Horaţiu Rădulescu, born in Bucharest 1942, studied the violin privately with Nina Alexandrescu, a pupil of Enescu, and later composition at the Bucharest Academy of Music, where his teachers included Stefan Niculescu, Tiberiu Olah and Aurel Stroë, some of the leading figures of the newly emerging avant garde. Upon graduation in 1969 Rădulescu left Romania for the west, and settled in Paris, becoming a French citizen in 1974.
One of the first works to be completed in Paris was “Credo for nine cellos”, the first work to employ his spectral techniques. This technique “comprises variable distribution of the spectral energy, synthesis of the global sound sources, micro- and macro-form as sound-process, four simultaneous layers of perception and of speed, and spectral scordatura, i.e. rows of unequal intervals corresponding to harmonic scales” (Rădulescu 1993). These techniques were developed considerably in his music of subsequent decades. In the early 1970s he attended classes given by John Cage, György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Iannis Xenakis at the Darmstadt Summer Courses, and by Luc Ferrari and Maurizio Kagel in Cologne. He presented his own music in Olivier Messiaen’s classes at the Paris Conservatoire in 1972/73.
Beginning in the early 1970s Rădulescu’s works began to be performed at the leading contemporary music festivals, including Utrecht, Darmstadt, Royan, Metz and Donaueschingen. From 1979 to 1981 he studied computer-assisted composition and psycho-acoustics at IRCAM, although his work makes relatively little use of electronic means of sound production. In 1983 he founded the ensemble European Lucero in Paris to perform his works, a variable ensemble consisting of soloists specialising in the techniques required for his music. In 1991 he founded the Lucero Festival.
In the mid-1980s Rădulescu was based in Freiburg in Germany, though for many years he retained an address in Versailles. In 1988 he lived in Berlin on a DAAD fellowship, and in 1989–1990 he was resident in San Francisco and Venice as a laureate of the Villa Medici hors les murs scholarship. In the mid–1990s he moved to Switzerland, living first in Clarens and later in Vevey. He died in Paris on 25 September 2008.
Rădulescu’s spectral techniques, as they evolved through the 1970s and beyond, are quite distinct from those of his French contemporaries Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail. His compositional aim, as outlined in his book “Sound Plasma” (1975) was to bypass the historical categories of monody, polyphony and heterophony and to create musical textures with all elements in a constant flux. Central to this was an exploration of the harmonic spectrum, and by the invention of new playing techniques to bring out, and sometimes to isolate, the upper partials of complex sounds, on which new spectra could be built. The harmonic relationships in his music are based on these spectra and on the phenomena of sum and difference tones. The opening sonority of his fourth string quartet (1976-87), for example, is based on partials 21, 22 and 43 of a low C fundamental; this is an example of what Radulescu referred to as “self-generating functions” in his music, as partials 21 and 22 give in sum 43 and in difference 1, the fundamental. Much of his music for strings makes use of a “spectral scordatura”, where the open strings are retuned, often to simulations of the partials of a single harmonic spectrum.
Many of Rădulescu’s later works derive their poetic inspiration from the “Tao te ching” of Lao-tzu. The titles of his second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth piano sonatas, and of the fifth and sixth string quartets, are taken from this source. The piano sonatas, as well as his Piano Concerto “The Quest” (1996) and other later works, make use of folk melodies from his native Romania, integrating these with his spectral techniques.
As of February 2019