Balkan Fever

posted by PP on 2009/04/02 11:23

[ Balkan | -s ]

Here’s an report by Dr. Tatjana Marković (Belgrade/Graz/Vienna) on the Sixth Balkan Fever Festival, that was opened at the Musikverein on 30 March 2009, with an impressive concert by musicians from Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Estonia [!] and Austria.

As the organizer Richard Schuberth pointed out, “this is the first, largest and most stylistically diverse Balkan music festival in Europe” - while certainly not the first one, it is probably the largest one, very carefully organized to include a very wide range of music/s from different Balkan areas, providing the best possible insight in the Balkan music traditions and genres. Its stylistic diversity goes without saying when we speak about Balkan music. This year, the Balkan Fever will in the first place represent ex- or post-Yugoslav music spaces of Bosnia and Vojvodina, along with Macedonian, and also Bulgarian, and Romanian music, and also Gipsy bands from these countries.

As the opening concert showed, the Festival will be one of the most recommendable music and cultural events in Vienna this spring. This concert was highly inspiring not only as one of the distinct musical events, but also as the exemplary way of presenting the Balkan culture. Three excellent performers, virtuoso guitar and kaval players, with different music experiences (classical, rock, traditional music) – Vlatko Stefanovski (Macedonia), Miroslav Tadić (Serbia), Teodosij Spasov (Bulgaria) – united in a trio, with the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, conducted by Kristjan Järvi (Estonia) performed compositions by Jacques Press, Teodosij Spasov, Lubomir Pipkov, and arrangements of traditional songs mainly from Bulgaria and Macedonia. In that way, the program included both classical, opera music (“Račenica”, Bulgarian folk dance in 7/8, from Pipkov’s opera Momčil) and sophisticated arrangements of traditional music. It is worth noting if only for the referential points, that those arrangements were very far from Goran Bregović’s mish-mash concept, bringing to my mind recollections of works by Stevan Hristić, Béla Bartók, Lubomir Pipkov, partly Josip Slavenski, and other southeast European composers. Symphony orchestra was not thus treated as an ornamental accompaniment, but with its full capabilities for rich orchestration, textures (ranging from effective unisono to contrapuntal techniques), in both regular and irregular rhythms, in accordance with the different characters of performed songs and dances. Traditional scales, including augmented thirds, were harmonized in a way that is close to the mentioned composers, avoiding clichés, such as dominant cadences. Virtuoso playing of the trio assumed also the highest skilfulness in improvisation, resulting in guitars sounding as the Middle Eastern instruments saz or ud. Therefore, arrangements of folk songs considered of a network of traditional, classical, jazz music elements, professionally exposed due to the conductor Järvi. And one more very important fact: the Festival takes place in Vienna, not only the “European music capital”, but also the center of Balkan (music) culture/s and discourse about it for centuries. By mapping urban places where the concerts will be held - the Musikverein, Porgy&Bess,Theater Akzent, Ost Klub, Sargfabrik - it is obvious that Balkan music is presented as a part of the city musical life. In that way, Balkan music is not the Other, but integrated into European world with all its recognizable characteristics. While protests related to the ways of (self)representation and signifiers of national identities at the Balkans still exist, unfortunately (as the recent protests in Skopje show), it seems that music is the best way to reach a very needed harmony among all wonderfully different Balkan voices, to surmount negative stereotypes (cf. a very good article about that in Die Presse), and to take advantage of the great multiculturalism.

The Balkan (music) Fever is the best fever one can have!

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