Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic

Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic: The Castle of the Mad King

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Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic is a percussionist from the former Yugoslavia, as well as a prolific composer for percussion. He has written two concertos for marimba and various other pieces, mainly for marimba, but also for assortments of unpitched percussion. Zivkovic (his name is pronounced Ne-boy-sha Yovan Zhiv-ko-vich) is the soloist in nine of his compositions and the only performer on seven of those pieces. All nine were written between 1992 and 1999.

The opening number, Ultimatum II, is for marimba duet, and includes as guest artist Benjamin Toth, an American who is the director of the percussion program at the University of Hartford. Toth and Zivkovic are joined by Fernando Meza, head of percussion studies at the University of Minnesota, for the other multi-player piece, Trio per uno. One piece, the astonishing The Castle of the Mad King, is a solo work for many percussion instruments. The meditative Suomineito is for vibraphone, Der kleine Paganini is for xylophone, and the rest of the compositions (Ilijas, Ein Liebeslied?, Northwind, Bayerischer Ländler, and Il Canto dei Gondolieri) are all for marimba solo.

All the music is tonal, though Zivkovic can launch off into momentary twelve-tone riffs for contrast or expression and often uses extended tonal chromaticism. It is also in the rhythmic equivalent of tonality, that is, in rhythms that can be grasped by the audience (although sometimes they are as complex as 14/16 and 11/8).

Zivkovic's virtuosity is astounding, both as a performer and as a composer. The listener might think that so much marimba sound on one disc would pall, but there are so many different textures and patterns in the marimba writing that this does not happen. The sound, produced and engineered by Siegbert Ernst in November 1999, at the Zehntscheuer, Dagersheim, Germany, is spectacular.

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