The Works of Richard Oschanitzky

Stylistic features

by Alex Vasiliu (Author)
©2015 Monographs 282 Pages


The Works of Richard Oschanitzky analyses the German-Romanian composer and pianist’s output in the context of Socialist Romania (1965 to 1979). By the means of music historiography, archive research and musicological analyses, the composer’s contributions to the symphonic/chamber jazz genres, pioneering role in ethno-jazz and film music scores are analysed. The book lays particular stress on Richard Oschanitzky’s attempt to find common ground between European academic music and American jazz, as exemplified in his symphonic jazz works. The Romanian edition of this book has raised awareness of the musical potential to be retrieved, resulting in additional audio-visual products, such as documentary films and new CD editions of his work. It has become part of the academic curriculum for the course History of Jazz, taught at the George Enescu University of Arts in Iaşi, Romania.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Argument
  • Academic Music and Jazz in the Period 1951–1980
  • 1.1. Trends and tendencies in academic music
  • 1.1.1. Avant–garde music
  • 1.1.2. Integral serialism
  • 1.1.3. Concrete music. Electronic music
  • 1.1.4. Mathematical organization: stochastic music. Texture
  • 1.1.5. Indeterminacy. Improvised music
  • 1.1.6. Tapping on tradition. Minimalism
  • 1.1.7. Postmodernism
  • 1.1.8. Romanian music
  • 1.1.9. Richard Oschanitzky’s relationship with the stylistic tendencies of the era
  • 1.2. Jazz, a defining component of modern music
  • 1.2.1. Cool jazz
  • 1.2.2. Bossa nova
  • 1.2.3. Free jazz
  • 1.3. The developing relationship between academic music and jazz
  • 1.3.1. Academic vs. Jazz – Jazz vs. Academic
  • 1.3.2. Third Stream
  • Richard Oschanitzky’s Personality – A Model of Spiritual Confluence
  • 2.1. Origin. Formative years. First compositions
  • 2.1.1. The Oschanitzky Family
  • 2.1.2. Formative years. Early compositions
  • 2.2. Expulsion from the Conservatory
  • 2.3. 1959–1964. Coming to prominence in the Romanian world of music as an arranger, orchestrator and pianist
  • 2.3.1. Jazz in Romania (1948–1963)
  • 2.3.2. Richard Oschanitzky – pianist, arranger, orchestrator
  • 2.3.3. Stage music
  • 2.3.4. Academic music compositions
  • 2.4. 1964–1969. The work becomes more diverse, value increases. European activity
  • 2.4.1. Diverse musical activities
  • 2.4.2. Film music
  • 2.4.3. Ethno–jazz
  • 2.4.4. Free jazz
  • 2.4.5. Pop music
  • 2.4.6. Chamber jazz
  • 2.5. The period 1971–1979
  • 2.5.1. Symphonic jazz and chamber jazz
  • 2.5.2. Film music
  • 2.5.3. Academic music
  • Analysing the Works
  • 3.1. Academic music works
  • 3.1.1. Missa Brevis (1956)
  • 3.1.2. Scherzo for piano, op. 3 (1958)
  • 3.1.3. Das Lied von der Liebe, op. 4 (1957–1961)
  • 3.1.4. String quartet no. 1, op. 8 (1959–1961)
  • 3.1.5. Dramatische Sonatine in H (1960)
  • 3.1.6. Das Lied von der Wolke (1960–1966)
  • 3.1.7. Sonata for clarinet and piano (1963)
  • 3.1.8. Chamber concerto for piano, winds and percussion (1963)
  • 3.2. Jazz works
  • 3.2.1. Blue Brazil
  • 3.2.2. Procesiune (Procession)
  • 3.2.3. Entorsă (Sprain)
  • 3.2.4. Don’t Be Sad
  • 3.2.5. Enchainé
  • 3.2.6. T8
  • 3.2.7. Neurasia
  • 3.2.8. Cearta (The Quarrel)
  • 3.2.9. Always Down
  • 3.3. Chamber jazz works
  • 3.3.1. Toccata for piano and jazz septet
  • 3.3.2. Barlovento
  • 3.3.3. Madrigal
  • 3.3.4. Ochi (Eyes) - In memoriam Ţuculescu
  • 3.4. Symphonic jazz works
  • 3.4.1. The Double Concerto for piano, tenor saxophone, symphonic orchestra and big band
  • 3.4.2. Variaţiuni 71 (Variations 71)
  • Conclusions
  • Addendum I – Remunerated arrangements / orchestrations (institutions)
  • Addendum II – Catalogue of Works
  • Bibliography

