Interview with Valentina Velkovska-Trajanovska: We have a lot of work to do if we want to restore the values we had
The president of the Union of Composers of Macedonia (SOKOM), prof. Dr. Valentina Velkovska-Trajanovska, has an intense period with activities in several fields, and with particular excitement announces the new edition of Days of Macedonian Music.
The program of the opening ceremony of the 46th Days of Macedonian Music includes works by Ana Pandevska, Bojana Petrović Alexova, Mihajlo Shterjev, Filip Ivanov and Damjan Temkov, which will be performed by the string orchestra "Ajga" under the direction of the conductor Viktor Mitrevski, and with the composer Valentina Velkovska-Trajanovska, current president of SOKOM, we discussed the general concept of the festival.
On March 27, the new edition of Days of Macedonian Music (DMM) begins, and already on the first evening there will be a premiere performance of four works by Macedonian composer(s). Is it about a selection, or are the composers waiting for DMM to premiere their works?
- The ceremonial opening of the 46th Days of Macedonian Music festival will be held in the small hall of the Philharmonia, starting at 20:XNUMX p.m., and the program is designed almost entirely with premiere performances of the works. I should mention, the insistence on the premiere performance of the works is one of the main program objectives of the festival itself, from its beginnings until now. Unfortunately, as far as the works of composers for larger ensembles are concerned, their premiere, and sometimes only performance, is precisely at the Days of Macedonian Music.
The program for the opening is formed by works that composers had submitted for performance several years ago, but with most of the chamber orchestras disbanding, we did not have the composition to be able to perform them. Because of that, the chamber string orchestra "Ajga" was formed last year, an orchestra that will perform works of this kind, complex, contemporary and unique in terms of its content and structure. The orchestra must have continuity, full mutual coordination, sound balance, enthusiasm and desire to venture into previously unknown and unexplored fields of the sound space, which is why we set this program as the third (after the first two of the past DMM). At the opening concert of the festival, the audience will be able to listen to the works of the relatively younger generation of composers: Ana Pandevska, Bojana Petrović Alexova, Damjan Temkov, Mihajlo Shterjev and Filip Ivanov.
In addition to you, Vanja Nikolovski - Gjumar and Filip Ivanov are also in the Arts Council this year. With what concept did you prepare this year's edition?
- With great responsibility, we conceptualized the program of the 46th Days of Macedonian Music, which will be a sign of the extraordinary creativity of Macedonian composers on a larger scale: ballet, symphonic, works for string orchestra, but also chamber works. From the cooperation with the institutions that were formed by the Macedonian composers - National Opera and Ballet, Philharmonia, "Dance", the Faculties of Musical Art, concerts will be produced at which premiere performances of younger composers will be heard, works of composers whose jubilee years are being celebrated from birth, works that represent the creative oeuvre and language of some of the composers.
For example, at the NOB concert, the audience will have the opportunity to watch part of the ballet work, at the "Ajga" symphony orchestra concert, works by Macedonian composers will be performed, but soloist Kiril Trusov will also perform Mendelssohn's concerto for violin and orchestra. At the same time, it is also a wonderful example of how Macedonian creativity can be an equal part of the concert programs of top soloists with philharmonic orchestras.
Then, at the "Dance" concert, we will return to the distant church past of Macedonia, returning to the researches of the tradition of the church records of extremely important authors from that period, with a performance of the male part of the choir from the ensemble. Of course, we will return to the chamber works of the Macedonian composers, the trio will perform - oboe, bassoon and piano (Tatijana Petrushevska, Marjan Milosevski and Petar Makarievski).
The concerts in the second season, in addition to works of a larger scale, concerts, symphonic works, works for string orchestra with soloists, will also include a performance by a chamber duo from Germany, soloists from Slovenia, workshops, seminars, and will end with a Tribune dedicated to the state of creativity of the Macedonian composers.
It is a common practice at the DMM to have premiere performances, but every year you make a dedication to previous generations of composers. Whose anniversaries will be celebrated, and with which composers will there be author's evenings?
- This year marks several significant anniversaries of deceased composers: the 90th anniversary of the birth of composers (and conductors) Aleksandar Lekovski and Dragan Shuplevski, as well as the 80th anniversary of the birth of composers Dimche Nikoleski and academician Risto Avramovski. The conditions do not allow us to hold author's evenings, but within the festival program we tried to represent as large a fund of important works by these composers as possible, of course also according to the appropriateness in the concept of the concerts themselves.
We hope that the institutions, whose activity is concert, symphonic, musical-stage performance, will pay due attention to the work created by Macedonian composers, with a greater share in the program conceptions of their management teams. Of course, we all have the responsibility to take care of adequate and high-quality preservation, presentation and promotion of the values of our musical past (heritage), present and future.
To what extent did you manage to keep the tradition of publishing CDs written by SOKOM members?
