Review: Concert night of the European Union at the Ohrid Summer Festival “Bach in the air”

The Mission of the European Union in Macedonia for fifteen years realizes concert evenings within the Ohrid Summer Festival by organizing guest appearances of renowned music artists from the member states of the union. This traditionally beautiful practice has been recognized by the festival audience as an opportunity to attend a quality music event that carries some symbolism for the promotion of the European community and prosperity.

So it was last night at the concert of Slovenian artists, flutist Irena Grafenauer and clarinetist Mate Bekavac, which was attended by EU Ambassador to the Republic of Northern Macedonia, David Gere, as representatives of several diplomatic missions in the country. Both artists with enviable concert careers, in front of the audience for “Ohrid Summer” chose Bachova, a baroque and very serious program. Very appropriate for a European evening, because Bach’s music as a pillar of all music from the Baroque era to the present day has that basic and unifying force from which all later directions and styles in European classical music arise.

Sophisticated and carefully chosen concept of the program – was the first impression of the concert. For a start, the Cello Suite in Es-dur, through the flute of Irena Grafenauer, filled the space in the church of St. Sofia. With undisguised and visible admiration for the acoustics, the experienced artist shaped the various Baroque games with a noble sound, masterfully capturing the polyphony in the multi-layered line of the flute. In this equally complex score for both cello and flute, Irena Grafenauer presented her expressive and rich musicality.

With great pleasure, the audience followed the famous fourteen two-voice inventions by Bach. Ordinary instructive reading, in every piano school, heard and performed countless times by the clumsy fingers of many “little pianists”, and therefore often perceived as boring. But this time, we heard Bach’s two-part masterpieces through Irena Grafeneuer’s interpretation and Mate Bekavac’s clarinet in full glory. The artists complemented the natural sound and timbre similarity of the flute and the clarinet with a subtle sense of dynamic tinting that ranged in the subtle range of “mezzo-soprano” and “mezzo-soprano”. They played with restraint appropriate to Bach, with a lightness and soft tone that, in contrast to the usual rhythmic association of two-voiced inventions played on the piano, created a completely different wavy impulse, creating a melodic “floating” polyphony.

In the ensuing solo performance, clarinetist Mate Bekavac performed the second Violin Party in demol, another masterpiece from Bach’s opus. It was just a confirmation of the manageability and universality of his genius that we constantly rediscover in the colors of all instruments, this time in the velvety sound of Bekavac’s clarinet. The artist performed the games from the Party, omitting the final Chaconne and with a refined expression once again took us to the top of the baroque world.

In the duet for flute and clarinet and especially in the variations from the famous transcription of the Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen on Handel’s Pasakalja, the artists, in addition to confirming the skill and harmonization of the chamber music in front of the admiring audience, this time showed even more brilliance. Unpretentious, but with elegant virtuosity, Grafenauer and Bekavac guided us through the complex variations, achieving a harmonious “conversation” between the flute and the clarinet through fine-toned micro-tones, characteristic of great artists.
The concert took place in a festive atmosphere and noticeable joy among the audience and the artists. Delicately designed uniformly conceived program, with such a top stylistic performance, is always a gift for music connoisseurs.

Vikica Kostoska Peneva – musicologist