Princeton Personality by Jean Stratton

MUSICAL MISSION: "I always feel a performance can be better. The great pianist, Sviatoslav Richter, my idol, said that whatever he did could always be improved. You can always have more ideas, more imagination. What changes over time is the understanding of the music. It's a journey. It's never the same." Pianist Georgiana Rosca, whether performing, accompanying, or teaching, is passionate about the music.

Princeton Pianist Georgiana Rosca Performs, Accompanies, and Teaches

This is a piece that pulls your heart out! Don't give your heart away too soon."

"When you play this, how do you feel? What is hard about it? You have to have a plan how to do it. You are telling a story."

Georgiana Rosca is intense, completely engaged and committed to the music, as she instructs piano student Benjamin Danielsson. Not content to sit back and listen, she stands by the piano, guiding her student, questioning him, demonstrating, commanding his attention and interest.

The piece in question, Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata, is challenging. "Beethoven is draining emotionally and mentally, but you feel satisfied after," says Ms. Rosca.

Later, referring to a Chopin etude, she points out to Benjamin: "It's written in such a way that it fits the hand like a glove. There is a physicality about Chopin's music — the hand, arm, and fingers are so important. It's mental, emotional, and physical all at once."

Benjamin, who is 13, has been studying with Ms. Rosca for four years. "What I like best about the lessons is when she tells me how to improve," he says. "It's the only way to learn. She also gives me elaborate detail on how to interpret the composer's style."

Great Appreciation

Georgiana Rosca has been passionate about music from an early age. Born in Romania, she grew up in Bucharest. The only child of Maria and Vasile Rosca, she was fortunate to have a cultured, creative and educated upbringing and parents who were responsive and supportive.

Her father was a professor of psychology at the University of Bucharest, and her mother was a teacher, with a great appreciation of music.

"My mother was very interested in everything," recalls Ms. Rosca. "She was an opera lover, and earlier, she had studied voice at the Conservatory. She also taught herself to play the piano and the violin. She was very cultured and creative. She wrote plays for her students. A real 'Renaissance' woman."

Ms. Rosca's parents believed that it was important to introduce their daughter to the arts early on. "When I was four, my mother took me to a play, Lysistrata, which was performed in a park where I played. I was thrilled to see this production in the same place where I played.

"Next, my mother took me to the Opera House in Bucharest. I think it was a Mozart opera. What especially appealed to me was the setting, the decor. I liked the spectacle of it all, and I didn't want to leave.

"When I was five," continues Ms. Rosca, "I went to a performance of the great pianist, Sviatoslav Richter at the Palace Hall in Bucharest. He played Burleska, a very flamboyant and impressive piece of music by Richard Strauss. I remember I said, ' Mama! Mama! I want to play like this gentleman!'"

Curiosity and Interest

Not only did the very young Georgiana have the interest, it quickly became apparent she had the talent. At five years old, she was enrolled in the Bucharest Lyceum of Music, which she attended for 12 years.

"I liked school," says Ms. Rosca. "I enjoyed studying. I had curiosity and interest, and I also had to practice the piano every day."

One of the pianos on which she practiced was very special and belonged to her grandparents. "It was a Bösendorfer, a very old piano which dated to the time of Franz Liszt. My great-grandfather had bought it in Vienna."

Visiting her grandparents are among her happiest childhood memories. "We'd go on summer vacation to their house in a little town, Râmnicu Vâlcea in the country in the hills of the sub-Carpathian Mountains. All my relatives would come too — cousins, aunts and uncles. There was cooking in the house all day long to feed all 25 of them!

"I loved to play in the orchard, climb trees, ride the horses, and go fishing — after I practiced, of course! It was wonderful. Also, when we were in the country, we would see the gypsies come in their caravans. The women were beautiful and graceful and dressed beautifully in colorful skirts. It seemed very romantic, very poetic to me"

During her early years of school, Georgiana studied with piano teacher, Angela Marbe. "She was a specialist in teaching children," remembers Ms. Rosca. "She was an elegant older woman. A bit stern. I loved to go to her house for lessons. It felt like another world."

High Level

Georgiana learned to work very hard, and practiced three to four hours a day. As she explains, "You had to present yourself at a high level in order to go on further. From the beginning, I wanted to perform professionally."

