The tamboura has been taught as a standalone subject at the Zagreb academy for some thirty years, and last year a tamboura module was opened. Professor Leopold teaches ensemble tamboura, while professor Škorvaga teaches tamboura soloists.
Siniša Leopold was one of the members of a panel of judges at the IV Tamboura Instrumental Festival in Subotica. He has served as the head conductor of national broadcaster Croatian Radio-Television’s tamburitza orchestra for thirty-two years and is a composer and a lecturer at Zagreb’s Academy of Music. He has penned arrangements for several hundred works for tamburitza ensembles, bands and orchestras. He is a musician who most enjoys playing the tamboura samica, a professor and, as of last year, a senior lecturer at Zagreb’s Academy of Music. We interviewed him on the occasion of the Subotica event.
You were a member of the panel of judges for the IV Tamboura Instrumental Festival in Subotica, featuring competitors from many places. What is your assessment of the competition?
I am confident that even Pajo Kolarić, the founder of the first tamburitza orchestra back in 1847 in Osijek, and the brilliant legendary prima player Janika Balaž would be delighted with what these young, excellent tamburitza players have shown here in their performances. The general assessment? It will soon be two hundred years that the tamburitza has been shown and proven the world over as an excellent orchestral instrument, but over the past twenty years it has increasingly become a real, true artistic instrument on which artistic music is performed with great success. I am very satisfied because we see that the tamboura has promise in this direction towards being a true artistic, solo instrument. These truly young players demonstrated extraordinary technique. The tamboura is quickly approaching the status of instruments that have long been globally established in the field of classical music; instruments like the violin, piano, guitar and flute have to date have an inaccessible primacy in technical playing. Tamboura players are showing that all this can be achieved with the tamboura. The general impression is very satisfactory.
You and Veljko Valentin Škorvaga teach the tamboura at Zagreb’s music academy. Does the academy offer a core tamboura study programme?
The tamboura has been taught as a standalone subject at the Zagreb academy for some thirty years, and last year we opened a tamboura module. Professor Škorvaga and I teach some subjects related to tamburitza music, I teach ensemble tamboura, while he focuses on tamboura soloists. We will very soon see if this module constitutes a short interlude or if it has staying power. I hope to see it run for perhaps a year or two and then transition into a department, into a multi-year complete course of study of the tamboura. The lecture course I have taught for thirty-three years educates tamboura methodologists, those who enrol in the eighth department at the Music Academy, music pedagogues, who work in the lecture course exclusively on the methodology of working with tamburitza orchestras. I work with them so that they are best prepared for practical leadership of tamburitza groups. This module develops and teaches tamboura soloists, while the ensembles lecture course is a place where tamburitza players very studiously study chamber music. Thus we have duets, trios – right up to nonets, where students play brilliant music, and we work in detail on individual performances and compositions. The module is a transitional phase that offers a three-year study programme for the tamboura as a solo and ensemble instrument at which students gain an academic title and knowledge, and that aspires to become a complete programme of study for the tamboura as a solo and orchestra instrument. This is a transitional phase that should quickly transition into a multi-year study programme. We now have ten students, which is one complete ensemble with which one can perform even the most demanding works and complete scores of some ten parts created by our greatest composers. By the next autumn, when another five to six students are expected to enrol, we will have a complete orchestra of sixteen top tamboura players where we will be in a position to showcase the tamboura as an instrument for solo, duet and quartet performances, as the most demanding form in chamber music.
By: Nela Skenderović