Ljubica Marić

Ljubica Marić (1909–2003, Serbia). Ljubica Marić began her music education in Belgrade, where she studied with Josip Slavenski, and then spent two periods in Prague: 1929–32, studying in Josef Suk’s master-class and, in 1936–37, at Alois Hába’s department for quarter-note music. She also attended N. Malka’s and H. Scherchen’s conducting courses in Prague and Strasbourg (1933), respectively, and later occasionally publicly performed as a conductor. From 1938 on, she worked in Belgrade, first as a professor at Stanković School of Music (1938–45), then as a docent(assistant professor) and associate professor at the Music Academy. She is one of the most distinctive and powerful creative figures among Serbian composers.

In a lifetime of learning, wandering, searching, and doubting, Marić left only a modest number of works. Her pre-WWII work may be discussed only on the basis of her youthful Sonata za violinu solo(Sonata for Solo Violin, 1928) and two pieces composed during her studies in Prague, Duvački kvintet(Wind Quintet, 1931) and Muzika za orkestar(Music for Orchestra), performed once at the contemporary music festival in Strasbourg (1933) and then for a long time unavailable to the public, until its publication in 1998. After the war, the uniqueness and power of her creative potentials fully came to the fore. The December, 1956 performance of her cantata Pesme prostora (Songs of Space), a piece that was an instant and unequivocal success with critics, audiences, and experts alike, symbolically marked her creative break with the conventions of socialist realism.

In Marić’s oeuvre, her quest for the archetypical also triggered a specific interest in the national, which is perhaps most directly expressed in her cycle Muzika oktoiha(Music of the Octoechos, 1959–63). Inspired by chants from Mokranjac’s Osmoglasnik (Octoechos), she conceived a rather unique full-length cycle, comprising the following segments: Muzika oktoiha br. 1(Music of the Octoechos No. 1, in the first tone), a full-length symphonic prelude, Vizantijski concert (Byzantine Concerto) for piano and orchestra (Muzika oktoiha br. 2,in the second, third, and fourth tone), the cantata Prag sna(Threshold of Dream, Muzika oktoiha br. 3 for a narrator, solo soprano and alto, and an 11-strong chamber orchestra), which constitutes the cycle’s slow movement in the fifth tone, and Ostinato super tema oktoihafor harp, piano, and string quintet (or orchestra). She achieved a specific connection with the national idiom in her Pasakalja(Passacaglia, 1958) for symphony orchestra, where she treated the construction principles of the baroque variation form in a highly original manner, using the folk melody Zaklela se Moravka đevojka (Morava Maiden Made a Vow) as her theme. During the 1960s, she increasingly turned to chamber ensembles, composing an entire array of chamber classics: Čarobnica (Sorceress), a melodic recitation for soprano and piano, setting verses from the Eighth Eclogueof Virgil’s Bucolics(1962); Invokacija (Invocation) for double bass and piano (1983); Monodija oktoiha(Octoechos Monody) for solo violoncello (1982); Asimptota (Asymptote) for string orchestra (1986); Čudesni miligram (The Wondrous Milligram) for soprano and flute (1992); and Torzo (Torso, 1996), which won her that year’s Mokranjac Award.

Torso was written in 1996 as Marić’s last completed work. It was commissioned by KölnMusik, an institution for contemporary music, and premièred on 14 April 1996. Here is what the author wrote on the making of Torso:
‘The inspiration for the piano trio came from some verses by a 14th-century poet, as well as from a line by our great poet-prince, Bishop Petar Petrović Njegoš (1813–1851), which reads: Je li javje od sna smućenije?(Is reality more muddled than slumber?). But regardless, music, as always, gives birth to itself, by its own logic and laws, and no long-winded explanations would be of much use there. You can’t catch shadows with your hands. This music requires that one occasionally be transferred into a state of deep internal tranquillity, with a feeling as if one weren’t playing it, but rather hearing it from afar…
and the most distant distance
is the closest to
the closest closeness.’