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Beleaguered orchestra advertises for conductor on Facebook

The Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra has placed the following advert on its Facebook page. It is supposed to be a satirical protest by the orchestra’s director Ivan Tasovac against the new laws for public procurement, but it suggests something of the anarchy prevalent in an organisation that cannot keep its conductors.



Here’s a translation from the Balkans Daily:

- Belgrade Philharmonic announces tender for hiring a conductor for concert performance of first, third and fourth acts of Brahms (we will not perform second acts in the future, because they are usually slow and boring).

- Persons who will take part in tender should have a pleasant looks, and own a dark suit, white shirt and black bow-tie.

- It is desirable but not obligatory for persons applying to have their own conductor’s baton (stick or branch of similar length and width). The interested parties must supply a confirmation signed by two witnesses that they have experience in tying laces on dark shoes (offers by parties wearing moccasins will not be taken into consideration).

- Persons who take part in the tender must be over 18 years old, and Belgrade Philharmonic will, as a sign of support by the Ministry of Culture, start negotiations with the Institute for mental health in order to fulfill necessary conditions so that the tender committee can get their permanent offices in Palmoticeva street where the Institute is located.


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  1. “it suggests something of the anarchy prevalent in an organisation that cannot keep its conductors.” – sorry, NL, but it suggests nothing of the sort. This is very typical Yugo-humour, which any layperson in Serbia would recognise – a sign of business as usual, not anarchy (unless one considers anarchy as ‘business as usual’ – which is very often the case…)

  2. i really have no clue what is going on behind the curtains at Belgrade philharmonics, but somehow you seem to be trying to find a story where there is none. The story in this case actually, should’ve been a very funny way in which the orchestra is protesting the ridiculous changes in the law. This is the same orchestra which has had some extremely creative and funny marketing in the past. Like the “thanks for not coming” flash mob in the heart of Belgrade’s posh cafe’s district.
    Even if Tasovac is one of the worst dictators around, you cannot run away from the fact that he has managed to completely turn around the BPO in the last ten years, and transform it in one of the most reputable and popular cultural institutions in Serbia and region of former Yugoslavia. Their concerts in Belgrade are basically always sold out, and most of it already in subscription, when just some ten years ago, almost no one was coming to their concerts even for free. And all of this in Serbia.

  3. Branimir Pofuk says:

    Dear Norman,

    I kept my distance from this topic over the past few weeks, and even now it is not my intention to take anybody’s side in the story you linked above, again, to the words about the orchestra that “cannot keep its conductors”.

    I’ve known maestro Alexander Rahbari for a long time, since his time in Zagreb on the post of the chief-conductor of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra. When he quit that job and abruptly resigned, protesting against the way orchestra was managed by their director at that time, I covered the story extensively and gave him my full support as a commentator because I was convinced he was right and had the case.

    I’ve met Mr. Ivan Tasovac, director of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra when I went to Belgrade to report the following story:
    which was reported worldwide:–bar-mitzvahs-one-of-europes-leading-orchestras-1724475.html

    Well, after reading this you will easily realize that it is simply one of Mr. Tasovac’s very effective ways to attract very wide public attention to the problems of the BPO and cultural institutions in Serbia and the region generally, and to get support for the orchestra he is managing.

    Also, I will remind you of the following significant story which you readily and generously forwarded on your site:

    That project is still going on, Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra played for the second time in Belgrade last autumn, and Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra will be welcomed soon in Zagreb for the second time as well, after their last season first post-war guest performance under their chief-conductor maestro Muhai Tang was a real triumph.

    As I said, I do not want to, and will not take sides, but, with all due respect, I’m very much interested to get simple facts straight here because I appreciate very much maestro Rahbari’s artistic stature as a conductor, quality and enthusiasm of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, Mr. Tasovac’s abilities as the manager of that orchestra, and your otherwise very meticulous reporting on this website.

    Unlike in Zagreb, Maestro Rahbari DID NOT WALK AWAY in protest from the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, and he never said so by himself. But, he was a permanent guest conductor whose following dates with the orchestra were canceled by Mr. Tasovac’s office. Therefore, the phrase about “the anarchy prevalent in an organisation that cannot keep its conductors” is simply not true.

    Also, I find it really not fair and rather offending than witty to insist on referring to the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra in all the recent titles here as to “the beleaguered orchestra” – unless you had been referring to just one more cultural institution in the world being truly beleaguered by not so friendly and not so supporting political and economic surroundings. Yet, the BPO is managing to find more and more friendly audience and to attract more and more financial support from sponsors.
    In the world of orchestras being shut down elmost every week this could be a good news for a change, don’t you think so?
    With the best regards to all from Zagreb, Croatia.