When she was 11, she met highly respected pianist Magda Nicolau, who would have a great impact on Georgiana. "Really, my greatest mentor was Magda Nicolau. She was a pianist, not really a teacher. We met her while we were traveling in Transylvania. She heard me playing, and thought I had promise. She took me under her wing, and I studied with her for eight years and was her only student. She introduced me to a circle of musicians."

As she got older, Georgiana, who always loved to read, began to write poetry — in three languages, Romanian, French and English! Some were published, she recalls.

She was also interested in the theater, and at one time considered an acting career. "My mother's brother was in cinematography, and he introduced me to a lot of great actors and directors," remembers Ms. Rosca. "I also lived very close to the theater, and liked to go and watch the rehearsals."

The theater's loss was music's gain, however, and as she notes, "Music was very much in my nature. I studied very hard, but it was a pleasure. The more I understood it, the more I loved it."

It is true that when one loves something very much, it is important to know all about it; to delve into it, discover all its meanings, its secrets. Whatever time is spent is never too much to explore its mysteries.

When Georgiana was 18, she auditioned for admission to the Bucharest Academy of Music, the most famous music school in Romania, and notoriously difficult to get into.

Few Places

"I had done a lot of performing while I was at the Lyceum," recalls Ms. Rosca. "I had won competitions and played in concerts. But I was nervous to audition. There were very few places for solo piano interpretation, and many, many more applicants. You think, if you get it, your life is set; if you don't, your life is ruined. There was a lot of pressure, and the audition consisted of a number of different segments, from recital to technique to sight reading, among others."

Happily, it went well, and she was admitted to a four and a half year course of study, covering harmony, chamber music, accompanying, and concert recitals.

"It was a lot of work,' observes Ms. Rosca, "but I studied with Dan Grigore, one of the most fabulous pianists in the world, and another important mentor for me. I practiced four hours a day on an average, and more if I was preparing a concert. Practicing is like being hungry; when you practice enough, you are satisfied and no longer hungry."

Her parents had been very supportive of Georgiana's music studies, although she remembers that her father had some doubts. "He wasn't so sure about the life of a professional musician for me. He thought it would be a very hard life, but he still always supported me.

"My mother was a real role model for me," continues Ms. Rosca. "She was very serious about giving me an education, and I see my mother as an inspiration."

Georgiana graduated from the Bucharest Academy, with an M.A. in piano solo performance in 1979, and she accepted a teaching position at her former school, the Bucharest Lyceum of Music. "That first year I was feeling my way," she recalls. "I found that I liked teaching very much, and I liked the atmosphere — switching from being a student to the role of a teacher, and I was also privileged to be in a circle of highly educated people."

Free Spirit

After a year, however, she was ready for a change, and traveled to Italy to visit friends. "It was the first time I had been out of Romania," she explains. "I spoke several languages, including Italian, French, English, and German, as well as Romanian. I love languages. And I was a free spirit. Now I was ready for an adventure."

And an adventure she had. She stayed for 10 months, enjoying the atmosphere and culture of another country and new experiences. "It was really quite an adventure," she reports. "I played and sang in a piano bar, among other things!"

Because of immigration problems in Italy, however, Georgiana decided to go to Canada, where she had relatives. She did not return to live in Romania because she wanted opportunities not available under a Communist system. Although she had appreciated her wonderful music education, which had been free, and it would be difficult to be so far away from her parents, she wanted a different life, and in fact, defected to the West.

"I liked Canada, and lived in Ottawa for four years," says Ms. Rosca. "I performed, taught at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, and Kodaly Music Institute, and I also did a lot of accompanying."

Then, in 1984, she had an opportunity to go to San Diego, Calif. to perform, conduct Master Classes, and give lecture/recitals at a variety of institutions, including the University of California, San Diego and the University of San Diego. She appeared at San Diego Symphony Hall, and also participated in the La Jolla Library Concert Series.

"I loved San Diego and the wonderful climate," remarks Ms. Rosca. "And I had a great opportunity to perform, teach, and accompany while I was there."

Perfect Location

Apart from missing her parents, whom she called frequently, Ms. Rosca was very happy in her new life. In 1989, she moved again, this time to Princeton, where she has now lived for 17 years. "I grew fond of this town," she says. "I love the fact that it is an intellectual town and a university town. It is also international, with people from all over. And, it's a perfect location between New York and Philadelphia. I think Princeton is a good place for musicians. The people are educated and appreciate music."

