Romanian Achievements and Records: Part 17


106. Romanian athlete Nadia Comăneci is the youngest person ever to win an Olympic Gold Medal in gymnastics, male or female, at the age of 14 and 252 days old. She achieved this in 1976, at the Montreal Olympic Games. (sources 1, 2)

Nadia Comăneci in 1976, an Olympic Gold medal laureate at only 14

Nadia Comăneci is known as one of the evolutionists of the sport of gymnastics. At the young age of fourteen, she went into the biggest competition of her lifetime, though at that time she didn’t know what an impact she would have on the world of gymnastics.

During the team portion of the competition, Nadia Comaneci stunned the world and the judges with her routine on the uneven bars. The score came up as a 1.00 out of a perfect 10.00, but she really scored a perfect score. The scoreboards couldn’t hold that many numbers because people thought it was impossible and thus didn’t design the machine to show a 10. Her very first Olympic Gold Medal was for the uneven bars.

Nadia Comăneci in all her glory

107. Romanian pianist Clara Haskil was one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. (sources 12, 3, 4, 5)

Born in a family of Romanian Jews, she began her career as a child prodigy and entered at the Bucharest Conservatory when she was 6. At only 5 she had already concerted in front of Queen Elisabeth of Romania. At age 7 she was sent to Vienna. She graduated in 1910, age 15, with the Prémier Prix at the Paris Conservatory.

A very beautiful Clara as a child

Upon graduating, Clara Haskil began to tour Europe, and also made some appearances in the USA. However, she became best known in Romania, France and Switzerland. By the age of 18 (1913), she was forced to endure the first of many physical setbacks that would hold back her career, in this case a disease that kept her in a body cast for four years.

Clara Haskil was at her best in the interwar period, when she was a recognized musical genius. But frequent illnesses, combined with extreme stage fright that appeared in 1920, kept her from critical or financial success. Most of her life was spent in poverty.

Young Clara Haskil

With the outbreak of World War II, Clara Haskil is forced, due to the Jewish persecution by the illegitimate fascist regime in Romania, to leave her country and go in the occupied Paris. But was able to escape to Marseilles and that is where she survived a surreptitious surgical procedure to remove a tumor from her optic nerve. In 1942 she sought refuge in Switzerland, smuggled to Vevey, where she settled for the rest of her days. In 1949, at the age of 54, she became a naturalized Swiss citizen.

Clara Haskil in her youth

It was not until after World War II, during a series of concerts in Holland in 1949, that Clara Haskil began to win the acclaim she deserved. Thereafter enjoyed her greatest successes with a busy concert and recording schedule that took her around the world. The French government appointed her a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.

Bemused by all the attention, she would ask, “Why does everyone want to hear me suddenly? I don’t seem to play differently from before. In fact, not as well.”

Despite her amazing stamina, she proved unable to survive a fall she suffered in a Brussels (Belgium) railway station in 1960, and died one month short of her 66th birthday. The Clara Haskil Prize, awarded once every two years in Vevey, Switzerland, was established in 1962 as a memorial to the pianist.

  • Belgian newspaper Indépendance belge (February 9, 1923) – Click here
We never though of losing the recital of Romanian pianist Clara Haskil […] The success of miss Haskil was established from the beginning and eventually turned into a veritable triumph. She revealed yesterday that she is one of the leading pianists of her time.
  • Journal du Midi newspaper  (February 12, 1923) – Click here
The recital given by the famous Romanian pianist Clara Haskil […] will count among the best of the season. All the program was executed with perfect style, with a delicacy of cough, a virtuosity, a musical sense altogether admirable. Miss Haskil is certainly one of the most outstanding pianists of our time.
  • Belgian magazine Etoile belge (February, 1923) – Click here
There’s a touch of a genius in this extraordinary interpret, so natural, however, that it seems she is not aware of her own perfection.
  • Swiss newspaper Feuille d’avis de Lausanne (1923) – Click here
Miss Haskil’s talent is incomparable and even impossible to equal. […] Haskil […] one of the greatest pianists ever known.
  • American newspaper Courrier Musical de New York  (November 13, 1924) – Click here
[Her concert] is no longer a simple concert, it is rather an intimate communion with the genius
  • Austrian-British musician Hans Keller (1954) – Click here
Haskil played Mozart’s great A major K. 488 without showing off either her virtuosity or her lack of exhibitionism: the rarest of achievements in a solo artist.
  • American newspaper Boston Herald – article by Rudolf Eli (1954) – Click here
Clara Haskil is one of those most magical revelations that occurs in music once in a generation […] the most beautiful performance of Beethoven’s Third Concerto I have ever heard or expect to hear again.
  • Dinu Lipatti, world-famous Romanian pianist – Click here
Clara’s piano playing is the sum of the earth’s perfection.
  • Russian pianist Rudolf Serkin, widely regarded as one of the greatest Beethoven interpreters of the twentieth century – Click here
She is the ‘perfect Clara’.
  • Georgian-Russian pianist Nikita Magaloff (The Journal of the British Institute of Recorded Sound, July-October, 1976) – Click here
Never, even amongst my most illustrious colleagues, have I met with that incredible and disconcerting facility and pianistic ease, which a spontaneous, uncalculated, natural flow of the music. That which others achieve by work, research, and reflection, seems to come to Clara from heaven without problems.
She simply expunged from the concerto what was eternal.
In my lifetime I have met three geniuses; Professor Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Clara Haskil. I am not a trained musician but I can only say that her touch was exquisite, her expression wonderful, and her technique extraordinary.

