The following interview was published on 02.25.2023 in the VIJESTI newspaper.
English translation by A. Xhakoviq
Pianist Amir Xhakoviq is well known to the Montenegrin audience. Namely, although he is young, he has so far held a large number of concerts in Montenegro in different formations, playing a wide variety of works.
Last night he had the opportunity to show for the first time how he handles works of contemporary music, and the program he performed was called "Piano Landscapes of the Balkans".
"My interest in contemporary, that is, piano literature of the 20th century began during my studies in Belgium, when I played for the famous American composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski. I was supposed to play a standard repertoire of Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin for him, when I realized that I was bored with the program and wanted to explore something new. After the masterclass, he suggested several works for me to research, among which was 'Musica Ricercata' by Georgy Ligeti, one of his first experiments with the most basic musical elements", Xhakoviq recalled in an interview for "Vijesti" about how he became interested in contemporary music.
"Given that my professor was not interested in that type of music at the time, I started researching it myself. The result of independent research was also part of the program ten years ago at KIC, when I performed as part of the cycle 'Young Pianists'", added Xhakoviq, who believes that contemporary music in the 20th century is still too broad term.
"The styles and genres that circulate are countless. My goal was to find composers who, at the same time, have a developed sense of relationship to the traditional and tend to develop new possibilities of the instrument itself. "Piano landscapes of the Balkans" are a kind of mosaic of classical music, where different influences of the rich tradition of this area intertwine. Piano Landscapes of the Balkans is not a fixed repertoire, but a program that changes from concert to concert, considering the fact that I included eleven countries in the program, and from each country at least two composers. Therefore, presenting everyone during one concert is unfeasible. At the concert the night before last in Podgorica, I performed the following pieces: Rafet Rudi - 'The Bells of Arbëreshe'; Tomislav Zografski - 'Suite for piano'; Pancho Vladigerov - 'Improvisations'; Senad Gačević - 'Tokata'; Jozef F. Pjetri - 'From the eternal Instant''; Sanja Drakulić - 'Drive'; John Psathas - 'Jettatura'; Milan Mihailović - 'Three preludes'. If we take into account that each of the mentioned pieces has its own style, character and performance technique, I can say that this is the most demanding task I have set myself so far", admits the pianist, who is particularly proud that his repertoire includes a work by a female composer.
"Until now, I have included several works by excellent female composers in the overall repertoire. At the concert in Podgorica, I decided to present one of them, so that they had the opportunity to hear the work of the Croatian composer Sanja Drakulić", says Xhakoviq, who does not hide the fact that he himself became a fan of contemporary music thanks to numerous researches.
"I'm certainly a fan of contemporary music, but not strictly experimental contemporary music", notes the pianist, who in a previous interview for "Vijesti" said that the piano repertoire in our region and around the world is limited, because certain pieces are played and repeated constantly. However, he tries to research the programs in order to offer the audience something new, perhaps even unexpected.
"I would like what I stated in the last interview to also be a piece of advice to my colleagues, because we are witnessing that, following the example of certain requirements of various competitions, many talented performers are trapped in the same works. In addition, for any progress and professional development, continuous work is necessary, so my need for constant research is also my motivation in my work. Also, I believe that the audience always looks forward to the performance of something new, because in that case they have the opportunity and the need for active listening. Of course, I think it is of great importance to promote the music of our regions, in the hope that it will become part of the repertoire, not only in the Balkans, but also on the world music scene", Xhakoviq believes.
His repertoire is diverse, and he often plays the works of authors who, in addition to being composers, are also brilliant pianists. However, Xhakoviq admits that he did not try to build his career in that direction.
"Even though I used to think in that direction, I didn't want to move away from the concert life, because, after all, I feel the most beautiful on stage," he concluded.