We’ve sent our best collegiate musical talent there for the past two years, and now Santa Barbara’s sister city Kotor, Montenegro is sending two of its finest classical musicians to perform with the players we sent. On January 31, Montenegrin pianist Andrija Jovovic and violinist Natasja Vojinovic will join UCSB graduates Sara Bashore, a violin performance masters graduate, and Katrina Agate, a cello performance-electrical engineering double major, for the “Strings & Keys” concert at The Music Academy of the West’s Weinman Hall. This will be the latest classical music exchange arranged by the Santa Barbara-Kotor Sister City program.
Meant to encourage cooperation between Santa Barbara and its Baltic sister city, the Santa Barbara-Kotor Sister City program sponsors exchanges in which both places send their best young talents in classical music and water polo. According to the program website, the first exchange in the former category occurred when Montenegrin pianist Ratimir Martinovic performed at SBCC in 2012 at the Music Academy of the West in 2013. That same year, Kotor auditioned players from all around the Balkans and sent Bosnian cellist Isak Haracic to attend the Music Academy of the West Summer Fellows Program.
In 2018, Ms. Bashore became the first musician to be sent from Santa Barbara to Kotor through the Sister City program and performed at the Kotor Art music festival. Ms. Agate was chosen the following year and also played at Kotor Art.
During the “Strings & Keys” concert, Ms. Agate, Ms. Bashore, Ms. Vojinovic, and Mr. Jovovic will perform renditions of Antonin Dvorak’s “Bagatelles, Op. 46,” Dimitri Shosakovich’s “5 Pieces for two violin and piano,” Gabriel Faure’s “Elegy in C Minor, Op. 24,” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Piano Quartet in G Minor.” According to Ms. Agate, the concert’s instrumental lineup of two violins, a cello, and a piano made it somewhat difficult to select repertoire for the concert as most chamber music is written for a lineup of violin, viola, cello, and piano. Only the concert’s opening “Bagatelles, Op. 46” will feature all four players on their primary instruments, with the two middle pieces featuring only violins and piano and cello and piano, respectively. Although the penultimate piece “Elegy in C Minor” features just her on cello and Mr. Jovovic on Piano, Ms. Agate spoke particularly high of the opening Dvorak number because of how much it features her instrument.
“Me being a cellist, I’m a big fan of his work because he has a lot of straight cello work,” she said of Mr. Dvorak’s music.
She added that “Bagatelles, Op. 46” is “a piece with a lot of movements, which produces a great deal of contrast that keeps the listener engaged.
After certain players sit out during each of the concert’s middle section, all four musicians will play on the concert’s closer “Piano Quartet in G Minor.” In a change from the earlier numbers however, the Mozart piece will have Ms. Bashore switch from violin to her secondary instrument viola, which she started learning during her undergraduate studies at UCSB. The double-instrumentalist called the opportunity to play both violin and viola in concert “a rare treat,” as classical musicians are usually constrained to their primary instruments in performances. Though the instruments look similar, Ms. Bashore remarked that violin and viola have different feels when played and read differently, their charts written in treble and alto clef, respectively. This does make swapping between the two in performance somewhat tricky.
“It’s kind of a mental challenge for me switching between instruments, but I’m definitely up for the challenge,” she said.
Ms. Bashore and Ms. Agate looked back fondly at the time they spent in Kotor and are greatly looking forward to performing with Mr. Jovovic and Ms. Vojinovic. Though they have not yet met the Montenegrin musicians and won’t start rehearsing together until the day before the concert, when they come together it will just be a matter of combining their parts, which they are all learning individually. By the time the American-Montenegrin quartet concludes performing, Ms. Agate hopes that the public walks away thinking the Santa Barbara-Kotor Sister City program “brings together musicians who work well together.”
Mr. Bashore told the News-Press that she hopes more people will be aware of the Sister City program following their concert and enjoy her and Ms. Agate performing alongside the Baltic musicians. She expects Mr. Jovovic and Ms. Vojinovic will be exceptional.
“I just hope everyone has a blast… We have the whole country of Montenegro to choose from and they’re the cream of the cromp,” she said. Tickets for “Strings & Keys” cost $50 for general admission, $10 for student admission, and can be purchased online at www.sbkotorsistercity.com. The concert will begin at 7 p.m. on January 31 at Weinman Hall on the campus of The Music Academy of the West.