Interview with percussionist Ivan Marjanovic

With each project realized, the Citizens Association “CONVIVIUM MUSICUM” introduces novelties, some of which have grown into traditions and many years of excellent practices and cooperation. The Third international festival of chamber music Convivium Musicum, held in 2016, brought an opportunity to students of the Faculty of Philology and Arts in Kragujevac, from the Department of Music in the Media, to practically apply their acquired knowledge in the form of interviewing artists who performed at the Festival. This practice continued with great mutual satisfaction in 2017. The students, as well as in 2016, created and realized interviews under the mentorship of Dr Marija Ciric, associate professor.

After the opening ceremony of the Festival, second year student Jelena Bosic had the opportunity to talk with Ivan Marjanovic, a member of the ensemble Belgrade percussionists.


IMG_6497The 4th International festival of chamber music Convivium Musicum was held in Kragujevac, from March 14th to 17th. Like the last three years, it gathered top performers from the country and abroad. This year’s Festival was opened with the performance of the ensemble Belgrade Percussionists, composed of prominent artists – Srdjan Palackovic and Ivan Marjanovic. They give us the opportunity to discover a new dimension of percussions, which we experienced through authentic sound, rhythm, play and freedom of musical expression. Ivan Marjanovic graduated Percussions at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade. Since 1999, he is a member of the ensemble Belgrade Percussionists. He is a member of the Ensemble for New Music and timpanist of the Camerata Serbica Orchestra. Also, he is an associate for chamber music at the Department of Percussion at the Music School Stankovic in Belgrade. Immediately after the concert at the Convivium Musicum festival, we had the opportunity to talk to this artist and discover when he first felt the closeness to percussive instruments, which composers are his inspiration, his vision of art music in the future etc.

The Festival is open with your performance. Your, I must say, the magic duo performed in Kragujevac before. Do you have nice memories of this city?
Surely! After the concert ended, I can freely say that Kragujevac is now connected with us with another beautiful memory. Unfortunately, we have not been able to come a bit earlier because of the technical problems of our instruments that require plenty of installation and plenty of space. In order to create such a wonderful, huge scene, full of diverse instruments, we have to start preparing it early and rarely have time to simply enjoy visit, to relax, to take a breath in the air of the city. But in any case, the memories are always nice.
You have also performed abroad and won numerous awards. Is there a performance that you , for an single out as special one?
It was a competition in Belgium in 2001. For the first time we saw so many artists in one place, and this is related solely to an instrument called marimba, since it is a marimba contest. There was a large number of Japanese, then Chinese and Koreans. Basically, we play their music, the music of the Far East. We were quite surprised that we are very close, but that we have some of our own signature and expression in the performance of their compositions. In fact, they liked them too. Since we met many well-known performers and composers, made contacts, that year 2001 in Belgium left a great deal of influence on me, my thinking, on Srdjan and on some of our future development and interpretation.

You present percussion instruments in a completely unique way. When was the point when you realized that this type of instrument and their sound are what you want to do?
A long time ago! I must point out that there is one general name for our instrument, and this is drums, which everyone knows. All children have heard of this instrument, and most men want to play them. I was one of them, and I endured to the end. I found the classical music, that is, classic and modern percussion music and met a huge family of battering instruments. Through that drum set, as I enrolled in a music school, and after continuing my studies, I was presented to a wide range of instruments, their applications in various situations, various ensembles and places. So, from classical halls to Exit, through a tour, a festival, to orchestral timpani of the Belgrade Philharmonic, I was fortunate enough to be able to play all kinds of music that exists in the world with one kind of instrument, one family.
Which composers inspire you as a percussionist?
Since I played a piano too, Beethoven certainly had a very big influence on me, and I really liked to play his music. And now, when I have a little free time, I catch myself playing his symphonies I know by heart, which is a serious literature for orchestral timpani. In addition to him, I would definitely single out Mahler as one great composer, whom I like to play and listen. Of the modern composers and ones who are more turned to percussion instruments, it’s certainly our composer Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic. Since I know him, we worked together and played, so I would sing him as one of those composers who inspired me in particular.
Do the composers write for you and which ones?
So far there have been some attempts, ideas and planning. However, specifically for our duo nothing was composed. Some of the arrangements we did ourselves, for example, the arrangement for the West Side Story of Leonardo Bernstein. There is an arrangement for two pianos, and we added percussions and made it a quartet. I wish that when it happens, as I know a lot of composers, these are always good ideas.
How extensive is the repertoire for the Belgrade Percussionists duo? Can you point out, in your opinion, some interesting compositions?
I would single out Prelude from the Bach’s Suite, transcription for two marimba to be exact; Mendelssohn’s Fugue in the F minor, written for the piano; Ravel’s composition Alborada del gracioso – arrangement for two marimba. There are really many interesting compositions, beginning with some transcriptions of popular and famous compositions to works originally written for percussion ensemble. From Minor Miki, a well-known Japanese composer and his Marimba spiritual to Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, everything we like we play. We have no pressure to do something unless someone explicitly asks, and that is a rarity.
What are you most pleased with in your career so far?
I am pleased that we have the opportunity to do this. I have to admit, this is a rather exotic thing. In fact, it is a great technical process that needs to be fulfilled, and requires money, time and energy. Often, we are talking about how we are really happy with what we have. This, in a way, has become a hobby, but that’s what we would like to do, and we succeeded in doing it so. By our own will and dedication, we have required the instruments, the repertoire and the possibility of getting together and practicing at all. I think that’s the biggest success, and I can say that we are getting better and better.

At the end, in your opinion, what kind of artistic music will be there in the future?
I honestly think that artistic music, as well as more or less the majority of art, slowly “evaporates”, space and interest are lost. Everything has been accelerating in the last twenty years. Because of the powerful information available to them, new generations have no time. A lot of things are interested for me too, and they’re taking a lot of time. And art, by its very nature, requires a lot of research and time that we have less and less. The facts confirm that the number of orchestras in world is getting smaller, people and institutions that are willing to finance it all, also. I think that the art we now know, in particular, the music we know in the last three hundred, four hundred years, went on a new journey, and it is simply more or less endangered. Of course, it will certainly survive, but in what form and in what way it must sacrifice itself, we will see. It changes at a drastic rate, faster and faster, just like everything in life.

Author: Jelena Bosic, second year student at the Department of Music in Media, FILUM, Kragujevac
Translation: Ljubica Guzvic