ECA Lifetime Achievement Award
by Andrija Blagojević
On 12 February, 2016, in Belgrade, Serbia, President of the European Clarinet Association (ECA) Stephan Vermeersch awarded distinguished Serbian clarinettist Milenko Stefanović, a week before his 86th birthday, with the European Clarinet Association Honorary Membership for Lifetime Achievements in Performance, Teaching and Professional Service. Professor Stefanović is the second person since the ECA founding who received its highest award.
During his extensive career, Stefanović has performed throughout Europe, as well as in Africa and North America, and was recognized as “an artist endowed with unusually comprehensive and sensitive gift of interpretation”, and “a remarkably virtuoso performer” (The Daily Telegraph), and as “an outstanding musician" (The Yorkshire Post). Stefanović was a long-time principal clarinettist of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, the major Serbian orchestra, and, at the time, one of the top European orchestras, and served as the president of the Association of Musical Artists of Serbia. He has also achieved successful international career as a soloist. The BBC broadcasted several of his performances, including those with the BBC Concert Orchestra and with the British pianist Eric Hope, with whom Stefanović had several concert tours. Stefanović’s performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with The Pro Arte Orchestra in the newly opened Queen Elisabeth Hall in London was praised by the critics: "(...) the musical event of the evening was Milenko Stefanovic's performance of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. The soloist's breath control, tonal quality and mastery of phrase and paragraph were such that the work seemed to be taking shape on the spot. I have heard a few outstanding performances of this work, but never one so inspired as this." (Music and Musicians)
(In one of his interviews, Stefanović mentioned that specific performance explaining that he had been additionally inspired that day because it was the birthday of his son Predrag, who later became a professional clarinettist. – Author’s Note)
Also a jazz musician, Stefanović was one of few artists honored to perform Copland’s Clarinet Concerto under the baton of Maestro Copland (1961).
Stefanović wrote numerous jazz pieces and some film music. Contemporary clarinet music by Bergamo, Despić, Obradović, Osghian, Radić and others, written for, premiered and recorded by Stefanović, became standard part of the repertoire of clarinettists worldwide. Bergamo’s Concerto abbreviato for clarinet solo, dedicated to Milenko Stefanović, was first performed on Stefanović’s concert tour in the UK, in Autumn 1965. Two years later, one of pieces performed by Stefanović and the BBC Concert Orchestra, in the BBC Gala Concert Hall program, was the finale of Concertino by Dušan Radić, dedicated to Milenko Stefanović. The first broadcasted performance in the UK of Microsonata for solo clarinet by Aleksandar Obradović, dedicated to Stefanović, was, in 1973, the performance of Milenko Stefanović. The same applies to Obradović‘s Clarinet Concerto (written in 1958 for Stefanović’s professor Bruno Brun), performed by Stefanović at the 1970 Karajan Festival in Berlin and broadcasted the next year, for the first time in UK, by the BBC Radio 3; while the record with Stefanović’s performance of that Concerto received a commendable review in The Clarinet journal and was mentioned in The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet.
Also successful as a teacher, Stefanović was considered “the most outstanding Yugoslavian clarinet professor of our day“ and “the leading clarinetist in Serbia and a prominent teacher.” (The Clarinet) He was the first clarinet professor at the University of Priština, as well as clarinet professor and vice-chancellor of the University of the Arts in Belgrade.
Stefanović was a top-prize winner and finalist in the competitions in Geneva, Ljubljana, Moscow, Munich, Prague, Sarajevo and Skopje, and was awarded numerous acknowledgements for his achievements by the state institutions of Serbia and the former Yugoslavia. In 2010 the Association of Musical Artists of Serbia awarded him with The Lifetime Achievement Award. Three years later, Stefanović was awarded the most prestigious award given by the International Clarinet Association – its Honorary Membership for Lifetime Achievements in Performance, Teaching and Professional Service.
On 26 October, 2015, the Serbian Business Registers Agency registered the National Serbian Clarinet Association (NSCA, Serbian: Nacionalna srpska klarinetistička asocijacija) by decision BU 8694/2015, as a nonprofit organization, for activities in the areas of culture, arts, science and education. The main aims of the NSCA, declared in its Founding Act and Statute, include assembling Serbian clarinettists interested in researching the clarinet and clarinet literature, organizing clarinet-related events, and collaborating with foreign clarinettists and clarinet associations.
Leadership of the Association was elected keeping in mind professional, educational, geographic, national and ethnic diversity.
The Board of Directors consists of:
- Predrag Nedeljković, bass clarinettist of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra;
- Milan Orlović, principal clarinettist of the Niš Military Orchestra;
- Darko Perčević, clarinet teacher at Music School “Stevan Mokranjac” in Negotin, who earned his master’s degree from the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste in Switzerland and is currently pursuing his post-master’s degree at the University of the Arts in Belgrade;
- Mihailo Samoran, second and E-flat clarinettist of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra and doctoral student in both clarinet performance and chamber music at the University of the Arts in Belgrade; and
- Andrija Blagojević, clarinet professor at the University in Kosovska Mitrovica and the International Clarinet Association National Chairperson for Serbia, who serves as president of the NSCA Board.
Board members of the autonomous Youth section were appointed, consisting of undergraduate and graduate students from across the country.
Commission for acceptance into membership was also created. According to the NSCA Statute, only professional clarinettists who perform classical music can be regular members of the NSCA. Other clarinettists and clarinet lovers can join as associate or student members.
An international advisory council of the NSCA was formed, composed of distinguished musicians, with diverse approaches to performing, researching and teaching, all of them recognized experts in their fields. The Council members are Nicholas Cox, Heike Fricke, James Gillespie, Andrea Massimo Grassi, Alan R. Kay, Jože Kotar, Milan Milošević, Jean-Marie Paul, Kyrill Rybakov, Vladimir Skorokhodov, Robert Spring, Stephan Vermeersch, Eva Wasserman-Margolis, Anton Weinberg and Floyd Williams.