Bogdan’s ‘Three Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu’ nominated for MIAL Award
Dr. Valentin Bogdan wants to push the boundaries.
As an artist, that’s the only way Bogdan feels he can grow and evolve as a pianist and as a composer.
Bogdan’s willingness to challenge himself explains his interest in Mihai Eminescu, a novelist, journalist and Romantic poet from Moldavia who is considered the most famous and influential Romanian poet. Bogdan, a native of Romania, is familiar with the “inherent sense of wondering, of searching for something more” in Eminescu’s work, which is why he sought to recreate the overall character of that poetry in a classical composition.
Bogdan’s effort, “Three Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu,” recently received a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) Award nomination in the Music Composition, Classical category.
Bogdan, a professor in the Department of Music at Mississippi University for Women, is one of five individuals with ties to The W who were nominated. C.T. Salazar (“Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking”) and T.K. Lee (“Scapegoat”) were nominated in the Poetry category. Ian Childers (“Pots for Simon”) was nominated in the Visual Arts category, and Joe L. Alexander (“DJ2 Extravaganza” and “The Ruffner Mountain Express”) also was nominated in the Music Composition, Classical category.
The winners will be announced June 3, 2023, at the 44th Annual Awards Gala in Oxford.
“I am very honored,” said Bogdan, who has been nominated three times for a MIAL Award. “This is a prestigious award for artists in our state. I am equally honored by the fact MUW colleague Dr. Bridget Smith Pieschel took interest in my work and nominated it. I am very thankful to her for doing so.”
Bogdan wrote “Three Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu” for University of South Carolina professors Janet Hopkins (soprano) and Armen Shaomian (piano) and completed it in 2021. He said Hopkins and Shaomian are “incredible musicians” and he tried to keep their high level of artistry in mind when he was working on the complex piece.
The work was premiered at Freeman Sundays, a concert series of University of South Carolina, in January 2022. It also was performed at Music at the Moritz in Augusta, Georgia, and at the Mississippi Music Teachers Conference in November 2022 at Mississippi College.
“I knew I could challenge myself as a composer, without worrying whether the piece would be too complicated,” Bogdan said. “I knew I could write almost anything and Janet and Armen would perform it flawlessly.”
Bogdan said he also was motivated to bring to light the accomplishments of Eminescu, who died in 1889 at the age of 39. He said it was challenging to interpret work by Eminescu one reviewer said incorporates “metaphysical, mythological and historical subjects.” Bogdan said his music tries to capture those feelings, especially in the last two movements.
“Eminescu’s genius is not well known outside Romania,” Bogdan said. “I wanted listeners to learn more about him as a poet and as a human being. I also debated writing these in English, using a translation, but I decided against because that would drastically change the poet’s language.”
Bogdan opted to use “word painting” as his compositional technique. In that process, the music literally reflects the meaning of a text. He also said he tried to emphasize various special moments via additional compositional methods.
“This is one of my most significant compositions, not just due to its length and the multiple times it was performed, but also because the poetry has a special role in my heart,” Bogdan said. “The fact that it was also written specifically for Janet and Armen, musicians I admire tremendously, also makes the work quite special.”