The Slovenia Times

Preserving the legacy of Avsenik Brothers

Tjaša Lesjak, the absolute winner of the 17th International Accordionists' Competition for the Avsenik Prize. Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Accordion players from six countries showed off their skills playing the music of Slovenia's iconic Avsenik Brothers Ensemble at the annual competition in their home town the past weekend.

The 17th International Competition of Accordion Players, held at the Gostilna Avsenik restaurant in Begunje na Gorenjskem in north-western Slovenia, featured 140 accordionists from Slovenia, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

Divided into four age groups, 30 competed in the piano accordion and 110 in the diatonic button accordion.

The youngest competitor, aged seven, came from the Netherlands, playing the diatonic button accordion, while the oldest, 50 years his senior, played the piano accordion. He came from Slovenia.

Transcending quality

The judging panel was headed by Slavko Avsenik Jr., a composer, musician and producer who is a son of Slavko Avsenik, the founder of the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble.

Talking with the Slovenian Press Agency, he said that at least 80% of the competitors were younger than 20 as the Avsenik music has been regaining popularity among young people.

In assessing the competitors, the judges examine various aspects, both measurable and immeasurable, including the accuracy, speed, technique, dynamic and the stylistic adherence to the Avsenik music.

"When real things happen, they transcend the realm of the measurable criteria ... only when mastership is attained in all its parameters, can we be free," Avsenik Jr. explained.

The organizers of the competition also try to adapt to the modern times with the head of the judging panel saying that the increasing number of women competitors bring along a different energy.

Tjaša Lesjak absolute winner

This year's absolute winner of the competition, Tjaša Lesjak also won the first prize in the diatonic button accordion category.

She has been taking part in this competition for seven years. She also won the world championship two years ago and has been playing the accordion for 15 years, says Lesjak, who is now in her early 20s.

"The preparations for the competition had been intensive, because you need not just play perfectly, but you must also pour out your emotions," Lesjak told the STA.

The competition has been driven by the desire, passion and care for preserving the Slovenian pop folk music and promoting accordion playing among the young, and discover new talents.

Evergreen music

Arguably the most popular Slovenian band of all times globally, the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble were founded by brothers Slavko Avsenik and Vilko Avsenik in 1953 and continued to perform until 1990.

The ensemble is known for inventing a style known as Oberkreiner, a term coined by Bavarian and Klagenfurt radio editors as they listened to their music.

The ensemble performed all over the world and were hugely popular in particular in the German-speaking countries.

Slavko composed and his brother arranged more than 1,000 songs, including classics such as Na Golici, or Trompetenecho in German, a polka instrumental that is believed to be the most played instrumental tune in the world.

Their legacy is preserved by the Avsenik Museum, which also organises the annual Avsenik Festival in Begunje na Gorenjskem in August, an event attracting a huge crowd of fans from all over the world.

Sašo Avsenik has his own ensemble playing in the style founded by his grandfather Slavko Avsenik.


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