Cornel Pana, a virtuoso panpipe performer, resides in Romania. A Seventh-day Adventist, his concert tours in Europe and the United States have been widely acclaimed. Although not as well-known as his fellow Romanian and friend Gheorge Zamfir, he has been hailed as an equal in many respects. The following article was the cover story in the Autumn 1999 issue of International Adventist Musicians Association's magazine Notes.
Cornel Pana . . . Panpipe Virtuoso
When Cornel Pana plays the panpipe, the sound is like the ringing of crystal: clear, haunting, and beautiful, the cascade of notes in virtuoso numbers brilliant and stunning. A professor of panpipe at Luceaforeel, a private Conservatory of Music, and Dinu Lipatti, a Bucharest high school, Pana is a Romanian Adventist, best known in Europe, where he tours extensively and serves as a consultant at schools that teach this seemingly simple but difficult ancient wind instrument. Additionally, his six CD's, which confirm his reputation as an extraordinarily expressive performer on the instrument, have led to an increasing awareness of his artistry in other parts of the world.
Pana was born in Romania in 1954. From his earliest years he was enchanted with the panpipe, an instrument firmly embedded in the folk music tradition of that country. His earliest efforts in playing were guided by a neighbor, Dobre Constantin, panpipe player with the Romanian Radio Orchestra, who had studied with Fanica Luca, legendary Romanian performer on the instrument.
Since it was not possible then to study the instrument in the music programs offered in the elementary and secondary schools, Pana studied piano in the lower levels, specialized in traditional classical flute in high school, and later earned degrees in theory and pedagogy. The panpipe continued as his first love, however, throughout his musical training and his increasing proficiency led to his teaching the instrument while studying at the university.
While the panpipe has traditionally been associated primarily with the folk music of Romania and other countries and cultures, Pana has sought to break those limitations by creating a more challenging and musically sophisticated repertoire, adapting significant works in the classical repertoire to the panpipe. Achieving this goal necessitated increasing his facility on the instrument, going beyond what had previously been regarded as technically possible.
And therein lies his uniqueness as a performer on the instrument. While his friend, the famous Zamfir, another Romanian performer on the instrument, is noted for his lyric expressiveness with haunting folk, popular, and classical melodies, Pana's reputation includes the same ability plus the capacity to perform with brilliance and musical sensitivity exceedingly difficult music from both the folkloric and classical repertoire.
Born a Seventh-day Adventist, he has strong convictions about playing on the Sabbath and is outspoken about them when approached about performing. This stand has not hindered his career. He plays frequently in several European countries and more recently has begun performing in the United States.
He is a sought-after teacher with students from Romania as well as from Poland, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, Turkey, and other nations. Since 1992 he has participated in Switzerland as a primary teacher in a popular and successful annual summer seminar in panpipe performance, which involves about 100 students. Additionally, drawing on his training in pedagogy and his own experience in expanding performance technique, he has written a method book for use in teaching and learning the instrument. And, through his efforts it is now possible to study the instrument in certain music schools in Romania and other countries.
The Romanian language and culture, unlike those in adjacent countries, are Latin based, because of the influence of ancient Rome, after which the country is named. While there is speculation that the panpipe, which was a popular instrument in Italy as early as 600 B.C., may have been introduced into Romania by the Romans when they occupied the country in the first and second centuries after the birth of Christ, specimens of the instrument dating back to 2000 B.C. have also been found in the nearby Russian Ukraine.
And there is also considerable evidence that the instrument was used in other ancient Eastern and Western cultures worldwide. It is likely that some of the several Biblical references to "pipe" or "pipes" denote the panpipe.
Whatever the origin, it is an enduring popular instrument, one most strongly associated in modern Europe with the folk music of Romania. And that is what makes Pana's role as both a performer and innovator on this ancient instrument most intriguing. Through his commitment to Christianity, music, and his instrument, he effectively presents a centuries-old message and instrument to a modern world in an attractive and vibrant way.
Sources: information provided by Cornel Pana; Numerous online sources and reviews; personal knowledge.
A Partial listing
Virtuosity on the Panpipes (A mix of Classical folk and religious music)
Folklore Brilliance (22 Romanian folk songs)
A Masters Vision (Music written and arranged by Cornel Pana, accompanied by orchestra)
Christmas Music (A collection of 23 Christmas songs)
Hymns and spiritual Songs (Played on five different panpipes)
Worship Melodies (A variety of sacred works)