As part of the concert season Convivium Musicum ’19, on November 30th, the audience had the opportunity to meet one of the most respected amateur vocal ensembles in Serbia – choir Belgrade Madrigalists. This ensemble was founded in 1951 and fosters a new kind of music. The repertoire contains spiritual compositions by local and foreign authors, the national repertoire, as well as contemporary compositions. Since 2008, the choir has been under the direction of maestro Aleksandar Brujic. At the scene of the First Kragujevac Gymnasium, choir revived the compositions of B. Donato, F. Azzaiolo, L. Marenzio, O. di Lasso, A. Willaert and A. Vivaldi. We spoke with the conductor Aleksandar Brujic about the performance, interesting biography and the challenges that working with ensemble brings.
After graduating from the Faculty of Music in Belgrade, you completed your postgraduate studies in Germany. How important was your stay in Germany?
I went to Germany because I got a language scholarship and I planned to go to postgraduate school afterwards. I was a choir conductor in the Serbian church municipality in Stuttgart and in the meantime changed my mind about going to postgraduate school. Being in Germany was more important to me personally than professionally. Those years were decisive for me; will I live abroad or in Serbia.
You have been an assistant to many conductors around the world. With which of those artist was your most fruitful collaboration and what experiences did you gain?
I was a music associate I played while they were conducting. So I had more of a music associate title than an assistant. The most interesting collaboration was with a conductor of a choir made of people in retirement, in Germany, which had rehearsals two, three streets from the Serbian church. Mr. Joseph Shadle played a dozen instruments, had absolute hearing, but did not complete conducting studies because they were struck by World War II. He still works today with an ensemble where you have members between the ages of 50 and 90. I saw then what it means to have patience with people, what is commitment to work, and the power to make the best of anything.
You have worked as a choir conductor in Germany and Serbia. Can you compare the way of working abroad and here?
Mentality is a question of everything. In Serbia, working together is very difficult to achieve, while working together in Germany is implied. I would add that in that retirement choir were members born before World War II and attending a Nazi school in Germany. They were very pleasant to me, as a foreigner, but at the same time, I felt a discipline that is not in use now days in Germany as well. They are not cold people, they are simply very disciplined. If they were cold, they wouldn’t have had Mozart, Schubert, Bach, Schumann. That need to work together and quick coordination of people is much more pronounced with them, and they are way ahead of us when it comes to working together.
Vocal ensemble Belgrade Madrigalists is under your conduction since 2008. What kind of innovation was brought into the work of the choir?
We brought back the old program – madrigals, what the audience heard tonight in the first part of the concert. Also, we started performing compositions of orthodox spiritual music that were less sung, for example the work of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov which has a very rich oeuvre of this type of music. He is actually the first great composer of Russian spiritual music. Our repertoire also includes contemporary compositions, whether dedicated to the choir or not; for example, a composition by Dusan Trbojevic, a pianist who was an excellent choral composer and dedicated several of his works to the choir. We also perform world-class compositions by contemporary authors. We are working hard to expand our program from the 16th to the 21st century.
How do you choose the program for the concert and is there a composer you particularly prefer?
There must be a path in between. I would like to do some great Haydn’s Mass, but it is not possible. It’s not possible because of the orchestra, and it’s also a highly professional requirement. So we cannot do everything one loves, we need to do what we all love. I do not have a choir composer that I particularly prefer, but I generally like Haydn, Schubert, and Prokofiev from composers. And as for the choral music these five, six Renaissance pieces from the beginning of the concert, it’s music I didn’t conduct before and music I didn’t know before. I met with it thanks to this ensemble. At the repertoire are mostly works that have not been performed so often. I consider these are the works that have their own qualities and should be put on stage, and they also correspond to our current abilities.
After tonight’s performance at the concert season Convivium Musicum ’19, what are future plans of choir and where will we be able to hear you in the upcoming period?
We will have two, three concerts of Christmas music of European nations, thanks to a funding of project we received from the Ministry of Culture. The repertoire will feature traditional music, followed by music from Hungary, Italy, France, England, Germany, Slovenia and Serbia. This will actually be a traditional Christmas compositions. These works are much easier than tonight’s repertoire, but they require a very good knowledge of the text, a certain national style, spirit, tradition. Concerts will be held in Sremska Mitrovica, Petrovaradin and Belgrade. Following this project there will be another one called Contemporary Spiritual Music by Serbian Composers, which is helped by Sokoj. This one will have the compositions of the second half of the 20th and from 21st centurie. Some of these composers are still alive, for example Vojislav Simic, our renowned jazz conductor. He wrote very nice arrangements for the choir as well as several spiritual compositions. In addition to him, Dusan Trbojevic, Rajko Maksimovic, Sveta Bozic, Milorad Marinkovic, Vera Milankovic. We believe that traditional spiritual music is not extinct, that it still exists, and that these are compositions to be performed. People need to hear them.
Third year student at the Department of Music in Media, FILUM, Kragujevac
Translation: Ljubica Guzvic
Photo: Milos Dasic