Ivan Šverko is a Croatian accordionist, one of the most promising of his generation. He began studying at the School of Music Ivan Matetić Ronjgov and then he studied with some of the best teachers of the world. He has participated in all the most important competitions of achieving outstanding results in 2010, he enrolled in the class of Master Mika Väyrynen at the Sibelius Academy (Helsinki, Finland).
When you were eleven, you started to participate in major national and international competitions travelling all around the world in spite of your young age. Any regrets?
Not really, I believe that the role of the competitions in my education greatly contributed in keeping my motivational levels high throughout the years. Attending a competition is a great tool for aspiring young musicians who try to develop their skills, both directly ( through getting experience in public performance ) and through indirect means – accordion competitions are more often than not an opportunity to attend amazing concerts, to meet other players from various accordion schools, to get inspired by a new musical piece heard, to possibly meet a future teacher or get a feedback from a respected pedagogue etc. Even though for me the final placement is something quite important, I do not think that is all that crucial to always win – the music itself is not set-in-stone science. It is thus up to debate if there is such thing as objective judgment of something as abstract and personal as music. But, the numerical markings are the part of the game and we can’t avoid that. I believe the ultimate role of musical competitions should merely be preparing young artist in order for them to develop into successful performers.
You have had the opportunity to collaborate with one of the most renowned Croatian composers: Mladen Tarbuk. What do you remember about that experience?
I got that opportunity after winning the multi-instrumental, international music competition Ferdo Livadić. It was a great pleasure to premiere a piece of such distinguished composer, and in my opinion, a very important song for accordion in Croatia. The piece is incredibly demanding, employing many contemporary composing devices like dodecaphony and serialism, but in a familiar musical form – for example, the second movement, Tango, is a perfect blend between the traditional and modern musical languages.
There is never enough new original pieces for accordion. The composers and the audience of today are starting to fully recognize our instruments’ worth and this makes me very happy. Persuading a composer to write a piece for accordion also helps into establishing accordion in mainstream classical music circles while giving the player a performing opportunity and means to developing his career further.
What do you think about the present Croatian approach to accordion studies?
I think it is quite good these days. Accordion is being taught on an academic level in my hometown Pula since the early nineties which spawned a lot of new-generation, young accordion teachers who are moving the whole classical-accordion movement forward. That being said, there is still room for advancement in order for Croatia to reach the highest levels of accordion development. The teachers need to recognize the need of familiarizing themselves with various international accordion schools and traditions and the newest didactical methods, repertoire etc. They should also encourage their pupils to be active on an international level, not just within the confines on the country. Croatian accordion school has very good fundamentals, but in order for us to keep the pace with the tremendous upswing of our ever-evolving instrument, we can not afford to stay a closed, self-sufficient society. I should note though that positive changes are already happening in Croatia and overall, I think the current situation looks promising.
Why is the accordion such a special instrument for you?
I believe that accordion has some unique technical and sonorous capabilities which is hard to remain indifferent with. I started to play accordion at the age of nine by pure chance. My two years older sister started to attend violin lessons and I also wanted to play something. My parents stumbled upon an old accordion and I was lucky enough to get acquainted with the very talented accordion teacher Valter Bašić. He did fantastic job and showed to me the full capabilities of this instrument and within a few years, I was completely in love with accordion. The great things about the lessons with my teacher was that he didn’t set any boundaries what should have been played at a certain age, nothing was presented to me as hard or difficult and even though I started to play very demanding pieces early on, that was never a burden for me – because I was super motivated. Motivated children can progress so much faster than the common wisdom seems to dictate – that’s why it is of utmost importance to have a capable teacher since the tender first days of education. Anyway, I am very happy that I persevered and chose accordion to be my career, and I enjoy when I see people positively shocked with the capabilities of that instrument.
What are your next dates and works?
The upcoming projects include several concerts on music festivals in Croatia and abroad with duo Nota Mi, in which I play together with Mia Ćojbašić, including the concert at the Helsinki Concert Hall, which is the most important Finnish concert venue and to my knowledge, we will be among the first accordionists to ever perform there. It is certainly a great honor and responsibility to get a chance to perform there. The upcoming solo projects include my performance with the Cantus Ensemble in the concert venue Vatroslav Lisinski in Zagreb, where I will perform the piece 4 Estancias by Mladen Tarbuk and the performance with Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra later this year where I will perform Piazzollas’ Concerto for Bandoneon and Orchestra. At the moment I am also working on the complete Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach which I will hopefully perform and record soon.
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