Gabriel Feltz, from East Berlin to Belgrade Philharmonic

The first time I set my foot in Belgrade I got arrested. That was in 2009 when I was supposed to conduct the Belgrade Philharmonic performing Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. As it turned out, it was a case of bad luck!

I was arrested at the airport because I forgot my passport. Two, very strong policewomen escorted me to the plane back to Germany. I got a new opportunity the next day and made it to Serbia with a proper travel document. This was the only time I was arrested in my life, and it was definitely a weird experience. But, this case of bad luck has turned into an excellent cooperation with an orchestra that I fell in love with at first sight. Now, I am the proud principal conductor of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra.

Apart from the Orchestra, which is infectiously good, Belgrade is a city that wins you over pretty quickly too. I was born in East Berlin which heavily influenced by personal development and education. I have immediately noticed the similarities between Berlin and Belgrade – they both have character and similar dynamic. People are very fast, and I would say that both cities are great for students.

My profession entails frequent traveling, which, in turn, gives me an opportunity to meet new cultures. But I love that. I love seeing how local people live. Now, that I am a principal conductor, I have decided to learn Serbian language as a sign of respect for the best Serbian philharmonic orchestra that is really world-level. I have started with the Serbian lessons four months ago, and I have them as much as my free time permits. Since I am curious to get to know this country better, I took a trip to Novi Sad on weekend. The people jokingly told me that I would understand Serbian language much better there because they talk slower in Novi Sad, but I did not notice that. I am trying really hard to practice my Serbian and to speak it, but unfortunately people talk to me in English which doesn’t help much.

Last week, I had my first concert with the Belgrade Philharmonic, after my appointment as the principal conductor. Officially, I am going to be appointed the principal conductor as of next season though. However, being the head of something doesn’t change anything, in my opinion. We are all focused on one thing – creating music. One could argue that the position of principal conductor is like being a football coach – both have to find ways to motivate their teams while trying to accomplish the best possible results. I did not think twice when I was offered to become the principal conductor. I love the mentality of this orchestra which makes it quite unique. The Belgrade Philharmonic has soul and an incredible presence on stage. The musicians are very passionate about their music, which is something that I love.

I hear that you have a vintage car race every year. I really want to see that because I am a great fan of vintage cars. I would like to go on a trip with my motorbike once, from Dortmund to Belgrade, weather permitting. The journey would last a few days, and it would be a great fun.

Gabriel Feltz

Prinicipal Conductor of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra

(Blic, 08.02.2017)

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