by Codruta Mihailovici, APE Country Manager for Romania
Photo credits: Romi Drăghici
The year 2023 was declared in Romania, by presidential decree, the Dimitrie Cantemir Cultural Year, due to the celebration of the 350th anniversary of the erudite man's birth. Ruler of the Moldavian voivodship (March - April 1693; 1710 - 1711), skilled diplomat, close adviser to the tsar (while he spent the last 12 years in exile, in Russia), political scientist, man of letters, encyclopaedist, ethnographer, geographer, polyglot linguist, musicologist, and the list can continue, Dimitrie Cantemir was a remarkable figure of the Romanian humanism and pre-Enlightenment, with universal reverberations. On those grounds parallels have been drawn with Lorenzo de' Medici.
The diversity and scientific quality of his encyclopaedic work, based on the advantage of his knowledge of ancient classical languages (Latin, Greek and Slavonic), the important languages during his times, both European (Greek, French, Russian, etc.) and Oriental (Turkish, Arabic, Persian and probably Tatar), which allowed him to have access to a great variety of works, gave a universal character to the cultural legacy he left to his descendants, to all mankind.
In this anniversary context, a project named Restitutio Cantemir (in April-May stage) and Dimitrie Cantemir - Romanian Sound of the Orient (in November stage), bringing together institutions from the fields of documentary heritage and music, were carried out both in Romania (Bucharest, Iasi, Alba Iulia, Galati, Constanta) and abroad (Krakow, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Chisinau).
The National Archives of Romania, in collaboration with the National Museum of Romanian Literature and the Library of the Romanian Academy, organized a photo-documentary exhibition aiming to present the viewer the world of Dimitrie Cantemir, providing the informational context related his life and work. The lists of the contributors to the exhibition can be extended to the international level while some of the documents displayed are preserved, in original form, in archives from Turkey, Russia and France, but also on microfilm copy in the National Archives repositories. In quantitative terms, the exhibition consists of 43 documents, in different forms and a variety of languages and palaeographies: Romanian-Cyrillic, Ottoman, Latin, Russian, English, German.
The family background (Dimitrie Cantemir's family tree, drawn up by famous Romanian genealogist Sever Zotta, documents from his father – Constantin, his brother – Antioh, and his first wife, Cassandra, the diplomatic form of documents issued by the Moldavian chancellery during his reign, the specific authentication elements (various types of seals, handwritten signature), pages from his works (literary, historical, philosophical and musical), and the diploma awarded by the Academy of Sciences in Berlin are only a few landmarks that design a prelude creating the informational and visual context for the second, musical part of the project: Anton Pann Ensemble concert.
The concert consisted of seven musical compositions that are for sure known to have been composed by Dimitrie Cantemir, taken from his work "The Book of the Science of Music according to the Form of Letters", masterfully performed, sound contextualized and played on original 18th Century or later instruments, modified to reproduce the notes of medieval music (kanun, oud, cello, violin, bendir, riq, daire tambourine, clarinetto ney, tanbur ney), by musician-researchers from the ensemble and guest musicians from the USA (originally from Georgia), Canada, Turkey and Lebanon.
The organisers' inspiration to involve ultra-modern technology in a medieval context contributed to the success of the project: the hologram of Dimitrie Cantemir explained to the audience each composition played by the musicians.
The photo-documentary and artistic project ended in Bucharest, at the National Opera, where, after a holographic performance, Dimitrie Cantemir really "came to life", not only with the help of technology, but through the successful interpretation of an actor. The entire audience, young and silver generation, was really excited to meet and to take a picture along with the Prince.