Piano, electronics, human voice, toys, vacuum-cleaner, iron and other unexpected objects
21/04 wednesday, 6 PM
Ivan Batoš, piano
Milko KelemenA Donkey Strolling by the Sea
Davor Branimir Vincze: Six Miniatures for a Desperate Housewife
Frano Đurović: Concerto for piano and electronics*
Tena Ivana Borić: Toy Story*
Matthias Kranebitter: Candlelight Music mit Rondo
Ivan Batoš (1979) earned his master’s degree in piano from the Music Academy in Zagreb in 2009, where he now works as an artistic associate. His penchant for chamber music has marked his performing career and earned him numerous national and international prizes for artistic collaboration. This Biennale recital is one of his rare solo performances. 
How do you see the Biennale's development line?
The Biennale started in 1961 as a provocation. I have been following it since 1999, when I, the then student, sang Igor Stravinsky’s The Wedding at the Festival. There is always an homage, some concert celebrating the golden age of the 1960s. Instead of being a very current contemporary festival, the Biennale has become a festival that celebrates a period from the 20th century. There is also a certain dogmatism, as some compositions are considered “not for the Biennale.” What does that mean? On the one hand, all sorts of things are written today and it is clear that composers are shocked by quasi-pop pieces or pieces by instrumentalists who compose. However, on the other hand, that music is being written and one cannot ignore it; instead, we should establish a critical distance and clear criteria, and include the best of such music in the Festival. I am extremely sorry that some successful, brilliant and educational Biennale projects such as the Opera for Three Lipas by Mirela Ivičević were performed only once – at the Festival.
Could you explain the concept of the concert and the compositions you are going to play?
The concert concept has been changing; it was supposed to be a live afternoon concert in an intimate space, but given the current situation with the pandemic and the earthquake, we were not certain if the performance would take place at all or how many people could attend it. Margareta Ferek-Petrić decided to hold some concerts online, but I will record my performance in advance, in the &TD’s Semicircular hall. 
As this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Biennale, the program was to have some connection with its founder Milko Kelemen. Two years ago, I held an unusual recital Variations of Laughter and Oblivion, that was conceived on the occasion of the 90th birthday of Milan Kundera, which I realized with the satirist Domagoj Zovak. He has no links with music, exactly as I wanted it. The program included four compositions, a prelude to the concert was a composition Memory Pieces by minimalist David Lang, which Domagoj conceived by using video to look like he was Google searching for information about the program; the idea was for people to watch the slideshow instead of the program booklet, and what they would search for on their phones, Zovak simulated on the screen.
The second composition, the key one in my opinion, was Sonata 1. X. 1905. by Leoš Janáček, which I wanted to link to the then election of the Rector of the University. Large demonstrations in support of the University in the Czech language took place on 1 October 1905 in Brno, during which the worker František Pavlik was killed. Considering the events at the University of Zagreb, we raised the question of whether Pavlik died in vain and whether we need the University in its current condition at all. After that, I played Variations to an Interrupted Theme by Petar Bergamo, and in the second part I performed Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 111; it was accompanied with Kundera’s quote on the father that was heard during the second movement theme. People both laughed and cried during that concert, as was my goal.
A Donkey Strolling by the Sea
A Donkey Strolling by the Sea from 1961, whose music is very simple, almost classical in sound. There will be no special effects here, this is more of a homage to the founder of the Biennale. 
Candlelight Music mit Rondo
Matthias Kranebitter’s composition Candlelight Music mit Rondo contains a salon element the composer mocks. Although his piece is several years old, I will perform it for the first time. I played some of his other compositions; he is an interesting author who focuses on a bunch of information we receive in the modern media culture in which we can no longer discern what is truly important. There are no special effects here either, except for the theme playing with the very meaning of playing then and now. His suggestions for performance are very atypical, at the level of screenplay with stage directions; in several places I even have to sing, once even out of tune.
The piano’s purpose is mainly to keep the rhythm, only in a few places does it enter he electronics with which it must be synchronized. The piece was, as evident from the title, conceived for a female performer; in the past year I have mostly worked online and was home alone with my three children because my wife had to go to work, so it was not difficult to play the role of a housewife, although I still do not know if I will wear the women’s clothing. 
Concerto for piano and electronics by Frano Đurović is still not finished, and Toy Story by Tena Ivana Borić is also in the making, this is a piece for piano and toys that will create additional noise.
Sounds Ranging From Piccolo to Bass Flute Interlaced With Electronics
28/05, friday, 6 PM
Dani Bošnjak, flute
Kaija Saariaho: Laconisme de l'aile
Doina Rotaru: Japanese Garden
Diana Rotaru: Solomonarul
Milko Kelemen: Fabliau I
Tomislav Oliver: Mixordia IV, “Transmitting" for flute solo
Dubravko Detoni: Minijature, za piccolo* 
Dani Bošnjak (1965.)is one of our most versatile flutists. In addition to being a member of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, he also collaborates with a wide range of musicians and ensembles that perform
early, classical and contemporary music. His solo performances of contemporary music, with a focus on Croatian authors, are especially noteworthy. 