Continuing her performing and accompanying, Ms. Rosca also became associated academically with Westminster Choir College/Conservatory and The Lawrenceville School. In 1994, she entered a two-year program at Westminster to earn an M.A. in coaching and accompanying.

"The person who especially wanted me to come to Westminster and study accompanying was the late Glen Parker, who was head of the accompanying department, and with whom I had a very special relationship," she explains. "He really treated me more like a colleague than a student, and I think of him very often.

"I also studied at Westminster with pianist Dalton Baldwin, a glorious man. He is an incredible inspiration to me. A poetic spirit, he is truly a seeker of beauty. It is his art, generosity, and gentleness. People like that are very rare."

Ms. Rosca has performed with Mr. Baldwin on more than one occasion, including a performance of French music in New York in 2001. As reviewer John Hammel noted for WNTI Radio, "The evening concluded with another virtuoso selection for both pianists, the Poulenc Sonata for Four Hands &. It was sheer delight to behold the two contrasting styles of Ms. Rosca and Mr. Baldwin, juxtaposed and working so wildly together. His elegance and pin-point pianism against her smoldering intensity produced a balance of emotions that was breathtaking."

During these years in Princeton, Ms. Rosca has performed, accompanied, coached, and continued to teach. Princeton recitals at The Richardson Auditorium, Taplin Hall, and the Bristol Chapel at Westminster have been interwoven with New York recitals at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, the New York Public Library, the Landon Gallery, and the Romanian Cultural Institute.

Palace Hall

She has also appeared at the Maurice Levin Theatre in West Orange, the Romanian and Polish Embassies in Washington, and with the Pennsylvania Pioneers of Music Series in Philadelphia. Internationally, Ms. Rosca has performed in the Palace Hall in Bucharest (where she first heard Sviatoslav Richter play when she was five), in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and at the Academy of Vocal Arts, conducting Master Classes, and on Swedish television in Stockholm.

In addition, Ms. Rosca has been awarded fellowships to the Aspen Music Festival, the Academie Internationale de Musique de Nice in France, Summer Vocal and Coaching progams in Palma de Majorca with Dalton Baldwin, and participated in International Summer workshops and festivals as an accompanist and vocal coach.

Among her many collaborations are performances with Mr. Baldwin, flutist Georgette Ionesco, sopranos Margaret Cusack and Bonnie Hoke, and baritone Elem Elley.

"Accompanying is very different from playing solo," she explains. "I love it. Pianists who accompany are now called collaborators. I have a broad repertoire of the art songs and chamber music. And I especially enjoy doing half a concert of accompanying and half solo performance. Lately, I have been doing more of this."

Ms. Rosca has also participated in Master Classes and coachings with a number of renowned artists, and has coached opera in Aspen, Col. "Coaching involves refining and polishing a program," she points out. "The coach is not teaching you piano or singing because you are already at a high level. But the coach deals with the overall program, giving guidelines and advice for the entire performance."

In the past 10 years, Ms. Rosca has also begun to focus on teaching a selected group of gifted students. "I like teaching," she observes. "I enjoy the creation of a piece from zero to performance level. The process is fascinating. The exchange we have and what we communicate. And I can see the joy of a student after he or she has performed at a high level."

Hard Work

Ms. Rosca currently has 20 private students, ages four to 18, and one adult. They usually have lessons twice a week for an hour or hour and a half (a half hour for the little ones). Ms. Rosca takes only serious students, who she thinks have potential and talent. She believes in hard work and serious, intense lessons.

"I tell them it's no fun, until it's fun," she says, smiling. "You have to work hard to get to the point where it's fun. I remember when I was 16, Magda Nicolau said to me, 'Now, you are growing into your adult life, and it can be difficult.' And she gave me the Latin quotation, 'Per aspera ad astra': Through difficulties to the stars.

"I think music is almost like a religious endeavor," she adds. "There is the spiritual aspect of music — the total dedication. Music shapes you. Spirituality and music are intertwined. Each shapes the other."

When she is considering taking on a student, Ms. Rosca has an interview with the student and parents. "I tell them it's serious, and if they come to me, they have to make a commitment for a long time. Actually, I have discovered about myself that I think I have a talent to discover talent."

Many of her students have indeed studied with her for many years.

