Biography

Ciprian Porumbescu was born on 14 October 1853 in a village called Șipotele Sucevei, Bukovina (now Shepit, Vyzhnytsia Raion, Ukraine), in the family of an orthodox priest. His father, Iraclie (the Romanian equivalent of Hercule) was also an amateur writer, poet, composer and folklore collector, but mainly a patriot. He was of Polish origin, but changed his family name from Gołęmbiowski to Porumbescu in his youth.

Musical quintet conducted by Ciprian Porumbescu (right, standing with a violin in his hand) during high school

Ciprian received a first rate musical education since his childhood. From six years old, during the summer holidays, he was taught piano by Karol Mikuli, one of Frédéric Chopin’s student, assistant and ultimately editor, who was director of the Lvov Conservatory by that time.

A child prodigy, Ciprian Porumbescu graduated the first three classes of the elementary school in just two years, taking violin lessons from the school master Simeon Meier.

During his high school years in Suceava he met Ștefan Nosievici the founder of the local Philharmonic Society and the author of a well known march, Drum bun, toba bate (Farewell, the drum beats). While attending both the Theological Institute and the Faculty of Philosophy in Chernivtsi he started composing sacred music, mainly choral but also patriotic chorus music for a student society called Arboroasa, becoming its president. His increasingly involvement in the unionistic movement led to his preemptive arrest in 1877. During detention he contracted tuberculosis which caused his death six years later.

Ciprian Porumbescu in his later years

With the financial support of the Metropolitan Bishop of Bukovina, Ciprian Porumbescu followed the courses of Konservatorium für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna, studying harmony with Anton Bruckner, conducting and composition with Franz Krenn and Louis Schlosser (famous at that time as an operetta composer) among others.

His sense of humor fuelled the composition of a small operetta called Cisla a satire for four soloists and choir, prepared the young composer for his later work, Crai Nou. During his viennese years, Porumbescu attended opera and operetta performances like Fidelio, Götterdämmerung or Die Fledermaus.

After his return to Romania he established himself in Brașov. A new satire, Candidate Linte or The Rigorous Theologian preceeded the operetta Crai Nou, premiered on 11 March 1882.

He taught music at the Greek Orthodox church high school for a couple of years, but his ailing health forced him to take a trip to Italy hoping for a recovery. He met Giuseppe Verdi for whom he played some of his compositions. Shortly after his return to Romania he died on 6 June 1883 at Stupca, Suceava.