Serbian string playing: Free spirits

Photo by Dragana Selaković. The School for Music Talents orchestra performs at Kolarac Hall, December 2021at

The Serbian school of string playing, characterised by its startling originality, developed out of the Balkan nation’s chequered history and unique place in Europe in the 20th century, finds Jacqueline Vanasse

The exact origins of the Serbian string school are difficult to determine, but what is clear is that in recent years there have been an increasing number of Serbian soloists and orchestral musicians occupying leading positions around the world.

I was interested to find out about what was happening musically in Serbia after meeting concert violist Saša Mirković. With his wife, cellist Tatjana Jovanović Mirković, he founded Belgrade-based string group Ensemble Metamorphosis and is their current leader. Mirković is a flamboyant personality with an overflowing sense of creativity – a refreshingly honest free-thinker. Investigating a little further, I discovered that the music world is populated by many more Serbian musicians just like him. ‘Throughout the 20th century, every generation of Serbs had their war, and that might have contributed to making us good artists,’ says Mirković. ‘We have all these difficulties in our lives and we make music out of it.’ Jovanović Mirković adds: ‘I think that our temperament and our individuality are the main reasons we exist now as people as well as artists.’

Apart from this attitude and a certain open-mindedness, there are two other reasons that might explain the making of so many good Serbian string players. First, as neither part of the East nor part of the West during the 20th century, the country was free to pick and choose what was best musically. Second, the music system in general in Serbia, and in particular one music boarding school in the small town of Ćuprija, has played an important role in nurturing Serbian talent…

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