"Georgiana is an incredible teacher," points out Margaret Griffin, co-owner of Micawber Books, whose daughter Mary Knapp has been a student for 10 years. "We are so lucky to have come across her 10 years ago. She is high level and old-school in one way, with very high standards. But, in addition, she is able to communicate the passion of music and the whole world of music to the students. She has definitely inspired my daughter. Georgiana is a real mentor in many, many ways."

Musical Aspects

William Prudhomme, 14, has studied with Ms. Rosca for six years, and says he always looks forward to the lessons. "I really like studying with Georgiana. What I like is that she makes it very interesting. She talks about the technique required and what to do with the technique to improve the quality of the piece. And whenever we work on a piece, she also talks about the musical aspects and the epoch or time period in which it was written. It makes it so interesting.

"She makes you work hard, and it pays off. I look forward to continuing my lessons with her."

Adds Sophia DeBraun, 13, who has taken lessons with Ms. Rosca for seven years: "I really like piano, and Georgiana makes the classes so interesting. She's the kind of piano teacher who makes you think about what you've done wrong and how to improve it. We really work hard, and it's very satisfying."

Ms. Rosca very much enjoys arranging Master Classes in which her students present work at a high level in public and receive commentary from the teacher and other students. Held every six weeks, these Master Classes have been highly praised by music critics, including John Hammel.

"These are really much more valuable to the students than recitals," points out Ms. Rosca.

German School

Ms. Rosca is both a hard taskmaster and an enthusiastic supporter of her students, as quick to praise as to point out mistakes. "I don't think I have a real method," she reports. "It's very personal. I do come from the tradition of the German School, and I am lucky to have this background. It's a fantastic tradition. The technique and approach to music is in the tradition of Carl Reineke, famous German pianist, pedagogue, and composer.

"I am very engaged when I teach, and I give a lot," she continues. "Teaching takes a lot of time and commitment. I try to emphasize to the students that physical technique is so important. The mind-finger connection is so important — the mechanism of the thinking. It's the coordination of the mind and the physical. You have to explain this to them. And, of course, the ear is the most important thing of all. You listen to how you are playing. This is a tremendously intellectual endeavor.

"And we will also listen to recordings and compare interpretations. I'll say, 'Let's learn about style.' I will ask them, 'Did you like it?' And I ask them this when they play themselves. Because the person who plays has to like it — or not — and know why."

Ms. Rosca takes two months off from teaching in the summer to travel and also often to prepare her own programs. In addition, in recent years, she has been composing, and her work has been performed at Westminster, at the Landon Gallery of Lincoln Center, and at a benefit gala at the Polish Embassy in Washington.

"I've composed songs for the piano and voice, including little art songs based on the poetry of D.H. Lawrence, which were performed in Philadelphia," says Ms. Rosca. "I would like to do more composing, but the problem is time."

And although she loves teaching and composing, performing is never far from her thoughts. "I need the performing," she explains. "It has to be there. If not, something is missing."

New Program

But, like composing, it needs time. As she points out, "It is very self-involved to be preparing a concert. When you are doing that, you cannot have people coming into your space. It requires all your focus and attention. And also, for performing, you have to be available and have a program when someone calls you."

This summer, she plans to travel to Romania, as she has done nearly every year since 1985, to visit her mother. "I am also looking forward to doing a program with a Romanian pianist, a friend from grade school. This will be next year's project, and we hope to do it here as well as in Romania."

When not teaching or performing, Ms. Rosca likes to listen to music and enjoys a variety of styles. "I love to listen to orchestral music, I have eclectic tastes, and of course, what you listen to depends on the mood you are in. I love French music. It has an edge to it — it's hard to put your finger on it. I also like the French chansonette songs, such as Edith Piaf sang."

Also, she points out that one's tastes change over the years. "This is natural, as your own experiences and life change. As I have gotten older, I now adore Bach and Mozart. Bach is so perfect. When I was younger, it was Chopin."

Ms. Rosca also enjoys traveling ("Paris is my second home!") and visiting museums, and has a special liking for Dutch painters. She also has a varied art collection of her own, including Romanian paintings.

It is music, however, that forms her life. It never ceases to fascinate and drive her, and she works hard to share this passion with her students. "With music, you will never be bored. I tell this to my students. You can only be bored if you're not thinking. and this is such an intellectual and artistic combination. The mind is always engaged.

"I'd really like to make an impact on my students' lives, and I hope I do. Teaching is a wonderful vocation. The special relationships I've had with my teachers will be forever. If we didn't have our teachers, we wouldn't be who we are today."

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