We can play at your house, at weddings, divorces
Shared by: ggy86211
We Can Play at Your House, at Weddings, Divorces and Funerals Ever since it became known that the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra was lacking funds, and its director announced his resignation, the public has been up in arms about it. We visited Belgrade to check out the situation in the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra. It all started on 27th February this year when the following whole-page advertisement appeared in “NIN” weekly magazine: „The national Philharmonic Orchestra, with 85 years of tradition and a rich repertoire, can now play in your house for a reasonable fee. Hurry up and give your loved ones unforgettable moments at promotional prices: weddings, saints’ days, baptisms, birthdays, divorces, funerals... We offer special packages for inaugurations. The orchestra is available every day except Fridays when we play at the Kolarac Concert Hall. We own appropriate attire for all occasions.” The photo of the orchestra was on top of the text entitled: “Find out Why We Are No Longer Only There!” It was the paraphrase of last year’s media campaign in which the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra invited the audience to concerts with the slogan “Find out why everybody is there!” Of course, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra never really played at weddings, divorces and funerals. The advertisement was the most effective way of drawing the public’s attention to the financial problems of the Philharmonic musicians who as individuals are really forced to moonlight due to their low income. Some of them may even play at the floating restaurants at the Sava and the Danube, but the “moonlighting” in the first place implies guest performances in the two other orchestras – the opera and radio orchestras, teaching in music schools or private music instructions. Ivan Tasovac’s Resignation As Serbia has been affected by the crisis as well, Serbian Culture Minister Nebojsa Bradic, probably busy with all those other, even more marginalized, social groups, was not much worried about the musicians’ protest which was followed by the resignation of Ivan Tasovac, director of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra. Even more so because it coincided with the resignation of the director of the National Theater, famous Belgrade actor Predrag Ejdus. The public was only a little agitated, and the authorities answered with remarks about the business activity of the theater. Ejdus himself admitted in various interviews that the National Theater was more of a social than a cultural institution. The Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra under the management of Ivan Tasovac, however, has during the past eight years become something completely different, and people recognized it. And, actually, not only those who follow cultural events, or just those who live in Serbia. A few days after Tasovac submitted his resignation, and the Culture Minister readily accepted it, offering him, quite absurdly, Ejdus’s recently vacated chair in the National Theater, the whole thing was raised to a level higher than the ministerial one. A letter arrived for the President of the Republic of Serbia with a signature that could in no way be ignored: Zubin Mehta wrote from Los Angeles to Boris Tadic. He expressed his concern about “the very meager support that the Government of Serbia gives to the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra which has been resurrected since the revolution by his [Tasovac’s] good efforts to a very high international level.” Hip-hop for the Orchestra Reminding Tadic of their encounter in Belgrade, which took place at a concert Mehta gave with the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, the famous conductor added that “the people of Serbia really yearn for this very excellent group of musicians to be maintained on the highest level” not asking but urging the president “to do everything possible to influence those powers that are responsible for supporting this fine orchestra to do their utmost and increase the yearly subsidies much higher…” Before closing the letter, the famous conductor, in no way accidentally, once again reminded Tadic of their Belgrade encounter. Namely, in the two concerts at the Sava Center, Maestro Mehta was so thrilled by the enthusiasm, energy and high quality of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra musicians that he donated his fees to the Zubin Mehta Fund to be used for the purchase of new instruments for the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra. He set up a similar fund for the Israel Philharmonic only. After this, real protests have started in the media, in numerous articles, interviews and comments signed by eminent personalities, and within two days over eight thousand people joined a Facebook group in support of Tasovac and the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra. The director’s resignation was forwarded to the government which has not accepted it to this day. And it certainly won’t if it is clever enough. The Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra had even Belgrade hip- hoppers on their side. The hip-hop group “Beogradski sindikat” made a song called “Dissident” and dedicated it to Tasovac and the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra. The song premiered at the Concert of Gratitude with which the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, with Tasovac standing demonstratively before the orchestra as conductor, thanked everybody for their support. The PR Manager of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, Nevena Sinka, told me they had been very surprised by the people’s reactions. They had no idea they would receive so many letters, e-mails, faxes, telephone calls, and even a cake brought by an elderly woman who had similarly made cakes for the students demonstrating against Milosevic. Public support and interest are these days filling up the orchestra’s box office where the ticket sales for three, instead of the former two, subscribers’ series have been better than ever. It was during my interview with Tasovac that one of his colleagues excitedly informed him that the number of subscriptions sold was over one thousand. Symbols of Honest Work Ivan Tasovac and the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra have thus become a symbol of and synonymous with those who, in contrast to the incompetent and wasteful authorities, perform