We talked to the MBZ veteran in early February.
Your concert program includes pieces by Milko Kelemen, Kaija Saariaho, Doina and Diana Rotaru, Tomislav Oliver and Dubravko Detoni. With the exception of Diana Rotaru and Tomislav Oliver, the others are composers from the past century.
I will, naturally, perform Kelemen as a sort of homage since this great composer was also the founder of the Biennale. I have to say that the composition Fabliau that I will perform was one of my biggest successes. I performed it when I was very young, a junior at the Music Academy, already dreaming about new pieces, at least new to me. I have not performed Fabliau for some time, but it has been with me my whole life. Over the last couple of years, I have decided to focus exclusively on compositions by Croatian authors, mostly for flute solo and duets, in my solo work.
However, you already recorded several CDs with compositions by Croatian authors in 2014.
I must say that Dubravko Detoni prompted the CD I am currently working on. He contacted me from Koločep where he now lives and sent me manuscripts of his new ideas, two compositions – one for flute and another for piccolo. He likes the composition for piccolo more, so we will be inserting it in separate parts between other compositions on the program – these are some thirty miniatures lasting a couple of seconds. These are Miniatures, but Dubravko Detoni calls them Burlesque.
Over the last couple of years, I have decided to focus exclusively on compositions by Croatian authors, mostly for flute solo and duets, in my solo work.
Is online performing a lonely process?
I do not think so. We will have a select audience in this space at the HGZ where I am performing. Although these are live – not recorded – performances, they can never replace real concerts. However, this is a way to keep us alive. We got amazing feedback from our colleagues, and now a lot of them want to participate and play. I believe this process will continue as long as there is a pandemic.
You said that you have been drawn to contemporary music ever since college. Given your long-standing presence on the music scene, how many new performing techniques have you mastered at the Academy and how many later, while developing professionally?
I must say that the classes were quite conservative, but my dear Professor Vladimir Kondres, with whom I spent half my life, was a realist and he saw that new things were coming and that they were very current. I found that so interesting when I was young because I saw that some performing techniques were not used in contemporary music but in the “other one,” and once you cross to the dark side, there awaits rock' n' roll and jazz... That was close to me, it was my way, and I completely embraced it. I explored the techniques pretty much on my own; I have tried to apply everything that could be used on the instrument, from the percussion elements onwards. A lot of contemporary pieces, particularly Kelemen’s, were written in such a way that a performer could offer quite a lot as composers did not know how to precisely express what they wanted, neither in words nor in notations. My first CD contains the composition Canto Peregrino that Marko Ruždjak wrote just for me and brings back very emotive memories – this is the last composition he ever wrote, and Ruždjak was one of the rare composers who literally lived with us. We would come to his office at the Academy, where he held lectures on instrumentation, to show students all that could be performed on an instrument, and he looked for new possibilities together with us. Such people leave a lasting impression and an indelible mark on everything that happens in the music afterwards. 
… when something is new and well-written – you go all the way!
When it comes to the flute, do you think that all the possibilities of the instrument have been exploited by now or is there still room for creating new performing techniques?
That is certainly not so. I will show a lot of it in my recital as electronics will be implemented. For some time, I have also been following some artists who do stuff themselves, but to do it, you need to have special instruments since those instruments are, in a way, destroyed when you put various objects in them or drill them etc. However, it is good to combine electronics with live playing as electronics can also be live, as will be the case with Oliver’s composition and both of us on stage. While I play his piece, electronics will react to everything I do.
You have been performing at the MBZ for a long time. How do you perceive this festival? Is there a developmental line you see?
I believe that the MBZ is a major music event in our area, this traditional region in the outback of Vienna and Budapest, but at the same time, it is also an open space that could be everywhere and nowhere. The Biennale gives us a lot of space and possibilities, although the Festival has always reflected the people who run it, the directors who had their own tastes and aesthetics. So, needless to say, there is always something interesting to hear. I am an advocate of the newest, as well as of something that could be both the oldest and the most modern – an artist who creates something of their own, thereby enriching the environment; hopefully, the MBZ will go in this direction. There are many people in the world who are doing something interesting, but we are still an environment where novelties come through the back door.
How popular is contemporary music here?
With the founding of the Cantus Ensemble, a contemporary classical trend has been established, so there is someone who cares about contemporary music and performs it during a concert season. At any rate, the global scene should be followed more closely, we should invite people who create in completely different ways more often. To me, that is the most interesting part of this music. This is, among other things, the role of the Biennale that enables us not to close ourselves in our little box, but to gain a broad overview of things. I just want to add that I am really pleased that the Croatian composers of new pieces are trying to be interactive, that we are working together. Along the way, new compositions are created that I will record on my next CD with pieces by Croatian authors. What is so exciting is that these authors are almost peers, yet their expressions are incredibly different and range from classical approaches to heavy rock. Still, it can be very challenging to perform these compositions because you need to have a lot of energy. But it makes me very happy, even at my age. I do not care, when something is new and well-written – you go all the way!
