by Ron Petrou
Lewis duPont Smith, 54, of Chestnut Hill, a teacher, political organizer and philanthropist who sat on the boards of VoxAmaDeus and the Waldorf School in Mt. Airy, died Aug. 12, 2011, in Jefferson Hospital after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. “As a board member, Lewis served with spirited presence and unwavering support,” said Valentin Radu, artistic director and conductor of VoxAmaDeus, at the time.
A true renaissance man, Smith was a passionate student of history, art, music, literature and philosophy. At their home in Chestnut Hill, Smith and his wife, Andrea, regularly hosted salons where friends were invited to hear classical music and opera, discuss political philosophy and share good food.
In honor of Smith’s passionate support, Valentin Radu and Ama Deus Ensemble of VoxAmaDeus, including soloists, chorus, and orchestra, will perform “Magic Mozart” at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26, at the Kimmel Center – Perelman Theatre in center city. The concert will include the “Concerto for Piano #21 in C major,” performed by Valentin Radu; “Overture to The Magic Flute,” and “Mass in C (“Coronation”).
Valentin played the Mozart concerto that he will perform on Oct. 26 previously in 1970, with the Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra when he was just 16 years old. (Valentin grew up in Romania under the Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.)
“The Coronation Mass,” said Radu, “was one of the most famous Mass settings in Western Civilization. It was written on the occasion of the coronation of the Emperor of Austria, Leopold the Second, for whom Mozart was the court musician.”
Valentin and his family were practicing Catholics in Communist Romania, involved with the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Bucharest, where he became organist and music director. By being such a public Christian, he feared repercussions from the Ceausescu regime, risking being thrown out of the Conservatory of Music or banned from performing publicly.
Soon after arriving in America in 1978, Valentin became a graduate student at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, where he earned a Masters and a Doctorate Degree in Music. Continuing as an ambassador of European (classical and sacred) music, Valentin, while he was at Juilliard, formed a chamber orchestra and chorus, called the Juilliard Bach Players, and also a successful concert series, “Bach in Lincoln Center,” that performed monthly at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center.
This relationship to sacred and classical music was a bond between Valentin and Chestnut Hill residents Andrea and Lewis du Pont Smith. After Valentin formed VoxAmaDeus in the Philadelphia area in 1987, Andrea and Lewis became involved, both as members of the VoxAmaDeus Board of Directors and with Andrea in 1997 becoming a member of the VoxAmaDeus Chorus, as a soprano.
Lewis, as an enthusiastic Catholic, fully supported the mission of VoxAmaDeus to perform this music. During the ‘90s this evolved into the Smiths holding frequent “salons” in their home in Chestnut Hill, where Valentin and other musicians from VoxAmaDeus were the featured artists.
Andrea said, “Lewis and I created these in the tradition of European salons through the centuries. Lewis and Valentin were of one mind in their pursuit of re-creating the European salon atmosphere. With our friends we offered good food, wine, enjoyable socializing and cigars on the porch. These events were dear to Lewis’ heart.”
Having been to many of these salons, I felt the courtesy, hospitality and generosity, where not only good food, wine, music, and poetry were offered, but also most importantly for Lewis, good conversation and dialogue about poetry, politics, religion, philosophy and art.
Valentin remembered one of these conversations he had with Lewis. Radu plays and conducts not only sacred and classical music but also jazz. Valentin recalled several years ago that Lewis did not admire jazz.
“He at first hated jazz with a passion, but then I explained to him that a lot of the improvisational roots of jazz were born out of Baroque style,” said Radu. “You should have seen his face. ‘Really,’ he said, ‘Wow.’ I’ll never forget it.”
As a final note, Valentin emphasized that “In all our concert programs the words are in the original languages: Latin, German, French, Italian, etc. and the English translations are always included. We also play on authentic instruments of the period.”