The Scotsman Sessions #83: Djordje Gajic and Andrea Gajic

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts world shutting down for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, Andrea and Djordje Gajic perform Alexey Arkhipovsky’s Cinderella in the chapel at St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh

Violinist Andrea Gajic and accordionist Djordje Gajic have been in a position that many musicians might envy since the pandemic put paid to live performances. They’re a married couple, and also a professional musical duo – as well as both teaching at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and elsewhere.

"We’ve been fortunate to be able to rehearse together whenever we wanted to," explains Djordje.

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"Amicably!” Andrea interrupts.

Andrea and Djordje Gajic

Djordje pauses: "Yes, amicably… because I do whatever she says…”

But alongside the pressures of online RCS teaching – and Andrea has also been heavily involved in Nicola Benedetti’s Benedetti Sessions for young instrumentalists – they’ve found time for new projects, and also for revisiting older material, including Alexey Arkhipovsky’s Cinderella which they perform here. It’s a piece originally written for balalaika, the famous Russian triangular lute.

“It was our first transcription," explains Andrea, “and we made it for a ballet performance at the RCS. And we were excited to discover that Alexey had also studied at the Gnessin Academy.”

It was in Moscow’s prestigious music school that Andrea and Djordje first met as students, and, it turns out, the balalaika player and composer who would become one of Russia’s musical legends had been in some of the same classes as Djordje.

"Accordion and balalaika were in the same department, but he was several years above me, so I didn’t know him very well,” explains Djordje. Nonetheless, they’ve gone about trying to emulate some of Arkhipovsky’s distinctive subtle plucking in their transcription – “though,” says Djordje, “you have to bring a bit of yourself to it as well, otherwise there’s no point in doing it.”

Andrea and Djordje have also been looking ahead during lockdown, including plans for a concert of new commissions from Scottish women composers, "but it’ll take a year or two to put that together,” explains Andrea. They’ve also been collaborating on new pieces: young RCS composer Nicholas Olsen wrote the darkly witty Ventilator for Djordje, for example, which the accordionist performed and recorded from home (check out the video on YouTube). “I’m almost a semi-qualified sound engineer now,” jokes Djordje. “You could almost put me in front of a mixing desk…”

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