← 8 | 9 → Argument

If a musicologist had intended to write a biography or a study of Richard Oschanitzky’s works in 1979, after the latter had just passed away1, there would have already been enough information available to sketch the portrait of a fascinating artist.

Many musicians’ and music lovers’ impressions were still vivid. The jazzy arrangements of works by J.S. Bach, presented in the concert hall of the Bucharest Conservatory2; a piano technique that would have supported solo performances of academic genres, orchestrations for theatre plays, fast and qualitative commentaries for small groups or ensembles; his poetic melodies, harmonic inventiveness, refined timbres and colours; orienting pop music pieces towards the genre of lied, in-depth knowledge of compositional techniques covering most fields of music, a balanced promotion of the avant-garde visible in his forty film scores (twenty-five of them, feature-length live-action), in the free-jazz opera; being certain that he would manage the marriage of opposite musical concepts (academic music and jazz), his permanent presence in radio and TV programmes; an essential contribution to records of high musical and artistic value published by Electrecord – all of these defined the personality of a composer and instrumentalist unique for Romania.

The orders from Italian or British record companies entailing arrangements and orchestrations for renowned pop singers, the awards he received at pop or film and teleplay music contests, invitations from the East German state radio and television to frequently participate as a pianist, arranger and orchestrator in the staging of grand entertainment shows and to compose in styles of his choice represent proof of his recognition as a musician of rare value.

Such statements can impress some European music environments as exaggerating Richard Oschanitzky’s achievements. This correct impression is due to the quasi-total lack of information in the generalist and specialised Romanian press (since 1979, only a couple of studies and essays have been published in the magazines Muzica, Cronica and in a few dailies, while portrait broadcasts were aired ← 9 | 10 → on the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Company, on Radio Iaşi, Radio Trinitas, TVR Iaşi and TVR Cultural. The lack of knowledge on many of Oschanitzky’s defining personality traits can be explained through the biographical accident of a difficult, downright tragic period in the post-war history of Romania and through the musician’s reflection in the media exclusively as a pianist, arranger and jazz / film music composer.

The second cause was the regress in cultural policy initiated in July 1971; from this moment on, his original works of jazz and jazz-academic fusion were less tolerated at official level.

A third reason for the almost insurmountable difficulty of performing the chamber and symphonic jazz works in Romania was the gradual emigration3 of many technically skilled performers, who had been available for both fields of musical expression4.

We should not overlook the view held by most musicians in Romania, according to which the academic genres maintain their superiority over jazz, thought of as mere entertainment. The preoccupation of important composers of the 20th century for the North-American popular genres has always been seen as ephemeral, as the jazz-specific modulations, rhythms and sounds didn’t mean more than mere “colouring” or short, at most respectable sequences of ampler classical works. Although respected academic music composers such as Dumitru Capoianu, Pascal Bentoiu, Liviu Dănceanu or Dan Dediu have often spoken and written with warmth and understanding about the qualities and seriousness of jazz, although Romania has witnessed a few attempts at reconciling jazz with the European modes of structuring musical ideas5, the concept of symphonic jazz did not work. In public perception, the term remained restricted to George Gerschwin’s ample works – Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F for solo piano and orchestra, Cuban Overture and the Suite An American in Paris. In the chapter dedicated to the symphonic/chamber jazz genre, I will explain the paradox that accompanied the 50-year-long discord between European academic music and jazz, understandable if we consider the 20th century development of the academic sound phenomenon, but debatable as a sign of so many composers, critics and pedagogues’ conservatism.

