Western Balkans Youth Orchestra

© Ulrike Schumann

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 mainly 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 and now returns for its third appearance.


Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and others
August 16, 2024 8 PM

Konzerthaus Berlin

Desar Sulejmani

© Mimoza Veliu

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.



Overture to “La Forza del Destino” (1862)


“O papagaio do moleque” (1932)


from the Western Balkans region in new orchestra arrangements


“Pictures at an Exhibition” (1874, orchestrated by Sergey Gorchakov)

Celebrate with us and the Western Balkans Youth Orchestra at the audience party after the concert – if the construction work on the Gendarmenmarkt allows it.

About the concert

Music as a language uniting peoples – a popular phrase in politicians’ speeches. There are, however, truly apposite examples for the truth of this claim: Daniel Barenboim’s West Eastern Divan Orchestra is one of them, and the West Balkans Youth Orchestra (WBYO), which now returns to Young Euro Classic for its third appearance, another. However, it takes significant effort from all quarters to enable the young musicians make music together. The WBYO and its director Desar Sulejmani, a German with Albanian roots, put their faith in colourful programmes which always integrate the music of their homelands – and thus it is again this summer, when new arrangements of rock and pop hits of the region will be heard in orchestral versions. The evening opens with an appetizer, the overture to Verdi’s opera La forza del destino, while the second half features Modest Mussorgsky’s cycle Pictures at an Exhibition – not in the highly familiar orchestration by Maurice Ravel, but in the much more “Russian” instrumentation created by Sergey Gorchakov in 1955. During the 25th festival edition, this means another premiere at Young Euro Classic!

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