their jobs diligently, thoroughly and honestly, expecting no more and no less from the state than to recognize and properly reward their work. For this reason, Tasovac will not allow comparisons of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra with any other state cultural institution including “the case known as the National Theater”. “We did our job honestly and brought the bill, with a white napkin over one arm, to find out how valuable it is to the state,” said Tasovac in a bohemian cafe – club of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra – subversively called the Cominform Bureau. Both he and his musicians reject a Soviet-like equalization policy, which was confirmed by the orchestra’s concertmaster Miroslav Pavlovic and English horn soloist Nenad Marinkovic. They both knew the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra as it was before Tasovac and as it is today. “It is much harder but much better to work in the orchestra now,” said Pavlovic who replaced his poor, and in his own words, half-amateurish violin with a valuable instrument, the kind that was given to all other musicians. The wind and percussion instruments were supplied thanks to a half-million dollar donation from the Japanese Government, and, following Mehta’s example, new string instruments worth one million euros were purchased thanks to the allocated funds from the National Investment Plan. It is the Government alone, according to Tasovac, which constantly fails to realize that you should invest into people as well, as you need people to play, and play well, on these instruments. The Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra has not become what it is today accidentally or over night. Sweet Dictatorship On his appointment Tasovac found a neglected orchestra, with no regular concert series or subscriptions, in a crumbling building, which was, as he said, a true monument to Milosevic’s regime. He calls his way of management “a sweet dictatorship”. It is all very crazy and relaxed except during the time of rehearsals between 9.25 am and 1.00 pm, and during concerts which start at 8.00 pm sharp, when the doors close and a conductor steps on the podium. At the beginning, some eighty people would stay out, but nobody comes late any more. The orchestra has been rejuvenated to an average age of thirty and the quality has improved. World-renowned artists and managers are ever more interested. A young musicologist Aleksandra Paladin gives lectures half an hour before each concert on the program for the night. They also give concerts for children. The New Year’s Concert “Shoulder to Shoulder” was played by the orchestra in which the most talented children from Serbian music schools were sitting next to the philharmonic players on all instruments. The building was rebuilt and the instrumental corpus renewed, the administration and management were cleared up, and sponsors found. In short, Ivan Tasovac has become the most successful director of the most successful cultural institution in Serbia. And that’s exactly why - after the musicians had sacrificed a lot and showed that they would, knew and could do everything regardless of their salaries - Tasovac could no longer demand the same quality and input from them for 300-400 euros a month. He expects their salaries to be at least equal to those paid to their colleagues in Zagreb and Ljubljana, which means at least twice as high. To the Minister’s great surprise, and regardless of the crisis, they have support of the public which they addressed two weeks ago by launching a new promotional campaign for the next concert season with a slogan: “In spite of everyone and despite everything!” and a picture of a violin bow in a closed fist. The world has already seen all sorts of revolutions, and if the Serbian state remains inflexible, we can expect to see a philharmonic one in Belgrade! Ivan Tasovac Brought Revival to the Orchestra “The more you pay, the more music you’ll get!” This favourite saying in the Balkans has often served to justify any kind of negligence in any job, and especially in institutions where people earn by actually playing music. It is not the case, however, in the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra with Ivan Tasovac as director. He has managed to reverse many Balkan prejudices and habits, i.e. to make things as they should be. With bleached and naturally dishevelled hair, this man is, to put it in plain language, totally nuts. Famous Slovenian conductor Uros Lajovic thought the same about him when Tasovac in 2001 started to call him over and over again from Belgrade while he was in Ljubljana and Vienna trying to persuade him to come and conduct in Belgrade. Lajovic himself told me a couple of times he thought the same about Tasovac after a four-year stint as chief conductor of the Balgrade Philharmonic Orchestra. He is still delighted to conduct a few concerts there each season. He Brought Good Maestros The “crazy” Tasovac finally convinced Lajovic when one day he called and said: “I am in Ljubljana and will not leave until you see me.” And he arrived via Hungary, without a visa, only he knows how. The Slovenian maestro and professor at the Vienna Music Academy agreed to have lunch with him which lasted till late at night. He promised to conduct one concert in Belgrade without any obligations. The musicians and the people won his heart and he stayed for four years as chief conductor. Tasovac is a musician himself, a pianist who completed his studies and got a master’s degree at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory in 1991. Close to the people in what was then called the DOS (Democratic Opposition of Serbia), he returned to Belgrade after Milosevic’s downfall and was appointed director of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra. Quality Polisher He hasn’t performed since then, with the exception of a concert he played one month after being appointed, as he realized that both jobs required total commitment. But he still says that he is a pianist temporarily holding the post of director of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra. Be that as it may, he knew very well that Uros Lajovic, one of the best conductors in ex-Yugoslavia, was an excellent orchestral pedagogue and a meticulous polisher of each individual orchestral part. That was the reason why Tasovac sought him out in the first place. He did not have to fire any elderly and insufficiently competent musicians: those who could not follow the new work tempo left on their own.