← 10 | 11 → In Romania, the lengthy isolation of jazz between the limits of entertainment genres was also a result of communist policies, which targeted it as a capitalist product. Between 1948 and 1963, „jazz” as a term was censored in the press, records or books could not be found in the state shops, their illicit procurement proved to be quite dangerous, Conservatory students who dared to hum or play a jazzy melodic phrase on an instrument were risking harsh punishments. One man who payed dearly for such a “mistake” was none other than Richard Oschanitzky.

This is another – important – explanation of the ignorance surrounding Oschanitzky’s works of academic music and jazz. His expulsion from the Conservatory and the subsequent lengthy absence from the Composers’ Union made it impossible for his works (of academic music of symphonic/chamber jazz) to be acquired by the Union, published as scores and included in the philharmonic programmes, issued on records. The situation stayed the same in the period of political liberalization (1964–1971). His jazz and pop music works were the only ones broadcast by the state radio and television, on Electrecord records.

The lack of international resonance, at least up until the 2000s, of Richard Oschanitzky’s work can also be motivated through his refusal to move to a country, where the political system and market mechanisms would have favoured an uninhibited self-assertion. By accepting only temporary collaborations with international media and art institutions, Richard Oschanitzky willingly chose the condition of a creator, who worked in an ethno-cultural area situated at considerable distance from the irradiating centres.

But these impediments don’t have endless effects. There are documents (recordings and scores for research) attesting the value of a creator whose genius was, nevertheless, recognized by some Romanian and international musicians. Beginning with 1987, some novel jazz, chamber, choral or symphonic jazz works have left behind the silence of the written text, made it onto concert stages and were captured in audio-visual memory.

The compositions that were well appreciated decades ago but were undeservingly forgotten, the unknown compositions are worth shedding light on now, when the way the musical phenomenon was configured in the 20th century attests to the validity of the creative ideas and principles cultivated by Richard Oschanitzky ever since 1959–1960.

The following study is a detailed presentation of his contributions to the Romanian synchronicity with the most interesting musical tendencies in the world, and to the evolution of the art of sound, especially in jazz, symphonic jazz and film music. His solutions made the constitution of the academic-jazz fusion creative type seem like an undisputed reality, in a context where important ← 11 | 12 → American and European composers had been approaching it since the 1920, sometimes leaving the impression of having found an adequate formula (George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is a notorious example). This success was possible due to his experience as a composer in the academic genres - mass, sonata, lied, choral piece, concert, overture – which accumulated through finalized works that the Romanian musical world never became sufficiently aware of.

By shedding light on the multiple, diverse aspects of a possible genious, this research draws attention to values that have proved their resilience over time and deserve to be known.


1 5 April 1979.

2 8 December 1964.

3 Beginning with 1967, when diplomatic relations between Romania and FR Germany were established.

4 Constantin Angelescu (guitar), Wolfgang Gütler (bass), Ştefan Berindei (saxophone).

5 In works composed by Dumitru Bughici, Dumitru Capoianu, Aurel Popa, Eduard Terényi, Pascal Bentoiu a.o.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (October)
Jazz Free Jazz Filmmusik Ethno Jazz
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 282 pp.

Biographical notes

Alex Vasiliu (Author)

Alex Vasiliu is Associate professor at the George Enescu University of Arts in Iaşi (Romania). His academic studies are included in volumes published by the George Enescu University of Arts in Iaşi and the National University of Music in Bucharest. He is member of the Composers’ and Musicologists’ Union of Romania.


Title: The Works of Richard Oschanitzky