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“Absolute musician, thrilling virtuoso, Gheorghe Zamfir has a radiant personality. He electrifies a room with few bars”, L’impartial, the Swiss publication wrote in 1970.
Cella Delavrancea wrote in her volume “In a Life Century” that: “the purity of Gheorghe Zamfir’s art is born from the absolute perfection of his technique, and from the intensity of his creative talent. As Chopin, he glosses by his sounds the spirit of ideas. Gheorghe Zamfir is a charming wizard for an instrument ennobled by his captivating art, today known worldwide”.
“This music has no age. It is the everyday life of a people and of its surrounding nature”, Valeurs Actuelles recorded in France, in 1971.
Duke Ellington said once that: “such talented musician, with such special style, must be part of the artists endowed by God”.
”It’s heard the Romanian soul/ Flowing through the royal flute/You might believe that Jesus blows / In the His heavenly fire bed” – Grigore Vieru
“When he’s blowing the pan flute, Gheorghe Zamfir sweats gold, talks with God, roaming the universe”.
“In the heavenly worlds, Zamfir’s doina is certainly heard. No artist alike will be born in 1000 years from now”,
“He ploughed the earth with his pan flute”.
Zamfir came to the public eye when he was approached by Swiss ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier, who extensively researched Romanian folk music in the 1960s. The composer Vladimir Cosma brought Zamfir with his pan flute to Western European countries for the first time in 1972 as the soloist in Cosma’s original music for the movie Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire. The movie received several awards, including the Top Foreign Film from the National Board of Review in 1973. Zamfir continued to perform as a soloist in movie soundtracks by composers Francis Lai, Ennio Morricone and many others. Largely through tele
vision commercials where he was billed as “Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute”, he introduced the folk instrument to a modern audience and revived it from obscurity.
In 1966, Zamfir was appointed conductor of the “Ciocîrlia Orchestra”, one of the most prestigious state ensembles of Romania, destined for concert tours abroad. This created the opportunity for composition and arranging. In 1969 he left Ciocîrlia and started his own taraf (small band) and in 1970 he had his first longer term contract in Paris. Zamfir
discovered the much greater freedom for artistic adventure. His taraf consisted of: Ion Drăgoi (violin), Ion Lăceanu (flutes), Dumitru Fărcaș (tarogato), Petre Vidrean (double bass) and Tony Iordache (cymbalum) all number one soloists in their country. This taraf made some excellent recordings (C
D Zamfir a Paris). He changed the composition of the band soon after: Efta Botoca (violin), Marin Chisar (flutes), Dorin Ciobaru and Pavel Cebzan (clarinet and tarogato), Vasile Pandelescu (accordion), Petre Vidrean (bass) and Pantelimon Stînga (cymbalum). It is said that this change was made to increase the command of Zamfir and have more artistic freedom. A turning point was the recording of Zamfir’s composition “Messe pour la Paix” (Philips). His taraf joined a choir and a symphonic orchestra. This was evidence of the growing ambition. While the Philips recordings of that time were rather conservative, Zamfir preached revolution in the concert halls with daring performances. In 1977, he recorded “The Lonely Shepherd” with James Last. Zamfir put himself on the world map and since then his career became highly varied, hovering over classical repertoire, easy listening and pop music.
Between 1976 and 1983, Zamfir had six album peak within the Australian top 100 albums charts, with The Flutes of Pan, his best, peaking at number 26 in 1980.
Zamfir’s big break in the English-speaking world came when the BBC religious television program, The Light of Experience, adopted his recording of “Doina De Jale”, a traditional Romanian funeral song, as its theme. Epic Records released the tune as a single in 1976, and it climbed to number four on the UK Singles chart. It would prove to be his only UK hit single, but it helped pave the way for a consistent stream of album sales in Britain. His song “Summer Love” reached number 9 in South Africa in November 1976. In 1983, he scored a No. 3 hit on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart with “Blue Navajo,” and several of his albums (including 1982’s Romance and 1983’s Childhood Dreams) have charted in Canada as well. His 1985 album, Atlantis, contained tracks composed by Jacques Brel and Eric Satie, plus music from films and Zamfir’s version of “Stranger on the Shore“.
After nearly a decade-long absence, Zamfir returned to Canada in January 2006 for a seven-city tour with the Traffic Strings quintet. The program included a world premiere of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for pan flute and string quintet arranged by Lucian Moraru, jazz standards, and well-known favorites.
In 2009, Zamfir was sampled by Animal Collective in the song “Graze” on their EP Fall Be Kind. In 2012, he performed at the opening ceremony of the 11th Conference of Parties to the Ramsar Convention at the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania.
Zamfir played “Silent Night” at the opening of Concerto di Natale (The Christmas Concert) on 15 December 2018 at the Vatican Aula Jean Paul the II. Concerto di Natale is an international event where artists from all over the world meet for a special concert to raise as much money as possible for charity projects in Africa and poor regions of the world. He performed with Anastacia, the Italian singer Alessandra Amoroso, and the Italian flautist Andrea Griminelli. Zamfir and Andrea Griminelli appeared again to perform “The Lonely Shepherd”.
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