    • Free Musicians says:

      Dear Mr. Pofuk
      We admire Maestro Rahbari.
      We like Ivan Tasovac.
      And you are very respected Journalist in our society too.
      Therefore we would like to explain:
      The situation was Theoretically but not practically how you have written
      When Maestro Rahbari made in his best time with orchestra his speech to us( about 90 musicians) and after that to the audience blaming behavior of Ivan Tasovac It was clear and obvious for everybody that he knows he will go away.
      He has received the warmest and longest applause we had ever for anybody else.
      After that Ivan Tasovac has cancelled the concerts.
      Now, the situation remain as follow:
      We have not so much possibilities left.
      We have lost maestro Rahbari our best conductor we had ever before.
      Although we have understanding for Maestro Rahbari criticisms we think maybe for this part of the World are still too early.
      Therefore we have to keep our Ivan Tasovac with the hope that he find for us BETTER PRINCIPAL CONDUCTOR THAN MUHAI TANG..
      The majority of musicians don’t wish to continue with Muhai Tang .

      We appreciate always your professionalism and objectivity .
      With warmest Regards
      3 Musicians

  4. Michael Muller says:

    Dear Norman
    As i wrote before , i am researching and writing about the situations of state subsidized orchestras especially the roll of their directors and conductors.
    Since 4 weeks i am also very much attracted to the situation in Belgrade Philharmonic and reading the comments in Artsjournal..
    By reading many comments, one figure out that Mr. Tasovac in compare to many others, is very much concentrated on his own image and outside of orchestra.
    Continuously with advertisements and sensationalising every simple program, he mightily impressed the media.
    This has been, and remain his first priority, very often even not very serious way .
    To the contrary maestro Rahbari is known as extremely disciplined and very serious personality.
    How could they work 3 years together at all, remain an enigma?
    Mr. Pofuk is astonishingly the only journalist who reacted to this case.
    Astonishingly because the main goal and targets of directors like Mr. Tasovac are media
    Superficially speaking he talks about the progresses which are made in the time of Mr. Tasovac . Of course from outside everything seems totally correct.
    I suppose there are many people like him who are also affected deeply by these outsides images but have no idea from the insiders.
    Only the informations which arecoming out from inside of the orchestra give us totally another picture of this director.
    May i quote some of the comments:
    1- the musicians are very much afraid of Mr. Tasovac.
    2-Whatever he decides , they have to accept , if not, they are considered as his enemy.
    3- The orchestra has not a real functioning artistic commission.
    4-The orchestra has not a real artistic director.
    5-They have not a functioning union .trade or labor.
    6- Many cultural institutions especially radio and Television are not interested to work with the Belgrade Philharmonic because of Mr. Tasovac.
    7-The projects which the name or picture of Mr.Tasovac are not involved are also not welcome.
    8-No recordings in the international market because of Tasovac
    9-The programs are made mostly superficially because of Tasovac
    10- The musicians were never asked if they do like to continue with Muhai Tang
    11-Every projects are concentrated on image of Mr. Tasovac.
    12- No real tour was made because of him
    13- Many good Artists left the orchestra because of him.
    14- One is busy with populistic ideas and les with classical programs because of him
    15- Instead of playing more Mozart, Haydn or Serbian compositions they play 5 times new years concerts, even the islamic one which does not exist even in any other islamic countries (with my informations, there is nowhere celebration of islamic new year)
    These are the real problems of State subsidized orchestra of Belgrade.
    What in between the minister of culture is doing is to us totally unknown.

    • Branimir Pofuk says:

      Dear Mr. Muller, it seems that you have no hesitations and reservations when it comes to make the final conclusions and judgements such as:
      “These are the real problems of State subsidized orchestra of Belgrade”. Really? Based on exclusively the comments published here? Any other sources consulted? Every heard this great orchestra playing? Did you know that there is more than one subsidized orchestra in Belgrade?
      If comments published here were the only source and material of your “research” than it’s clear why it is to you “totally unknown what in between the minister of culture is doing”. But, by that statement you did indicate one of the most important questions in this matter: really, what in between the minister of culture is doing and who is he, anyway?
      Dear Mr. Muller, for the sake of research it would be really illuminating to get some answers to these questions. Good night and good luck!

  5. Alexander Rahbari says:

    Dear Mr. Muller
    In spite of whole complimentary words about me , i have to say that i do agree with Mr. Pofuk.
    First of all ,it seems to me that you don’t know Mr. Branimir Pofuk.
    Mr. Pofuk is highly respected , widely-known and all round talented Croatian journalist.
    He is the person who, with courage and love did everything possible to bring the Croat and Serb closer to each other
    As an expert he wrote fairly that in this case he doesn’t want to take part .
    To your comment he says , with the results of some comments one can not write a book about an orchestra.
    I do agree ,the comments were open opinions about one person who in really has nothing to do with the quality of players.
    I know some orchestras in Spain where the directors even don’t know anything about music , but his musicians are playing very good.
    In many orchestras the directors change every 2 or 3 years but not the quality of players .
    He is right and certainly very worried that in between one forget the quality of an excellent orchestra.
    From my side repeatedly i have mentioned how wonderful 3 years experiences i had with this great orchestra.
    He says also that Belgrade has not only one orchestra .
    Yes, he is right and one can not compare the quality of Belgrade Phil. with any other orchestras from ex yugoslavia.
    The quality of Belgrade Philharmonic is so high that even with very medium conductors they play excellent.
    With lowest salary you can compare them to the highest orchestras in Europe.

    I hope now you will write differently.
    Best wishes
    Alexander Rahbari

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