Published in Nacional number 700, 2009-04-14
Ivo Josipovic – presidential ambitions of an avant-garde composer
Josipovic is the author of 85 papers in the field of legal science, published in books and journals, and has written over 45 compositions, performed in Croatia and abroad, and recorded on a dozen CDs
A LEGAL EXPERT and composer, who has seen international success in both careers, is the likely SDP candidate for the presidential electionsIvo Josipovic (51), the long time president of the Zagreb Music Biennale, and a university professor, researcher, composer of contemporary music, legal expert on the Hague tribunal, Member of Parliament and a member of several government committees and commissions, has been active in Croatian social life for over 25 years now, but only recently came into the spotlight of public interest when he, to the surprise of many, showed his interest for the presidential nomination. Nobody, namely, expected of this refined and, in the opinion of some, insufficiently temperamental, professor, who plays the piano and several other instruments in his spare time, pens compositions like Samba da Camera, A Thousand Lotus and Tuba Ludens, and leads the Music Biennale, a move like this. Josipovic, however, feels that the time has come for exactly this kind of president – calm and composed. Which is why it is no surprise that he chose Art & Politics as the leitmotif of this year's 25th Zagreb Music Biennale, which runs from 17 to 26 April, combining all of his interests.
Josipovic is the author of 85 papers in the field of legal science, published in books and journals, and has written over 45 compositions, performed in Croatia and abroad, and recorded on a dozen CDs. Josipovic has the reputation of an exact and precise person, with great powers of concentration and the ability to listen, and while he gives no intimation in informal contacts of his "artistic recklessness", he does however reveal a different, less official side, not at all in the stripe of the legal beagle. We have learned, namely, that he drinks copious quantities of coffee, which he often brews himself, that he adores his daughter, that his wife is a very emancipated woman and that he has been intensively recording the most enchanting moments from his travels. He is currently, for example, fascinated by marine flora.
NACIONAL: Did you choose the theme Art & Politics for the jubilee 25th Music Biennale because they are themes you are very intimate with as a politician, legal expert, composer and possible presidential candidate?
- The Zagreb Music Biennale always has a featured theme. The fact that I am also a politician did, however, affect the choice of topic, which brings together art and politics. I saw that with the coming of the economic crisis that society has become very much politicised. Everyone, artists included, has something to say about the transformation of society that is inevitably coming. Berislav Sipus, the art director, accepted this line of thought. We have, however, avoided petty politics. The time that is coming will be one of reassessing many social values. Art will make its contribution with its social messages. The works we have selected for the Zagreb Music Biennale bear the message of peace, non-aggression, social justice and will send a musical message of optimism from Zagreb. The articulation of the message differs, depending on the aesthetic approach each artist takes; from the reinterpretation of Kafkaesque pessimism in Berislav Sipus' and Stasa Zurovac's ballet Process, to the optimistic Music-Diversion project in which young people from Croatia, Germany and Italy are taking part.
NACIONAL: When putting together the event programme, did you have in mind the idea that we live in the time of spectacles and "Big Brother"?
- We tried to show a great wealth of contemporary music. That is why we also have classic forms, such as ballet and opera, but also street happenings and multimedia projects. The Process-Music projects, a Canadian electronic music concert or the electronic jazz in the Trondheym project are of a high level of technical proficiency, and correspond with the latest trends in music. And the people who come to see the Biennale are also various. From the "classical", to those who lament to the sounds of electronic music deep into the night in some corner of the Student Centre. This diversity, and the size of the audiences, is a great source of joy to me. I am always proud to point out that more people come to the concerts in the Biennale week than to all of the premiere league football matches in Zagreb. Except, of course, when Hajduk come to play. In fact, the presumptions about the Biennale as a group of freaks who pour water into a piano melts away before the fact that the festival events are seen by almost ten thousand people, from those we include in the "high protocol", to numerous students and pupils. The Music Biennale has grown to be a festival of global significance, to which a European culture award bears witness.
NACIONAL: Can you give us a short introduction to the most representative of the forty festival events?
