love music, especially opera, chamber and sacred music. I am
married to Linda MacLachlan. We have three daughters, Catriona, Tabitha
and Flora – and they have one dog Timur and two cats, Pushkin and Tolstoi.

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