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Eight cellos to honor legendary musician

FOR ADRIAN RAJTER, describing what his father was like as a musician is no easy task.
"Asking that question is a bit like opening a Pandora's Box," he joked to The Slovak Spectator.
Adrian's father was Ľudovít Rajter, the iconic composer, conductor and educator, whose illustrious career spanned six decades. In arguably his greatest contribution to Slovak culture, Rajter co-founded the Slovak Philharmonic, where, as principal conductor from 1949-1976, he worked tirelessly to promote contemporary Slovak music.

FOR ADRIAN RAJTER, describing what his father was like as a musician is no easy task.

"Asking that question is a bit like opening a Pandora's Box," he joked to The Slovak Spectator.

Adrian's father was Ľudovít Rajter, the iconic composer, conductor and educator, whose illustrious career spanned six decades. In arguably his greatest contribution to Slovak culture, Rajter co-founded the Slovak Philharmonic, where, as principal conductor from 1949-1976, he worked tirelessly to promote contemporary Slovak music.

"My father was part of the Old World, from the Romantic Period, and a lover of the classics, but he understood we can't always play the music of the past," Rajter said.

This week, eight of the world's most extraordinary cellists will gather in Bratislava to perform Cello Colosseum, a tribute in honor of the 100th anniversary of Ľudovít Rajter's birth.

The concert is part of the Convergence Chamber Music Festival, an international event founded seven years ago by Slovak cello virtuoso Jozef Lupták, that will take place September 14-17.

"Jozef had always wanted to perform an instrumental chamber work featuring only cellos, and it just so happened my father, a cellist himself, composed some octets,"Rajter said.

The concert's guests embody a virtual Who's Who of cello masters. As well as Lupták, the list includes Slovaks Eugen Prochác, Ján Slávik and Andrej Gál, French cellist Ladislav Szathmáry, Hungarian player Tamás Mérei, Czech cellist Vladan Kočí and the superb British cellist Robert Cohen.

Cohen studied with the legendary British pedagogue William Pleeth, whose revolutionary teachings on technique and interpretation have inspired generations. As a teenager, Cohen learned from another Pleeth protégé, the great Jacqueline du Pré.

"I first met Jozef [Lupták] thirteen years ago and am amazed at how he's grown as an artist. He's extremely versatile, a warm communicator and excellent at improvising, which is rare for classical musicians. It's been fascinating to work with him on Rajter's cello octets, which combine seriousness with such an obvious light-heartedness," Cohen said.

The Cello Colosseum concert will take place in the pristine Hall of Mirrors at the Primate's Palace near Bratislava's Main Square, but the rest of the festival will occur at the new Design Factory building, on Bottova Street, near the Mlynské Nivy bus station.

One of Convergence's main themes is the combination of classical music with visual art: in this case, modern architecture.

The festival's other concerts include a cello duo featuring Cohen and Lupták; Irish group Puck Fair, with whom Lupták has recorded several critically acclaimed albums of Celtic music; a 250-100-50 concert celebrating the birthdays of Mozart, Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and contemporary Slovak composer Vladimír Godár; and the Veni ensemble performing works by contemporary Slovak minimalist composers.

"Vladimír Godár is an excellent example of the color and creativity the contemporary Slovak music scene has to offer," Rajter said. "Others get caught in the joy of making music rather than communicating."

And that's what made Ľudovít Rajter so special.

"My father was a perfect craftsman who insisted on communicating in the composer's language. He never projected himself onto the music, which perhaps makes him sound humble, but his experience as a composer gave him this sensitivity."


What: Convergence Chamber Music Festival
When: September 14-17
Where: Hall of Mirrors, Primate's Palace (September 14);
Design Factory on Bottova Street (September 15-17)
For more information, visit www.konvergencie.sk

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