I Got Used to Playing For the Microphones
17/07 Saturday, 4 PM
Vid Veljak, cello
Boris Jakopović: Alliages II*
Mladen Tarbuk: To A. C.*
Sasha J. Blondeau: Sortir de noir, for cello and live electronics
Carola Bauckholt: ohne Worte
Martin Matalon: Traces IX
João Pedro Oliveira: Singularity, for cello and live electronics
One of the most perspective young Croatian cellists, Vid Veljak (1996) as a fourteen-year-old started studying cello at the Zagreb Music Academy in the class of prof. Valter Dešpalj. He continued his studies at The International Music Academy in the Principality of Liechtenstein and he participated in many masterclasses led by famous European cellists. Today, along with his solo and chamber performances, he leads the cello section of the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra. At the beginning of February, we talked to him about the preparations for the Biennale performance, online performances and the program that he will perform.
At the beginning of the recital you will play new compositions by Boris Jakopović and Mladen Tarbuk, which are commissioned for the Biennale. Can you tell us something about these compositions?
I still cannot reveal much because we didn’t go public with all the details, but what I can say is that I am in contact with the composers, that we are working intensely and that there will be some novelties. I will not say more because we are still not sure what we are going to use from all the things we are experimenting with. We also work in the studio and the whole concert will be performed accompanied by electronics.
We can talk about other compositions then. 
The whole program that I will perform is very demanding and stylistically very diverse. Every composition is unique, different from the others and each author uses electronics in a completely different way. The details of the concert are still in the process of creating and arranging. We know that things are complicated this year and many things are still not defined. Anyways, I am preparing and I have materials.
I think that the individual approach is the most important in contemporary music where originality gains the most attention.
How did you develop an interest in contemporary music?
In my family, all music was appreciated and I was exposed to a wide range of musical styles since my childhood, that’s why I never had any aversions to contemporary music and that happens to many people. I started playing the cello when I was three years old and I was always interested in new sounds. I started studying cello as a fourteen-year-old at the Academy in Zagreb in the class of prof. Valter Dešpalj and, by chance, Tomislav Oliver was my solfeggio teacher in the first year. There we connected and started talking about music, and he gave me a couple of new composition to look at. I asked him where Croatian contemporary compositions are and he told me that he has them…My role model has always been Mstislav Rostropovič, thanks to whom we have Šostaković’s music for cello and who is most deserving for a kind of revolution in music for cello of the last century. Guided by that spirit, I dreamed of playing and recording new compositions written only for me and so I started entering that world. Later, I continued my studies abroad in the class of Jens Peter Maintz and later, more importantly, in the class of Romain Garioud who was in contact with contemporary French composers and I learned a lot from him. It all led to my first recital at the Music Forum in Opatija and to the recording of my first CD. This Biennale recital will be my biggest breakthrough into the international sphere of contemporary music for solo cello.
What innovative performance techniques are used in contemporary cello music, except the percussive elements?
Composers try to write down their original ideas and they do it in different ways. They often use graphic notation which can also be interpreted in many ways. My duty as a performer is to get as close as possible to the composer’s idea, but also to listen, to look at the score, to record myself and let all this inspire me for the development of the interpretation.  Today you can see a mix of everything on the stage, everything is usable. Today when we say “a technique of playing the cello” it doesn’t mean that playing includes only the cello. Today’s performer has to be aware not only of what comes out of his instrument but of everything that happens with the sound afterwards. It’s hard to define new techniques; many of them were used, let’s say, in Baroque but were not written down. I think that the individual approach is the most important in contemporary music where originality gains the most attention.
How do you prepare a new work, especially if it is written specifically for you?  How much do you need to work together with the author?
Not everybody is doing this, but I collaborate a lot with the authors whose work I am playing, especially because I myself have various ideas for new techniques. These techniques are sometimes a combination of old techniques and something that maybe only I am doing for now. However, it also depends on the composer; some want to be left alone and some want to collaborate. I never try to force anything, but I also let composers know that I am at their disposal.
How much is the interpretation of the graphic notation intuitive and how much it literary conveys the composer’s idea?
The compositions from my second album are written using graphic notation. I was lucky my producer was Tomislav Oliver, one of the top experts on graphic notation according to my opinion, so I could always ask him for advice. I am also ready to ask for advice from the composer with whom I collaborate. In this way, I create a network for learning and creating.
How do you feel when you play online?
I love playing for a live audience, but during the pandemic, I got used to playing for the microphones. My Biennale recital will be on the Internet, it will be visible for everyone; I will play for an unlimited audience. Regardless of the circumstances, when I play I am in some other universe and I always try to give my maximum.