The Serbian violinist talks about his eclectic album and the difference between good music and not-so-good music.
Shortly after starting to learn the violin you found yourself performing on the world stage. What was the attraction?
For me everything was very natural and easy. I had my first contact with the instrument when I was seven and I had my first contact with the stage when I was seven-and-a-half. I liked the world stage because the feelings that you get during a concert are really incredible. Even if it was not the violin, I think I would still do something on the stage.
Your career took off in 2006 when you replaced Maxim Vengerov in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. How was that experience?
It was funny because I’d just finished playing a concert in Cologne when I received a phone call from my agent asking if I could play the concerto the next day in France with Myung-Whun Chung and L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. I was like, “Oh my god. Yes, of course!” The next day I arrived in Paris for the rehearsal and then the concert was that evening. I remember the feeling of how much I enjoyed playing with Chung: he closed his eyes and transformed himself into the music and everything was so creative and beautiful. It was a very enjoyable moment.
You’re equally well known for playing popular music. Is this kind of music something that you grew up with?
Yes, actually, in my family we have always listened to all kinds of music. Not only classical music but folk music, traditional music, rock and pop – anything really. I like to say that when the music is good we don’t have to separate it by genre, we just listen to good music and we don’t listen to not-so-good music.
Your new album, Songs My Mother Taught Me, is a collection of wildly varied repertoire including film, folk and classical music. How did you decide on this collection of pieces?
This album is dedicated to my mother and I thought it was very important to find repertoire which connects me to her. This made the choices very easy to find. Deutsche Grammophon and the producers of my album had the same ideas about the sound and about the repertoire, so it was very nice and personal for me to record.
What draws you to folk music?
I like traditional music because it can express the culture of people. In this area of the Balkans, you have music from Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria – each corner has something special. I like to explore these traditions.
You have a very individual personal style. Do you like defying expectations of what a classical musician should look like?
I think all music has evolved with time, but the image of a classical musician hasn’t really evolved. It’s very important for me to live in my time, to be dressed like any other young man, and importantly, to dress how I feel. On stage you have to feel completely free and relaxed to share music because you are giving everything to your audience. If you aren’t comfortable then you cannot be 100% you.
You can read Lisa MacKinney’s ★★★★½ review of Songs My Mother Taught Me here