Architecture / Concert Halls

The Balș House and Notre Dame Institute (Philharmonic)

The Balș House, currently hosting some of the activity of “George Enescu” University of Arts, was built in 1815 by the treasurer Alecu Balș.

This building received a great cultural importance since its first decades of existence. In 1816, the first Romanian theatre play – “Mirtil and Hloe” was played here, being translated by Gheorghe Asachi, and in 1847 the great pianist and composer Franz Liszt gave a big concert in this house. After the concert, Alecu Balș called the gypsy musicians led by the famous kobsa player Barbu Lăutaru, in order to entertain the party given in honour of the great artist. After listening only once to a Hungarian march played on the piano by Franz Liszt, Barbu Lăutaru and his band reproduced the song with all its details, deeply impressing Liszt, who stated that “God has made you an artist and you are greater than I am!”

In 1861, the building becomes property of the nuns of Notre Dame of Sion Order, which built the “Sacré Coeur” French Institute in its courtyard. Through this change, the functions of the building are diversified throughout time, becoming a girl college, a trade school, a kindergarten and an orphanage. Thanks to the Catholic Order, owner for almost nine decades, the main building of the Philharmonic would be erected, which was initially a chapel for the nuns and the students of the institute.

The monumental ensemble on Cuza Vodă Street would be totally dedicated to art and especially to music after 1947. This is the moment when, after the dissolution of the “Sacre Coeur” Institute, the two buildings would become residence of the “Octav Băncilă” Art Highschool and of the “George Enescu” Conservatory. Beginning with 1957, the former chapel would become residence of the “Moldavia” Philharmonic Orchestra.

From an architectural point of view, in the case of the Balș House, we can notice Neoclassic style elements, specific to the beginning of the 19th century. The access in the building is made through the entrance portico. The first floor is dominated by tall windows framed by pillars, and hosts the “Caudella” concert hall. The chapel of the “Sacre Coeur” Institute is the creation of the Italian architect J. Vignaly, and was built between 1900 and 1910.

As an institution with a permanent artistic activity, the “Moldavia” Philharmonic Orchestra plays on stages across the country, as well as abroad. The composer and conductor George Enescu has had a great influence over the fame of the institution, because on the 9th of October 1942, under his baton, the opening concert of the Philharmonic Orchestra took place, in the grand hall of the “Vasile Alecsandri” National Theatre.

George Enescu in Iași

In 1886, when George Enescu was only 5 years old, Eduard Caudella, composer and professor of the Iași Conservatory lead him toward a career in music and helped him enroll in the Vienna Conservatory in 1888. The visits of the great composer George Enescu to Iași marked some special moments in the history of the Romanian classical music. On the 27th of January 1917, on the celebration of the Union of Romanian Principalities, Enescu played “Hora Unirii” on the violin. In the same year, on the 26th of December, on the scene of the National Theatre, the first symphonic concert of the Iași orchestra founded by him takes place. The opening concert of the “Moldavia” Philharmonic Orchestra of the 9th of October 1942 had George Enescu as conductor, in the grand hall of the National Theatre.

Strada Cuza Vodă Nr. 29, Iași 700259
Photo by Alex Munteanu

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