Aleksandar Latković, Belgrade Philharmonic String Quartet’s cellist after the international presentation of this ensemble’s first CD edition
Whatever prejudices we might have, the audience in China is not the same as it used to be two decades ago. In those times, people could be seen nibbling seeds at concerts. However, it is different now, impressive concert halls are being built; here, too, everyone soon becomes familiar with Mozart.
We are in the open, under the stars, all is still; around us are orange dunes. The ambience is at the same time quite peaceful and spectacular. For the first time, while playing we felt that we were out of any time, season, law …
– said Aleksandar Latković, Belgrade Philharmonic String Quartet’s cellist, trying to put together his impressions, after the international presentation of this ensemble’s first CD edition in the desert of Abu Dhabi.
Belgrade Philharmonic String Quartet certainly seems to be becoming an international musical attraction. Not long after their first CD appeared with recordings of Beethoven’s and Brahms’s works, these four excellent artists – Jelena Dragnić, first violin, Vladan Lončar, second violin, Boris Brezovac, viola, and Aleksandar Latković, cello – first performed at the prestigious Abu Dhabi Classics Festival, and right at the beginning of 2016, in the Chinese city of Tianjin too, where they had no less than two musical roles. We are now talking with Aleksandar Latković – the Quartet’s cellist and Belgrade Philharmonic’s first cellist, about all this and about many other current topics concerning this ambitious chamber ensemble
What preceded the CD recording in terms of your quartet’s work, and what ideas came up after its appearance?
– – Our Quartet’s first CD was a followed-up of an ending to the Chamber music concerts at the Philharmonic in the concert season 2013/14, which we named “Quartet + 1. We thought out a concept, assuming performing with different visiting artists. After a series of concerts, we wished to make a recording of some of their parts. Following the recording, our disc appeared on the shelves of Dallas Records, in June 2015. We wanted to promote this CD in the best way, and that is what we have been doing, especially at festivals in foreign countries. We are not short of ideas, and while talking about our first CD, we are by far making plans for the next one.
Can you tell us something more about the main features of the Abu Dhabi Classics Festival, the repertoire, selected artists and, of course, the effect of the exotic ambience on the interpretation alone?
– – Imagine this. You land on one of the most modern airports on the planet and right afterwards you catch sight of yourself on a huge video screen advertising your next concert. All is clear – everything here will be on the dot and very professional. The people surrounding you – as if in a dream. You feel as if you were in some story, for the personalities appearing beside you bear the names of the celebrities with whose records you grew up: Argerich, Savall, Kremer. However, that was not all. Our successful and sold out first concert, performed at the Manarat Al Saadiyat compound, several interviews promoting our CD … but none of that had prepared us for what was yet to follow. The second concert, in the desert. Well, that was something! We are in the open, under the stars, all is still; around us are orange dunes. The ambience is at the same time quite peaceful and spectacular. For the first time, while playing we felt that we were out of any time, season, law …
and we heard later on that we were the first to give a concert in the desert. A real concert, in a real desert. And it was sold out, too.
Another unusual and extremely attractive destination was on your agenda already at the beginning of this year – your performance with the Tianjin Symphony Orchestra directed by the former chief conductor of the Belgrade Philharmonic, maestro Muhai Tang, as well as your Quartet’s solo performance in this Chinese city. What is it like to be in a multi-million metropolis, before a completely unknown audience?
– – The Quartet’s first concert in China was included in the Tianjin Concert Hall Chamber Music Cycle. In contrast to the international audience in Abu Dhabi, the Chinese audience was waiting for us here. Whatever prejudices we might have, the audience in China is not the same as it used to be two decades ago. In those times, people could be seen nibbling seeds at concerts. However, it is different now, impressive concert halls are being built; here, too, everyone soon becomes familiar with Mozart. We were pleased to see that the audience listened with attention to the Homage to Stevan Mokranjac by Dejan Despić, which is full of quotations from the Garlands and Liturgy by Mokranjac. We succeeded in conveying to them the genuine sound of Serbian music. We also played with the Tianjin Symphony Orchestra. There was a special announcement for the four of us as the visiting quartet. Four leading sections of Haydn’s Symphony ‘Fire’ were intended for us, and thus the concert began with a lot of fire and smoke, all the musicians standing and playing without the conductor. This beginning was enough to make the four of us the main attraction on the stage to the end of the concert. A long applause, so many raised phones and cameras. When all was over, there remained a strong mutual impression, and an awareness of great respect coming from the musicians, who had on this occasion, given us their positions to replace.
How much does performing and listening to music differ among continents and regions, and in what way is the sensation of the artists, composers and audience identical?
– Music as the most abstract form of art allows absolute freedom of sensation. The listener, wherever he/she is, experiences music in a singular way. It is impossible to fit that sensation into any kind of national, tribal or geographic stereotype. That is why music remains timeless and outside of any space. What about the artist? The artist’s need to express himself, his dedication, his aspirations, his hardships and sacrifices are the same everywhere.
What is Belgrade Philharmonic String Quartet working on these days?
– In addition to the new repertoire for next spring and autumn, during this winter Jelena, Vladan, Boris and myself, were mentors to young quartets. The first Winter Workshop for string quartets in Podgorica is just over. There was a good response, eight young quartets applied for work with us. It was a very intensive working week. The organization was excellent, classes, rehearsals, media attention and extremely good results at the final concert.
Fostering and refreshing our mutual sound
– After the first success and the first disc, it seems as if we were at a new beginning. We remain resolved to explore within the limits of original literature written for the quartet, covering all epochs. Which is such a repository! Finding a balance between four different temperaments and different heartbeats is already a great adventure. In that attempt, adventure and experiment called the quartet, our expression will mature, change and evolve in time. It is our duty to foster, refresh, nourish and nurture our mutual sound.
– concludes Aleksandar Latković.
Written by: Zorica Kojić