The Belgrade Philharmonic String Quartet open the Music Festival of Sombor at the National Theatre tonight, with Mozart’s and Shostakovich’s pieces, as well as Weber’s clarinet Quintet in B-Flat Major, Op.83, which they will perform together with clarinetist Ognjen Popović. The Quartet, comprising the musicians Jelena Dragnić (first violin), Vladan Lončar (second violin), Aleksandar Latković (cello) and Boris Brezovac (viola) have been performing together since 2011. Among their most recent successful performances, the String Quartet like to highlight their concerts in the United Arab Emirates, on the stage of Manarat Al Saadiyat, where they performed at the Abu Dhabi Classics Festival; their opening of concert season “Chamber Music in the Desert” at the Liwa Desert at Qasr Al Sarab; their first visit to China, where they performed at the Tianjin Concert Hall; and also their concert at the Serbian Cultural Centre in Paris. Their next two upcoming concerts, which will take place in the Turkish city of Izmir are scheduled for mid-April, 2016. They recorded together with clarinetist Ognjen Popović their first compact disc containing pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms.
Just before their performance in Sombor, we asked Jelena Dragnić, BPO String Quartet’s first violin, which were the basic postulates for defining the ensembles’s repertoire: personal affinities, an urge to research, a desire for something different…? On the other hand, how much do organizers of concerts affect the content of the programme?
– Some of all those elements apply, but the basic thing is to stand by what has always been and will always be the essence of the String Quartet, and that is the classical repertoire in every sense of the word, and moreover, without any compromise! The organizers, however, have full professional confidence that we will select an adequate programme according to the occasion.
* Do you have a different approach when preparing a contemporary piece on the repertoire, compared to Mozart or Beethoven? Do you feel an additional pressure, for instance, knowing that the piece you are preparing has already had thousands of performances, and that it can be found on many recordings?
– Through all the scores we perform, we seek our own unique expression, which is now already recognizable, as our audience tells us. Moreover, the fact that some piece has had many performances or recordings presents a challenge and an additional inspiration, which binds us together in our desire and idea to be on our own and to express ourselves through the music we play.
* Are your commitments in the BPO a limiting factor for your chamber ensemble’s activities, and if so, to what extent?
– They are limiting only in physical terms. Sometimes we do not have enough time for all that we would like to achieve within a day. All other impacts, or, better said, impressions acquired in constant contact with top-class artists, are like an additional ear of an old friend attentively listening aside to everything we are playing.
* Is there any space for improvisation, playfulness within the score in the present orchestras? How much freedom in that respect do you allow yourselves as the BPO String Quartet?
– One should not play with serious matters! Joking aside, we always try to get to the secrets of the original, and when we discern all the hidden abundancy, we do not wish to abandon that space. All the freedom and boundless space for playfulness lie there! Compared to that, every improvisation seems to disturb that play.
* If the reality is such, knowing that less and less resources are invested in culture, does a young artist from these parts have any other prospects than to pack his/her bag, sooner or later, and go abroad?
– Of course he/she does! I am currently reading some books in parallel, letters by Beethoven, letters by Mozart and letters by Van Gogh and I can see that the reality and times were never good for culture anywhere. However, it seems to me that people were of quite another make. Stronger, of higher quality, more enduring, more persistent. That the hand measuring time was not in the middle of the “nose” of the aforementioned. Unfortunately, it seems that such generations are no longer “produced”. We have become weak, encumbered by instant solutions and pleasures, and that is not at all the path of an artist. To get out of someone’s way is noble, but to shunt aside from one’s own path, due to the feeling of helplessness of the present time in reality, is not at all good, but, speaking about genuine art, it is not even possible. Especially if we are speaking in the context of time as eternity, not about time as – immediately and now. We, who have once packed our bags in the past and spent some time abroad acquiring education and working, have the feeling of greatest happiness when we set off into our world, the world of art, the world of music by crossing the borders of scores. Behind such borders, love and freedom are the principle rule, and I am searching for such reality. A human being needs to search, love and be free! That is the real perspective and reality without any bar code.