Pogorelic in Belgrade: Dreaming of a Concert

After almost 30 years, Pogorelic is back in Belgrade. The tickets were sold out after only three hours. The fact that they vanished in one afternoon tells us how much the audience longed for him and with what impatience he was welcomed in the city where he was born and where he started to play the piano. Seems like the urban legend and the revolutionist of Belgrade artistic life has resurrected and just continued his path from the point where he had stopped three decades ago. For the performances in those years his fans also needed an extra ticket or more precisely an adequate concert hall.

Back in the early 80’s, after the famous Chopin competition, Pogorelic’s career was ascending at a speeding dizzy tempo. The echo of Marta Argerich’s gesture, when she demonstratively left the jury of Wars contest (proclaiming him genius along the way) caused the chain reaction for which Ivo was most certainly prepared. Materialism and spirituality which he united, technical superiority in service of the sound, the fusion of the antipode categories which had no lack of eccentricity, made his interpretations unforgettable. With white and black keys the maestro rewrote the colorful history of pianism of the late 20th century. That history, in short, reflects in his performances in the most significant concert halls in the world, in cooperation with leading artists of today and numerous recordings he made for Deutsche Grammophon – this prestigious publishing house integrated all his works and published them again in 2015. It is interesting to see the photo that was chosen for the cover of the CD – the photo that shows exactly those rebellious beginnings of the future ‘’heir of Horowitz’’. Pogorelic in those times, long before Nigel, opened a new chapter in which a pianist gained the status of a pop star.

Everything I mentioned so far should be enough for a professional musician to want to listen to him playing. However, because of those now legendary records, my motivation was not only musical in nature. For the past 30 years the cult of Ivo Pogorelic’s personality has grown so much as if it got the mythical contours. And just when we stopped hoping that he would ever alight from ‘’the mountain Olympus’’, he magically appears on the Student Square.

I was not in Belgrade on the 13th of November when the tickets were available and did not manage to book my seat. In the meantime, I contacted my friends in order to solve the problem called ‘Kolarac Security’, but again without success. All the voices of the fugue had the same theme and counterpoint – you will not enter, in c minor. My experience in entering concerts without tickets from my high school and college days filled me with hope that nothing is impossible and that I should be there, at the scheduled time and place. Kolarac, 16.12. at 8pm.

Prelude of personalities. Ladies and self-confident gentlemen, retired people – once pillars of society, today marginal props – fake nobles, and true lovers and admirers of life and work of the pianist, journalists, students. Everyone with excitement in their eyes: visitors with tickets hoping that they will once more become the part of the history, and the rest of us empty handed dreaming that we will be so lucky to enter, despite everything.

After the audience slowly moved to the big hall with our looks on their backs, we realized that the determination of the security people not to let us in is not a subject of negotiation. Not even then, the persistent little people did not give up, we were waiting for a miracle. After all, the pause in the program always gives a new hope that the authorities will have mercy at the end. In the meantime the omnifarious conversation with the doorman is ‘’on air’’– Pogorelic, politics, sport, coldness. December in Belgrade can be nasty temperature wise. The clock hands were moving slowly. The first part of the concert was orchestral. Dvorak’s Symphony from the New World seemed like the overture that announced the new period between Pogorelić and the Belgrade audience. New world, new tickets, new Maestro.

However, nothing changed in the minutes before the second part of the concert started. Authority’s hearts had a December coldness and our position did not change. It became clear that if we really wanted to listen to the music of Pogorelić, we would need to find a portal, a wormhole, something that would remove the bricks and concrete which divides us from the main hall of Kolarac and from the story that that was happening there.

 Is this going to be another Ivo’s concert to remember? Will this concert after all the silent years maybe become the most significant one, not just because of the unique interpretation? Our relation with Pogorelic is far more emotional since he himself has a special bond with this city. After all, his first breath was in Belgrade, he made his first step here and learned the first note on the piano. I wanted to get all the answers from the first row… but instead of them – the policemen were in front of me. I guess that the group of people in front of Kolarac looked dangerous enough.


Chopins second piano concerto Pogorelic recorded in 1983. for Deutsche Grammophon with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Claudio Abado conducted. While I’m standing in 2017. only a few dozen meters away  from him while he’s performing the same piece, I’m taking a slow walk on the Student square, listening to the record he made 34 years ago. In a peculiar twist of time, space and music, from the cover of the CD a young man in jeans and snickers looks at me leisurely, just like he did back in the 80’s from the covers of Belgrade magazines. With dreamy, but argute look, hypersensitive, emotional, but by no means sentimental. Just like his music is.

Emel Hasanoglu

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