Images: Ratimir Martinović, renowned Montenegrin pianist from Kotor, founder and executive director of KotorArt Festival
How did you get involved with the International Festival of Kotor Art?
I actually started the festival 15 years ago, together with fellow Kotor native, the late Don Branko Sbutega. He was a Catholic priest, art lover and an incredible intellectual.
KotorArt first started off as a music festival, but it has featured other arts programmes since 2009, and the festival now serves as an umbrella for six different programmes in Kotor and around Boka Bay, every year during July and August.
Please could you tell us about this year’s International Festival of Kotor Art, and your highlights?
Every year, the festival sets high standards in artistry and production for all the arts we showcase. This year, we hosted two premieres from the Festival of Children’s Theatre, with guest theatres from all over Europe taking part. We also hosted the Klapa Festival, an a-cappella festival featuring the best choral ensembles from the Balkans.
However, KotorArt not only hosts music festivals. We host a range of international architecture workshops, featuring conferences, round tables and panel discussions by over 40 architectural professionals. We also organized The Philosophers’ Square, a meeting of minds between intellectuals from the UK, Germany, and the Balkans, to discuss the future of technology and surveillance. One attendee was WikiLeaks journalist, Sarah Harrison.
Last but not least, Don Branko’s Music Days offers a variety of classical and rock music for all ages, with artists from 13 different countries coming together to perform.
For me as a musician, the highlight of this years’ festival is the performance of Maestro Ksysztof Penderecki, who is, in my opinion, one of the most prominent figures in music.
Images: KotorArt Trio performing at “Musical Festivities of Novi Sad” in 2011
You are also a member of the KotorArt Trio. What makes this partnership special?
The KotorArt Trio consists of myself, violinist Roman Simović, and clarinetist Aleksandar Tasić. Roman is concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra, and Aleksander is first clarinetist of the Verbier Festival Orchestra, and a colleague of mine at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. We’ve played together for a long time, and we are all very good friends. I think that our friendship, along with our solo concerts and experiences in other chamber ensembles, makes our Trio really special.
Because we are often on opposite sides of the world, we rarely perform together. But when we do, it is pure joy, not only for us but also for the audience, because we are all so passionate about the music we play.
Could you tell us more about how it was like learning from classical pedagogues, such as Ivo Pogorelich and Jacques Rouvier?
Meastro Pogorelich wanted to hear me play while he was visiting Kotor, so we spent a couple of hours talking and collaborating on music pieces. This gave me an interesting insight about the way he works, but also the ideas behind his very original interpretations. On the other hand, I have collaborated with Rouvier numerous times, as he was more concerned with the pieces we used in academic circles and competitions.
You can always get some inspiration from pianists and pedagogues. However, as the old Chinese saying goes, “Do not follow the footsteps of your teacher. Follow what he follows.” It is so important to search and find your own ways, not only in music, but also in life.
You’ve been a soloist for some of the world’s most famous orchestras. Is there one particular memory that stands out?
Oh, there are so many! But it’s more to do with the conductors than the orchestras themselves. You know, as in all fields, vanity plays an important yet hidden role in the self-portrayal of many. Some conductors can act childish, as they believe that a soloist will steal their show.
We hear that Bach is one of your favourite composers. How does his music resonate to you more than other composers?
Bach was one of a kind. You can play his music on any instrument, and you’ll still get a clear of idea of his genius and musical message. We call such music ‘absolute music’. With Bach, it is like looking at the kaleidoscope, and everything fits where it belongs. Everything has a meaning, and Bach’s work is a musical example of how the ideal world should look like.
What would you say is your biggest career highlight to date?
The term ‘career’ has a loose meaning in the classical music world. We either have famous performers, artists who play many concerts. Those who play entire repertoires, or musicians who only get the chance to play 5 recital programmes. There is no direct path in the music world, but in the arts, it is not about becoming but about leaving a legacy.
A big highlight for me was performing at the Isaac Stern Auditorium, the main hall of Carnegie Hall in New York. But my biggest ‘career’ highlight is the fact that I am still fascinated with all aspects of the classical music world, and all its unspoken words and stories.
As a Kotor native, if you could name one thing that you love the most about Kotor, what would it be, and why?
Co-existence in all senses of the word. Co-existence of different religions, nations and cultures, co-existence of threatening mountains and peaceful seas, and of natural beauty and the beauty of human achievements. In today’s world, co-existence is needed now more than ever.
For those visiting Montenegro for the music scene, what would you recommend for them to see?
Montenegro is a country for all the senses. If you are into music, there are so many festivals in the summer, from rock, pop, dance, jazz, classical. There’s so many to choose from. If you are into the true classical arts, then you should come to Kotor – the Montenegrin synonym for the Arts!
In cooperation with KotorArt Festival, Luštica Bay this year organised a concert ‘Miloš Invites’ , a world-class musical experience and the highlight of our summer in Luštica Bay .