108. Wallachian (Romanian) ruler Mircea the Great made the Principality of Wallachia the first country to solely defeat the Ottoman Empire in a battle in which the sultan participated in person. This happened in 1395 in the Battle of Rovine. (source)

Mircea the Great of Wallachia

109Mircea the Great‘s victory in the Battle of Rovine was, in six centuries of Ottoman history, unmatched. Thus, the Principality of Wallachia remained the only country to solely defeat the Ottoman Empire in a battle in which the sultan participated in person.

A statue of Mircea the Great

As we’ve previously discussed in an older article, in more than 600 years, there have only been 17 such battles, from a total of over 200 (!) battles involving the Ottoman Empire (source). This means that the sultans participated in person in only 8% of the Ottoman battles ever held. You can get an idea about how feared these rulers (against which the Ottoman leader personally fought) were. Mircea the Great was one of them. But as we’ve stated, he was the first ever who obtained a victory, speaking either of the Asian or European rulers.

Painting of Mircea the Great from the 1500s in the Cathedral of Curtea de Argeș

There were only 2 other victories against a Sultan-led army:

  • Timur‘s in the Battle of Ankara in 1402 (the only Asian victory) – it took place between the forces of the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I and the forces of Timur. The battle was won by an army of an empire, the Timurid Empire, formed of Turks, Mongols, Persians, Irakians and others.
  • Prince Eugene of Savoy‘s in the Battle of Zenta in 1697 (the 2nd and the last European victory ever; it took an European power 302 years to win such a battle after Mircea the Great’s victory;  it was the 7th European battle against an Ottoman army led by the sultan since Mircea’s) – fought between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League, a union of nations initiated by Pope Innocent XI, from which participated the forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary.

    Drawing of Mircea the Great

110. Romanian prodigy George Enescu became in 1888 the second person ever to be admitted at the Vienna Conservatory by a dispensation of age


  • Historia Magazine Special – Romanian: George Enescu, fața nevăzută a unui geniu (English: George Enescu, the unseen face of a genius)

 Romanian composer Eduard Caudella personally insisted for the admission of the 7 years-old Enescu.

Young George Enescu

After, at the age of only 5, George Enescu had already concerted in front of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, Enescu was finally accepted at the Vienna Conservatory at the age of seven, even though the minimum age for entry was ten.

Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife, Empress Sissi

Prior to George Enescu, at the Vienna Conservatory there had been only one exception from this rule, for another child prodigy, Fritz Kreisler, who became over the years, in Paris, a precious friend of the Romanian composer.

George Enescu

111. George Enescu was the first non-Austrian to be admitted at the Vienna Conservatory by a dispensation of age, in 1888. (the same source as that for #110)

The greatest Romanian composer, George Enescu, at the age of 23

As we have already said, only Fritz Kreisler had received an age waiver, 7 years before Enescu, but he was Austrian. One of the conditions for admission (which is still obligatory nowadays) was the knowledge of German, the language which the teachers at the Vienna Conservatory obviously used.

Here’s why the fact that he was not an Austrian, but still received this privilege, is remarkable. Learning German represented a great effort for a 7-years old child. But Enescu had an innate talent for languages ​​and by the age of 9 (two years after his admission), he was fluent in French, German and English.

George Enescu’s graduation diploma from the Vienna Conservatory (1893)