Ion Sarbu: Philosopher and music scholar

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Ion Sarbu was a man of many talents, loved and respected by students and contemporaries over many years as a distinguished university professor. His book, The Violin and its Masters, from its Origins until Today, a monumental volume of almost 700 pages, was published to great acclaim in Romania in 1994.

Sarbu was born into a family of farmers in Candesti-Deal, a village at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains.

He was a very bright child and made such progress at his local school that at 14 he enrolled at the Ecole Normale in Piatra-Neamt in Moldavia. Besides academic subjects he also studied the violin, graduating with a Baccalaureate Diploma before obtaining his degree, in Philosophy and Literature, from Bucharest University. There he studied under teachers including the writers Mihai Ralea and Tudor Vianu.

In 1950 he became a professor at the University of Campulung-Moldova and in 1953 he was appointed Dean of the University of Brasov, the youngest man to have held that post at any Romanian university. During this time he was able to share his passion for the violin with his six-year-old son, Eugene, who would become a celebrated soloist and the winner of many international competitions. His daughter, Carmina, too, became a fine pianist.

In 1957 Sarbu was appointed Head of the Philosophy and Social Sciences Department at Galati University, a position he held until 1982. He became a major figure in the cultural and musical life of Romania, presiding over several cultural bodies, inspiring and encouraging youngsters and bringing about international cultural exchanges during a very difficult period in Romanian history. His interests ranged from philosophy and social and economic sciences to sociology, social psychology and the history of world culture and music. He published many books on these subjects.

In 1983 Sarbu settled in London and, for some 10 years, dedicated himself to the research which enabled him to write The Violin and its Masters. The American virtuoso violinist Ruggiero Ricci described the book as “an historic milestone for all of us who love the instrument and its players”, adding that “finally, in one work are we able to trace our musical roots and heritage.”

In 2007, Sarbu wrote his final work, Memoirs for the Future, in which he encapsulated all the beliefs by which he lived. Sarbu received seven medals of distinction and in 1970 was awarded a Doctorate by the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies.

Margaret Campbell Ion Sarbu, teacher, writer and musician; born Candesti-Deal, Romania 30 June 1920; married 1948 Virginia Lungu, (one son, one daughter); died London 15 October 2008.