1998 / Banská Bystrica

13th IGEB Conference, Banská Bystrica, Slovakia July 6-12, 1998

Raoul Camus, New York/USA

Accepting the invitation of board member Dr. Jana Lengova, the 13th biennial IGEB conference was held in the university-city of Banská Bystrica, a lovely mining town of about 80,000 inhabitants in the beautiful mountainous central region of Slovakia. The participants were given comfortable rooms in the Mateja Bela University dormitory, and all papers were given in the same building's lecture hall. And, very important for the non-German speaking attendees, there were simultaneous translations of all papers into Slovakian and English.

Two general themes were announced, wind music and chorus, and wind music in Slovakia, although participants could speak on any relevant wind music topic. Illness unfortunately prevented Dr. Weyermüller from presenting his opening address. Mark Reimer, Danica Staššiková-Štukovská, and Josef Ginzl were also prevented from attending, but unscheduled papers were given by Leena Heikkila of Finland, who talked on "Holger Fransman and the Finnish Horn School," and Dr. Eugen Brixel, who read a fine paper on sacred wind music in the time of Bruckner. All the other papers, as published in the 1998/1 (April) Mitteilungsblatt, were presented to an interested and appreciative audience. Since these papers will be published in Alta Musica, there is no need to discuss them further at this time.

As customary at IGEB conferences, there was much more than the presentation of scholarly papers. To many, these extra events are what make the conference worth attending in person, something one cannot experience by reading Alta Musica. In the hope that members who have never attended a conference before will be tempted to attend the next one, here are just a few of the very pleasant activities the participants enjoyed.

First of all, our hosts outdid themselves in making us feel welcome. Most meals were eaten in the dormitory dining room, allowing the attendees many opportunities of chatting with old friends and making new ones. Wherever we went, we were treated as very special guests, often with food and wine or schnapps. Bands seemed to be playing everywhere we went. Coupled with the beautiful scenery, the week was one of constant satisfaction.

Following the opening papers, the conference began with a concert by the military band of Banská Bystrica, the Hron choir, a brass band, and the Šimon Jurovsky wind quintet. The music, mainly by Slovakian composers, included marches, dances, solos, and concert pieces from the eighteenth century through the present. For many, unfamiliar with Slovakian music, works by such famous composers as Ján Levoslav Bella and Karol Pádivy, to mention just two of many, were a revelation. The works for chorus and band were especially effective.

The next day, besides many interesting papers, we were invited to a reception by the mayor of Banská Bystrica. A concert in the city's main square featured the youth wind orchestra of Košice, complete with majorettes, tower music from the church high above the square, and a band enthusiastically playing dixieland music.

Wednesday afternoon was devoted to sightseeing. We first visited the Museum for Literature and Music in Banská Bystrica, and then boarded the bus for a short trip to the famous 250-year-old wooden church in Hronsek. Inside, we heard a brief history of the church, and were each given postcards as souvenirs. Afterwards, we were treated to refreshments, music, and schnapps by the mayor. Back on the bus, we traveled to the castle and ancient city of Kremnitz, and then to Zvolen. Music and song greeted us everywhere, including a concert by a Harmonie ensemble performing music by Družecky, Krommer, and Mozart.

Following Thursday's absorbing papers, there was another concert in the main square, this time featuring folk music and dance. Tibor Koblícek demonstrated several folk instruments, and played solos with a folklore ensemble from Kubra. The folklore ensemble "Partizán" Biotika Slovenská L'upca animatedly demonstrated Slovakian music and dance.

After more fine papers Friday, we enjoyed another excursion. Although this was July 10, the middle of Summer, the scheduled trip to the Lower Tatra region was canceled due to snow! We went to Brezno, where we were greeted by the mayor in his chambers. Following greetings and a wine toast, we were given a beautifully illustrated hardcover book of city views and history, complete with Russian, German, and English translations. A concert by the Brezno band followed in the main square. We then traveled to Cierny Balog, where again we were met by the mayor, music, more refreshments, and a souvenir postcard. We then boarded an old steam train, once used by loggers but now mainly a tourist attraction. The train stopped by a clearing in the woods halfway up the mountain. Tables had been set up, and we were served traditional goulash from a large cauldron that had been cooking over an open fire. Four Gypsy musicians, who had been playing on the train, continued to entertain us as we ate in this idyllic setting. We continued to the end of the line, Cierny Hron, boarded busses, and returned home tired but very happy.

The conference came to a gala conclusion with a reception Saturday evening in the attractive new concert hall in Banská Bystrica and performances by the combined military bands of Bratislava (Army) and Banská Bystrica (Air Force), the Hron choir, and two vocal soloists from the Bratislava opera, Olga Hromadová and Ján Babjak. The music, again mostly by Slovakian composers, was skillfully and spiritedly performed, with the performers receiving a most enthusiastic standing ovation at the end.

In addition to Dr. Lengová, special thanks are due to Dr. Marianna Bárdiová and her efficient staff, who handled the many administrative details, and Adam Hudec, who not only served as unofficial liaison with the many musical groups, but entertained us with his own delightful music.

If you were not there, you missed a great and very memorable experience. The organizers of the next meeting in 2000, may find it difficult to match this one, but I am sure they will come through splendidly. If you have never been to an IGEB meeting, do not miss out - start making your plans now and come!

[in: Mitteilungsblatt 1998, Doppelheft 2/3 Oktober]