- I can say without a doubt that without the Zagreb Music Biennale and its collaboration with the Croatian LEGAL CAREER Ivo Josipovic and his family at his 1980 graduation ceremony at the Faculty of LawNational Theatre there would practically be no new Croatian operas. The new opera Crux Dissimulata, composed by Srecko Bradic, a teacher at the Music Academy, with a libretto by writer Ivan Vidic, directed by Kreso Dolencic, which is to open the Biennale, has a strong social message and reminds me a little of Berg's Wozzeck. It tells the tale of a declassed family, destroyed by destitution, alcohol, usury and an unjust judiciary. The ballet Process, composed by Berislav Sipus and choreographed by Stasa Zurovac, patterned on Kafka's work, is the result of the collaboration of the Biennale and the Opera section of the Ivan pl. Zajc Croatian National Theatre in Rijeka. I would also mention in particular the Beijing Symphony Orchestra and brilliant percussionist Li Biao. Along with the works of prominent Chinese composers, they will also give a premiere performance of a composition by young Croatian composer Ante Knesaurek. Also performing is Josef Nagy, very popular among youth, with his choreo-musical project Sho-bo-benz-zo. Nagy is the director of the Centre Chorégraphique National d'Orléans, which has earned the reputation of a first class theatre under his leadership. He works in both theatre and graphic art, is the co-director of the festival in Avignon and the head of the Regional Creative Atelier in Kanjiza.
NACIONAL: There is a great deal of talk already about the opera Srebrenica, by Croatian-German composer Miro Dobrowolny. How appropriate for opera is this tragic massacre?
- Wars and great tragedies have always been the topic of operas. The opera, besides paying homage to the victims of this horrid genocide, carries an important social message. The central character of the opera, the butcher, dancer and motorcyclist Ahmo, survives the slaughter. He returns to Srebrenica and has not lost hope in this dark world. He continues his dancing course and organises motorcycling meetings. He dreams a utopian dream that art will overcome all horrors and help people live together again. Is there anything more humane?
NACIONAL: Are you inspired as a composer by the political situation?
- No, politics have no influence on my music, at least not at the level of consciousness. I see it very abstractly. Even when my compositions bear very figurative titles, such as Epicurus' Garden, Dream Meetings or Glass Pearl Games, there is a very abstract understanding of art behind them, based, above all, on emotions. My musical philosophy is based on the idea that art is something nice, something the author, performer and listener should enjoy. I am happiest when I see that the musicians play with enthusiasm, with a smile on their face, and when someone in the audience taps their feet or sways to the rhythm of the music.
NACIONAL: In fact the general public knows you least as a composer, regardless of the fact that you are the recipient of many awards and that your compositions have resounding name like Drmes for Penderecki for tamburitza and orchestra, or Parish Fête for two pianos and strings. What have you composed in recent years and where are your compositions performed?
- The kind of music I write does not have broad popularity. I have been composing less frequently over the past few years, mostly chamber music, for piano, string quartets, the organ. I am often asked THE WORLD FAMOUS COMPOSER With Polish composer Krzysztof Pendereckiwhether I regret not dedicating myself entirely to music. Then there would be more compositions. But I also enjoy other things, law above all, and now politics. If I though I was a Mozart, I would certainly drop everything and only compose. But I know I am not, so I do everything that provides me satisfaction. My compositions are performed very frequently, both in the country and abroad. Several of my compositions have become repertoires pieces, such as Samba da Camera for strings, which has also been adapted for four guitars and guitar and vocals. Glass Pearl Games is also on the programmes of some twenty pianists. These compositions have been performed by ensembles and soloists from Croatia, Switzerland, Poland, the USA, Russia, Germany, Bulgaria, Japan… The compositions have been recorded on twenty CD editions.
NACIONAL: You work in three, at first glance, incompatible activities – the legal sciences, politics and music. It is said of you that you are an excellent legal expert and an expert on the Hague tribunal. You also lecture at the Faculty of Law, previously at the Music Academy. You are a Member of Parliament, a member of various committees and commissions, and besides it all you also compose contemporary music. You are also engaged in civil society activities. How do you balance all these obligations?
- Having entered the world of politics I significantly reduced my activities, so that of all of the significant engagements outside of politics you have mentioned what remains is my work with students at the Faculty of Law, and my work on the Musical Biennale. But that is a lot. I organise my time well and have the great understanding of help of my family. And what is most important, I work a lot.
