The Western Balkans Youth Orchestra is a very young orchestra: it was founded at the end of 2019 by Desar Sulejmani, to find a way to make music together, bridging ethnic, national, religious and cultural differences. It includes almost equal numbers of young music students from the six non-EU countries of the Western Balkan (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia). The concertmaster position rotates between pieces. The pianist and conductor Sulejmani, who studied in Germany, is the artistic director of the ensemble. It is financed in large part and supported logistically by various Rotary Clubs in Germany. The orchestra’s pedagogical and artistic work is inspired by the German system of orchestral academies, in which various docents from abroad rehearse the programme with the young musicians. Due to the pandemic the Western Balkans Youth Orchestra made its concert debut in autumn 2021 with three concerts in Pristina, Skopje and Tirana; it made its Young Euro Classic debut in 2022.
Born in Albania, Desar Sulejmani began playing the piano at the age of six, soon appearing in public. From 1998 he attended the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, where he studied with Till Engel (piano), Andreas Reiner and Rainer Kussmaul (chamber music) and David de Villiers (conducting). As Andreas Reiner’s piano partner, Sulejmani recorded the complete violin sonatas by Felix Mendelssohn for CD. Conducting has been the focus of his artistic work since 2003: he has held positions with orchestras in Essen, Cologne and Düsseldorf and has been invited to conduct in Albania and Kosovo, the Czech Republic, Austria and Uzbekistan. In 2008 Sulejmani conducted the first Albanian opera Mrika by Preng Jakova in his hometown of Shkodra. In 2016 he conducted an international production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2019 he founded the Western Balkans Youth Orchestra.
Originally from Albania, but raised in North Macedonia, Hava Bekteshi moved to Germany at the age of 14 and lives in Hamburg today. Apart from studying economics, she always had a passion for Albanian music, as expressed mainly in the çifteli, a two-stringed, long-neck lute. Long a male domain, Hava Bekteshi’s efforts have made the instrument more familiar in Germany too. Since 2014 the artist has performed several times at the Deutsches Theater in Munich; she was also invited to present Albanian music from Hamburg at the German pavilion “Performing Architecture” as part of the 2016 Biennial in Venice. Hava Bekteshi performs regularly at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg.
Originally from Serbia, the accordionist Nikola Komatina studied first in Vienna, then in Detmold and finally at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen. In his youth, Komatina won more than 20 prizes at different competitions; these were followed by several scholarships. His repertoire includes works from the baroque to the modern era. Together with the cellist Mladen Miloradovic, he founded the duo Akkcellorando in 2012; he is also a member of the artist group FONA-Formation Neues Akkordeon. As a guest musician, the 34-year-old regularly performs with the Signum Saxophone Quartet, the Notabu Ensemble, the Ensemble S201 and the One Earth Orchestra. He works intensively with the composers Fabien Lévy, Gerhard Stäbler, Markus Stockhausen, Frank Zabel, Volker Staub, Boris Filanovsky, Thomas Neuhaus and Günter Steinke. His championing of contemporary and classical music is flanked by his passion for folk music from the Balkan, which he performs on stage in his own arrangements as a singer and accordionist.
Dances from Galánta (1930)
“Eja të vallëzojmë” (“Let’s dance”)
Orchestra Suites from the Ballets “Gayaneh” (1942) and “Spartacus” (1956) and Incidental Music for “Masquerade” (1940/44) (Selection)
“Igrajmo kolo” (“Let’s dance kolo”)
Symphony No. 1 in F-minor Op. 10 (1924-1925)
About the concert
This programme promises to add a special colour to this year’s Young Euro Classic. After all, few are familiar hereabouts with music from the Balkan, especially Albania – and even more especially when played on the çifteli, a long-necked lute! Folk music for accordion may seem just as exotic to a German audience. These two highlights will be framed by works chosen by conductor Desar Sulejmani for his Western Balkans Youth Orchestra for their colour, passion and melodic inventiveness. They begin with the popular Dances from Galánta by the Hungarian Zoltán Kodály, followed by an orchestra suite by the Armenian Arman Khachaturian consisting mainly of highlights from his famous ballets Spartacus and Gayaneh. The crowning finale, performed by these young musicians from the six non-EU Balkan countries, will be a stroke of genius composed by Dmitri Shostakovich when he was only 18.