– The intention of the current composition of the Presidency of SOKOM, but also of all members, is to take care of the composers' materials, their scores, performances, audio and video recordings. Particularly significant for us is the cooperation with the Macedonian Radio and Television, which, by creating audio-video records, documents these extremely invaluable materials, processes them and, in some way, permanently protects them. By publishing author's CDs, the audio recordings of the works are available to a wider audience, creativity is promoted and a unique cross-section and insight into the creative language and style of a composer is created.
Mainly, SOKOM cannot, according to the concept of financing programs of national interest of the Ministry of Culture, issue CDs, because the limitation of two projects covers the traditional manifestations "Days of Macedonian Music" and "Strushka Musical Autumn", but of course, SOKOM participates in all possible ways with its activities and support for composers.
Macedonian Music Days is one of the most important activities of SOKOM, and a month ago you were re-elected to the position of president of the composers' association. With what ideas and mission did you enter the second term?
- I entered the second term with several ideas and primarily with a mission to finish the activities that we started in the first term, because a large part of the planned activities are long-term and we would not be able to finish them in a period of less than two years. The conditions with Macedonian creativity, but also with Macedonian musical culture as a whole, are at a relatively unenviable level, so we have a lot of work to do if we want to restore the values we had, but also to create new ones.
For example, the DMM festival will intensify efforts to perform and promote the work of Macedonian composers on a larger scale, which is completely neglected and marginalized by our most significant institutions, thus increasing the visibility of composers and their monumental musical-artistic works. deeds.
Then, the international presentation of creativity will continue to intensify through cooperation with similar organizations abroad, but also by strengthening the contacts of our extraordinary members and the opportunities to promote it in the environments/countries where they live and act. We will continue with activities aimed at encouraging, stimulating and helping musical creativity, music journalism and musicology. We constantly mention the lack of resources and capacities to receive, process, archive, protect and preserve the legacies of composers, which would allow real access to the materials (especially scores for further performances, their research and analysis...). And of course, many more activities that if I list them will be too extensive for this interview, the purpose of which is the announcement of this year's DMM.
Within the framework of the commitment to the international presentation of SOKOM, you were in Brussels these days at the Summit of the European Association of Composers and Songwriters. What activities did you face there and what are the conclusions of the summit?
- SOKOM, with its delegate as an equal member, has participated in the Summit of the European Association of Composers and Songwriters (ECSA) since its foundation, and until recently with a vice-president in the governing bodies of the association whose aim is to protect and promote the rights of musical authors nationally , European and international level.
For this year, the main topic of the Summit was the protection of the rights of composers in the context of Agreements with publishing and media houses and companies, protection of copyright and moral rights of composers on all Internet resources and platforms, as well as the use of IT tools in the process of making music.
What is the general position of composers in society across Europe? Can we draw parallels between Macedonian and European working conditions?
- The position of composers differs in all countries across Europe, but the time of the covid-pandemic has shown how unenviable the position of all activities from the music sector, in general, is. Different concepts of management and conception of cultural policies also give different results, so we could not draw parallels if we do not perceive all aspects in their entirety. Overall, the final conclusion is the extremely difficult position in which the profession itself is - composer, from an educational, professional and existential character.
You yourself are a composer and a professor at the music academy at the University of Applied Sciences in Shtip. In addition to all the social commitments, how do you manage to find time to work on your new works, but also in the pedagogical activity?
- At the moment I am active in several fields in my activity and really have almost no time to work on new works, but that has always been the case, because, as I mentioned above, to live as an independent composer, and in general a musician and contractor in Macedonia, is on the border of impossibility. It is for this reason that the majority of composers focus on teaching. I am employed as a full-time professor in several subjects at the music academy at the University "Goce Delchev" - Shtip, I am also the Vice-Dean of the same, which means that I also have many administrative responsibilities.
In addition, this year at the invitation of the FMU in Skopje, I am also giving lectures. I really have too many social activities with SOKOM, but I try to fulfill all my obligations with maximum responsibility and quality. I hardly find time to create new works, but that's the profession I've dedicated myself to and I want to do it.
After the creation of my oratorio "Dreams of the Immortals", I completed several chamber works, one solo piece was released on CD by the prestigious label "NAXOS Deutschland", and now I have completed a new work for chamber orchestra, which will be performed this summer in Germany at a concert that will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the world composer Georg Ligeti. It was a great honor for me the interest and desire of the orchestra to create a piece for the program of this concert. To my delight, the work was received with very positive reviews and the rehearsals went well, and the concert still remains to be performed.
What other activities of SOKOM, besides the realization of DMM, are planned for this year?
– This year DMM will be realized in two seasons, as I mentioned with big concerts. Our next activity is "Strushka musical autumn", and of course all activities related to the works of Macedonian composers, as well as intensifying efforts to raise awareness of the meaning and social need for quality artistic musical creation.
(The interview was published in "Kulturen Pechat" number 172, in the print edition of the newspaper "Sloboden Pechat" on 25-26.3.2023)