The European Capital of Culture programme Heroines, which will deal with activism and women’s creativity during May and the first half of June, begins with a concert by the accordion heroine Neža Torkar, who will appear at the Synagogue on 18 May, premiering the piece by the distinguished Iranian composer Arshia Samsaminia titled ‘Matica’. Th concert of this young Slovenian artist of undisputed talent will open the 7th International Festival of Accordion and Chamber Music Eufonija, and before her arrival in Novi Sad, we talked about the performance she is preparing for our audience, but she also shed some light on how she manages the world of accordions, an instrument still predominantly played by men.
Neža Torkar is an award-winning accordionist who made her first musical steps as a child, and after attending the music high school in Ljubljana, she continued her education in Germany, where she is still building her career. Thanks to Via Nova, the contemporary music ensemble from Thüringen she is a part of, Neža Torkar is currently working with new composers and performing numerous premieres of chamber music and solo works in Germany, Italy, England, and South Korea.
You will take the stage in Novi Sad on 18 May with the world premiere of the work for accordion and orchestra by the prominent Iranian composer Arshia Samsaminia titled Matica, which was written especially for this occasion. How do you feel about the concert and how big is the responsibility of premiering works by composers of this calibre?
I feel good about the concert, and I am looking forward to rehearsals with such an exceptional orchestra and playing music with other fellow musicians. One of my projects is the ensemble for modern music Via Nova and we work a lot with contemporary composers, so we mostly play world premieres. As a soloist with an orchestra, it’s my first time premiering something like this, but I am happy and proud of it. It is a great honour for me to represent a composer of this calibre, but it also means great responsibility.
What is it that the audience will have the opportunity to hear, feel and experience at your concert?
In addition to Matica, I will also perform with the orchestra the Opale Concerto by the French composer and accordionist Richard Galliano. The concert is quite diverse, and in his works, you can feel a touch of Mediterranean origin, nostalgia, melancholy, and energetic tango rhythm. I will convey my emotions and passion to the audience with music. Freedom of interpretation and a lot of energy.
The 7th year of the festival is dedicated to the promotion of women in art who, with their energy and commitment, created the history of the accordion in 20th and 21st century music. How important is it for women musicians to be empowered in this way, especially when it comes to the accordion, which is still considered a male instrument today?
I am very happy that this festival is dedicated to the promotion of women. Any opportunity for female artists to prove that they are as valuable as male artists is welcome. There are a lot of women who constantly have to prove themselves and fight for the respect of their colleagues. Fortunately, today there are many more compositions for accordion, and there are more and more successful
women accordionists who are known in the world of music. With their sensibility and passion, they contribute a lot to the quality performance of the composition.
Did you always know what you were going to do and how did you step into the world of music?
I have been playing the accordion since the age of seven, as a child, I played a lot of sports and was interested in other school subjects. Anyway, I always wanted to enrol in the Music High School, and later the Academy. That’s why I started competing and playing concerts from an early age
Who were your role models at the beginning of your career, and who are your heroines today? Whose work would you single out?
At the beginning, my role models were various Slovenian accordionists and my teachers and professors Diana Simbera, Ernö Sebastian, Marko Hatlak… Later, while studying in Germany, the list included international musicians and artists.
You have won numerous awards at international accordion competitions and gatherings. In your opinion, how much do the awards you deservedly won represent inspiration and encouragement for further progress, and do they instil a dose of additional responsibility in you?
Competitions have their charm, they are important for every young musician, but we can also say that they are somehow a necessary evil because with each new concert you have to prove yourself again. Victories and awards certainly have a special meaning for each competitor, as they bring success and satisfaction, and at the same time, they are an indicator that you are on the right path and doing well. That is why it is an additional motivation to move forward, a confirmation that opens the door for some new concerts. They certainly carry with them additional responsibility, but this is just another proof that we need to work even harder and prepare.
Music, we believe, makes up the most of your daily routine. Can you tell us what other art you enjoy and what cultural events you don’t miss?
Music is a big part of my everyday life. Due to all my engagements, I don’t currently have much time for other things including art, especially since I participate in various projects. But in my projects, I collaborate a lot with other artists, architects, and video producers, so I can say that my everyday life is already a kind of cultural event.
Author: Marina Marić
Photo: Private archive