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The Kolarac Endowment has hosted the best of the world’s classical music since 1933. Now the Studentski trg building needs renovation, though works are not in sight.
Every Sunday at 11am a hundred or so well-dressed older people, their grandchildren and some students come to the Kolarac Grand Hall to listen to domestic and foreign chamber music ensembles.
“Kolarac is more than just a concert hall or an educational institution; it is a stage for those who want to present their music to their peers, professors and the audience,” Jasna Dimitrijevic, director of Kolarac, says.
Junior college and high school music pupils who believe that the Grand Hall is too much of a challenge present their work in the Gallery on Wednesdays at 6pm.
The Grand Hall, Kolarac’s main attraction, has 880 seats and acoustics that are unrivalled between Budapest and Istanbul. It was built to host concerts of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra.
Giants of the Music Scene is a series of concerts that have significantly contributed to Kolarac’s international fame. The cycle consists of some 10 concerts a season, which feature top soloists and ensembles of Classical music.
Aside from its excellent acoustics, Kolarac is also known for its warm and welcoming audience. But this audience has specific characteristics.
The moment a concert is finished they rush from their seats and head for the bus or a late-night snack.
The short applause that comes as a consequence leaves many musicians puzzled, especially when they come to play extras and find that much of the audience has gone home.
“People here are taught not to show emotion in public. We also have a fear of doing something that may contrast with the general norm,” says Dimitrijevic when asked why the audience never gives standing ovations, even when they are clearly deserved.
Kolarac is also an open university, where within 15 academic departments an average of two presentations of scientific works take place every day.
According to Dimitrijevic, Kolarac mainly promotes scientific works that go beyond the regular academic curriculum. They also premiere book presentations.
“We also rent out our premises and that is one of the ways we finance ourselves,” she says.
According to Law on Endowments, adopted some months ago, Kolarac has to find 75 per cent of its funds on its own. The other 25 per cent comes from donations from the state, city and sponsors.
In the director’s opinion, the main problem is that the new law separates endowments, which are treated as privately set institutions, from the rest of cultural institutions that receive state funding.
“This is an old building and instead of investing in better programmes, we must pay electricity and heating bills and cover maintenance works on an 80-year-old building,” she says.
“We can most definitely say that our equipment does not match the quality of our programme”.
Concerts in the Giants cycle are always sold out well in advance. However, the most recent hits are concerts of regional orchestras.
Dimitrijevic thinks that it is important to offer the audience the best from the region. “That helps the artists know their real place in a picture which is bigger than their local area,” she says.
“For example, the Pika-Tocka-Tacka cycle brings together Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian philharmonics.
“Our Centre for Music, which makes programmes for the Giants, collaborates closely with the Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana and the Vatroslav Lisinski concert hall in Zagreb,” she adds.
“When we want to bring big stars to the region it is most cost-effective if they come to all three cities after performing tours in Vienna and Budapest.”
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