NACIONAL: Is it fair to say that your chief interest of late is in politics?
- Yes, of late I have been much more active in politics. Especially since it has become clear that Croatia is entering a deep crisis, and not just an economic one, but also a crisis of values, a crisis of morality. The ruling political powers are not only not providing an answer to this crisis, but are in fact deepening it with their lack of awareness of the depth of the problem and a vision of how to resolve it. I am particularly bothered by the fact that Croatia is very far from the ideal of the rule of law. And without that there is no way out of the economic crisis. Today our society is profoundly unjust. A new equitability is the way out of the crisis. A new equitability also means a new articulation of patriotism. A "good" or "great" Croatian is not the one who shouts louder or waves the flag better. It is the worker diligently doing his or her job and the businessperson who creates jobs, provides equitable wages to employees and pays their taxes. A new equitability means the cult of work and creativity, and the cult of those who work. Politics must become a promoter of new values in Croatia and establish a system in which there is a synergy of labour and entrepreneurship. That is the citizen's guarantees of progress and social security for their family.
NACIONAL: Over the past few months you have clearly demonstrated your interest in the presidential nomination. What can you offer voters as a potential presidential nominee, and do you feel you possess the virtues of the new statesman for the 21st century? Some say, namely, that you are overly even-tempered and calm...
- Croatia needs a president that pools people of creative power and wishes to hear them. If ever there has been a time for an even-tempered and calm president, then it is certainly now in these turbulent times. The ability to keep a cool head in analysing problems and creating synergies among all of the key players on the public scene is decisive in finding a way out of this deep economic crisis. It is a serious undervaluing of the Croatian voter to say that this is not the time for reasonable, even-tempered and honest people. What is more, I would say that it is an overly ripe time for that kind of politician. There has been too much imprudence, hysteria and populism. Besides, we can see to what they have led us. On top of it all the executive branch of government even jokingly tells us that we are "up the creek without a paddle". In this regard, I promise citizens serious change from a "banana republic" to one governed by the rule of law.
NACIONAL: You recently once again joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which led to speculation in political circles that you wanted thereby to directly push out the other potential candidates, and that the party would endorse your nomination. Is this so? And it is said that you are the favourite of the party leader Zoran Milanovic.
- I expect the SDP to back my presidential nomination. Both publicly and directly I have expressed my IVO JOSIPOVIC wife his wife Tanja, a lawyer with an enviable career, in Salzburgambition to participate in the presidential race. I consider this the only fair approach to citizens. I am more than happy with the response in the public, which has recognised me as a person with the potential to be a political leader. I intend to continue with a clear, clean and open approach to citizens and to politics.
NACIONAL: What was key in your decision to get into politics in spite of your successful legal and musical careers?
- I feel that intellectuals are insufficiently engaged for the common good. I consider politics a struggle for the common good, in no way for private interests. Truly, if I did not feel that I must and can contribute directly to society, in the process of deciding about our future, the rational thing to do would be to say that I do not need politics. I have achieved two very decent careers, lived well from them, and entering the uncertain and quite brutal political arena is, to a certain extent, a risk. But I do not want to watch with folded arms as Croatia goes downhill. How, instead of a society of development and justice; it becomes a backward, decadent and unjust society. Whenever I think of politics I think of the waterfall described by the poet Cesaric. I too need to be a drop in the waterfall, and much more than that, I want to help make Croatia a brilliant waterfall of prosperity and justice.
NACIONAL: You recently returned from a traditional Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Did you meet Barack Obama?
- There were over two thousand guests from 180 countries at the Prayer Breakfast, so that I did not have the opportunity to meet in person and speak with Obama, who sat some 15 metres from us. Present from Croatia were representatives of government, the opposition and the business sector, and I met with some members of American congress and senators. Obama's liberal-social political orientation is very near to my own, as is his dedication to human rights.
NACIONAL: You were born in Zagreb, but draw our roots from Baska Voda, the homes of three former ministers. Did the members of our family show a greater inclination towards politics or music?
