Violin virtuoso Stefan Milenković is “Serbia’s Artist of the Century”. Known for both his humanity and talent, Milenkovićh “enjoys a thriving career as an internationally sought-after soloist and recitalist, with extraordinary professionalism and creativity”. He seemed happy to be performing in Belgrade among “his people“. Milenkovićh appeared Sunday with the Muzikon Chamber Orchestra, a popular local artistic multimedia ensemble. He spoke in Serbian, but by observing the audience, it was easy to understand the gist of his words.
Program and Venue
The sold out “tea party” concert was held at dusk in Belgrade Botanical Garden, and I was happy to attend. The weather was perfect, and chairs were arranged in an intimate, almost magical setting in front of a small stage near the arboretum greenhouse. Muzikon Chamber Orchestra opened the concert with Serenade for Strings by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, followed by famous Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, performed with guest soloist Milenković.
I became aware of Piazzolla during a May 2015 visit to Buenos Aires, where tango is a way of life. His Seasons is a lively take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, a composition that fascinates many composers. Milenkovićh’s portrayal of Piazzolla’s composition was brilliant!
Milenković Career and Accomplishments
As one of the “foremost violinists of his generation,” recounting Milenković’s impressive career and accomplishments would take a long time, and fill many blog posts! He’s performed for presidents and dignitaries, and appeared at the world’s most celebrated venues with renowned conductors and philharmonic orchestras. He teaches, records, and is artistic director for concert halls and music festivals all over the world.
“One of Serbia’s most talented musicians, at the age of 16, Milenković had already performed his 1,000th concert in Monterey Mexico. At the age of 10, he performed at the White House before the then President of the United States Ronald Reagan, for the President of Russia, Mikhail Gorbachev, and twice before Pope John Paul.”
Now 45, almost thirty years ago, Milenković realized “that in the Serbia of 1992, it was impossible to continue the path on which he had already earned a name and glory”. Milenković moved to Italy with his parents and performed there for five years. In 1997, he moved to New York City and remained for ten years, graduating from the prestigious Julliard School, where he also lectured.
For his commitment to international humanitarian causes, Milenkovićh received the Lifting Up the World With Oneness Heart award in 2002. He’s “participated in gala concerts under the auspices of UNESCO with such artists as Placido Domingo, Lorin Maazel, Alexis Weissenberg, and Sir Yehudi Menuhin”. Milenkovićh was named the “first Child Ambassador during the Balkan Wars in the early 90s”.
While living in New York City, Milenković taught in collaboration with Itzhak Perlman at Julliard and the Perlman Music Program. Later, Milenković accepted a position as Associate Professor of Violin at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Milenkovićh plays a 1783 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin. He and his wife Gorica have one son and live in Novi Sad Serbia, where Milenkovićh is Director of the new Novi Sad Concert Hall in the Music and Ballet School.
Muzikon Chamber Orchestra
Muzikon, an impressive group of young musicians, gave an exceptional performance. An “artistic multimedia ensemble, they promote quality, excellence, and creativity with a special focus on the original promotion of concert performances”. In addition to classical music, Muzikon “develops and performs other projects (digital concerts, interactive design, 3D mapping, and new technologies)”.
“The quality and flexibility of the Muzikon orchestra in several genres defines it as an artistic ensemble of the 21st century capable of all the demands of music production.”
Heartfelt applause brought Milenković back to the stage for an encore. He performed Spring from Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, but the audience wouldn’t let him go! Milenković generously delighted everyone by coming back for a second masterful encore, the theme from director Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. This piece was so beautiful, it almost brought tears to my eyes.
The concert was truly an evening well spent! I’m sad to be leaving Belgrade later this week for Istanbul, but have a feeling I’ll return.