Classical music from Balkans in centre of Maribor Festival

Maribor – The Western Balkans will be in the centre of musical exploration at this year’s Maribor Festival. A “fireworks of rhythm and emotions”, tonight’s opening concert will see the artist-in-residence, North Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski, perform with the SNG Maribor Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Romanian conductor Gabriel Bebeselea.

Trpčeski, the internationally acclaimed pianist, is a regular feature of the most prestigious festivals and concert venues from New York all the way to Tokyo. In recent years he has been focusing on the exploration of the musical heritage of his homeland.

Speaking at the festival press conference in Maribor on Wednesday, the pianist said his dual focus on art and folk music came as something natural from his growing up playing the accordion and learning from his grandmother, who was a treasure trove of folk songs.

He described the musical tradition of his homeland as exceptionally rich and versatile. It has accompanied him throughout his classical music studies, and even now with his concert career, he keeps discovering his ties to it.

He is now realising this potential of his to present those musical traditions to classical audiences in a different, serious, refined and in-depth way, Trpčeski said, who praised the Maribor Festival for its broadness and openness to musical exploration.

His Makedonissimo project, in which he brings together the music world of his homeland and that of European classical music, will be on the programme at Union Hall on Saturday performed by a quintet of outstanding Macedonian artists.

The festival will also feature canon works of the classical repertoire and popular works of the western music tradition.

One of those, the concert entitled Do You Still Like Brahms? will see a programme spanning from the classical 19th century sonatas through the powerful music of Dmitri Shostakovich to the concentrated music of Anton Webern, performed by Trpčeski and Alexander Somov, the principal cellist of the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra.

The festival will conclude on a very topical note with a project called No Return to Normality where the No Borders Orchestra will explore the theme of transformation in and through music.

The orchestra, which brings together professional instrumentalists from the different religious and ethnic groups of the nations comprising the Western Balkans, has joined a number of high-profile artists and scientists in an open letter to European political elites urging them to avoid a “return to normality” after the pandemic, that is to a life that has led to the critical point.

Three events are aimed at the youngest audiences, The Nutcracker and I, a matinee for families with children, including babies; Backi iz Klavirja, a concert of sung poetry for children aged 5 and older; and A Symphonic Journey of Rhythm, a matinee for families featuring the SNG Symphony Orchestra and SToP Percussion Ensemble.

In cooperation with the world music festival Druga Godba, the festival will also feature Džambo Aguševi Orchestra, one of the hottest Balkan music ensembles at the moment.