- I like to joke that Baska Voda is the place with the most ministers per capita. The Granic brothers and Jure Radic hail from Baska Voda and have respectable political careers. There are also many prominent professors, physicians, engineers and other worthy people from this relatively small town. After World War II Baska Voda was a backwater with no electricity or running water, cut off from the world. From the mid 20th century to the present day, in a relatively short space of time, it has become a developed town and a major tourist destination. Had there been more attention paid to urban development… Like the other people of that part of the country my ancestors too were relatively poor. They worked diligently, educated themselves, went to live abroad. There were no professional musicians among my relatives, even though my mother's family was very musical. My grandmother had no formal musical education, but she could sing many opera arias. Several of my relatives were close to political circles, including my father, who was a lawyer and politically active in the former Union of Communists. I have my parents to thank for my work habits and my sense of justice.
NACIONAL: What was most influential on your formative years?
- I began travelling a great deal during my university years. First backpacking by InterRail. I visited many museums, churches and concerts. Later I had an opportunity to visit various institutions and universities, such as the Max Planck institute in Freiburg and Hamburg, Yale University in the USA, and the HEUNI institute in Helsinki. I was a guest at many festivals, such as the Warsaw Autumns, the Moscow festival of contemporary music and the summer festival in Costa Brava, near Dali's residence. I saw different customs and lifestyles, from those in Argentina and Chile, to those of Chinese, Mongolian, Ukrainian and Azerbaijani prisons, which I visited as an expert of the Council of Europe. These kinds of experiences are exceedingly useful because they teach you that your world is not the only one, and perhaps not the best one. They teach you to respect cultures other than your own. That is necessary for tolerance and understanding between people.
NACIONAL: It is believed that great women stand behind great people. How compatible are your activities with those of your wife Tanja?
- My wife is a professor of civil law and a top expert, especially for real estate. She is participating in the negotiations with the EU and has written many papers and articles. She too works a lot. Still, we find enough time for family, especially in caring for our daughter Lana. We support each other and understand one another very well. Tanja was the first person with whom I discussed the possibility of running for the presidency. I am happy to have her support, and I know that I will have it regardless of the outcome of the elections.
NACIONAL: They say that in your younger years you were an excellent football player and that you even considered an athletic career?
- Yes, I played football well and enjoyed it, and like it to this day. I also used to be good at chess. It is a good thing that after a sleepless night, instead of practicing football, I opted for music school. Music is, after all, much more my thing. Just like law instead of physics, which I considered studying near the end of secondary school.
NACIONAL: Do you have a slogan ready for the presidential campaign?
- It's still early for slogans, but the central message of my nomination is a new justice. We need a new articulation of degraded social values and the affirmation of new ones, based on work, justice and morality. The ethical, humanistic and spiritual potential of our people makes that possible. That is, I believe, the interest of the many Croatian citizens who are sensitive towards our present state of affairs and who do not wish to resign themselves to it. A society without justice and morality is increasingly materially impoverished. Citizens are concerned about the kind of spiritual atmosphere their children will grow up in and what will become of them. And that is why they are ready for change.
- Born in Zagreb in 1957 where he completed the First Gymnasium
- Graduated from law school in 1980, and graduated composing at the Music Academy in 1983 under the tutelage of Stanko Horvat
- Employed at the Faculty of Law in 1984 where he teaches penal procedural law and international criminal law, and taught harmony at the Music Academy from 1987 to 1997
- 1991, director of the Zagreb Music Biennale
- 1994, received his doctorate in law
- A member of the Croatian Composers' Society and it's royalties Collecting Society
- 2002, member of the World Academy of Arts and Science
- 2003, Member of Parliament
- 2007, the Tax-Fin-Lex Internet portal proclaims him the most respected legal expert
- A member of the State Commission on War Crimes and a Croatian Government observer at the International Tribunal on War Crimes; member of the Parliamentary committees on legislation and justice; member of the Conflict of Interest Commission
- 2008, proclaimed lawyer of the year
- Awards: The Dean's Award, the Seven Secretaries' of the Union of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia Award for Art, decorated with the Order of the Croatian Morning Star with the image of Marko Marulic, recipient of two Porin music awards, the Boris Papandopulo Award for the composition Tuba Ludens
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