The Western Balkans Youth Orchestra is a very young orchestra: it was founded at the end of 2019 by Desar Sulejmani. It includes young music students from the six non-EU countries of the Western Balkan (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia). 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. A first concert tour in the spring of 2020 had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. The Western Balkans Youth Orchestra then made its concert debut in autumn 2021 with three concerts in Pristina, Skopje and Tirana. The orchestra’s Young Euro Classic debut in 2022 is the finale of its summer working phase, which also includes concerts in Pristina, Skopje, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo and Novi Sad.
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 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 recently 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. Since 2014 he has been the artistic director of the European Summer Music Academy in Kosovo; in 2019 he founded the Western Balkans Youth Orchestra.
Born in 1986, the Albanian composer Gerti Druga studied composition with Thoma Gagi at the Albanian University of the Arts in Tirana. In 2010 he won the National Competition in Albania with a work dedicated to Mother Theresa. In 2012 Druga received the First Prize in the National Competition for the Centenary of Albanian Independence. In 2013 he composed his Albanian Rhapsody as a commission for the 125-year anniversary of the Cologne Orchestra Society. In addition, Druga has written numerous works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestra and chorus, as well as the scores for several short and documentary films, including the film Amanet (2014). From 2015 to 2021 he was artistic director of the Albanian State Folk Music Ensemble, for which he composed the musical theatre work Trimat e Jutbinës in 2016. Through the end of 2021 he was professor of composition at the Universities in Shkodra and Tirana. Druga moved to Versailles, France, in 2020.
”From Holberg’s Time” Suite in the Old Style in G-Major Op. 40 (1884)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1830, Version for String Orchestra)
”Feathers of sorrow” for String Orchestra (2022, German premiere) 🏆
Seven Variations on a Theme by Girolamo Frescobaldi (1937)
Chamber Symphony Op. 110a (1960, arr. Rudolf Barshai)
About the concert
It may seem hardly out of its nappies, but its professionalism and ambition cannot be denied: the Western Balkans Youth Orchestra, founded in 2019, now makes its Young Euro Classic debut. The young musicians come from the six non-EU states of the Western Balkan (from Serbia to Montenegro to Albania) and they have chosen an ambitious programme. The first part is dedicated entirely to the 19th century – with the enjoyable Holberg Suite by Edvard Grieg and Frédéric Chopin’s First Piano Concerto, in which conductor Desar Sulejmani will also play the solo part. After the intermission, they take the leap into the 20th and 21st century; here the first discovery is a brand-new work by the Albanian composer Gerti Druga. This is followed by an homage by Alexander Tansman, a native Russian living in France, to the Venetian composer Girolamo Frescobaldi. The weighty finale is the Chamber Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich, a moving piece of sorrow and lamentation which the composer declared his own Requiem while writing it in 1960.
The concert will be recorded and broadcasted German wide on August, 18th on 20:03 in “Konzert” by Deutschlandfunk Kultur – through Dlf Audiothek app, UKW, DAB+ and deutschlandfunkkultur.de