Radivoje SpasićBorn: July 6th, 1932, Belgrade (Yugoslavia, nowadays Serbia)
Spasić continued working for the Sarajevo Opera until 1963, when he was appointed chief conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of RTV Sarajevo, the broadcaster of Bosnia-Herzegovina within former Yugoslavia. With the orchestra, he recorded over 4000 minutes of music for RTV Sarajevo. On top of that, on many occasions, he conducted it during concerts with music by Haydn (‘The Creation’, ‘The Seasons’), Beethoven (Symphony no. 9), Liszt (‘Faust’ Symphony), Shostakovich (‘The Execution of Stenka Razin’), Gershwin (‘Cuban Overture’, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, extracts from ‘Porgy and Bess’), and many more. Occasionally, jazz musicians were added to the orchestra in order to be able to accompany pop and jazz performances for radio and television, most importantly Vaš Šlager Sezone, an annual music contest which was first held in Sarajevo in 1967. Moreover, Spasić conducted in the Opatija Festival for popular artists such as Arsen Dedić and Dragan Stojnić, as well as waving the baton during studio sessions with Sabahudin Kurt, Indexi, and Bele Vrane.
During his spell as chief conductor in Sarajevo, Spasić was often invited to conduct other classical orchestras as a guest, both in the former Yugoslavia and abroad: he made appearances in France, Italy, Greece, West Germany, Romania, Poland, and Slovakia. He worked extensively in the former Soviet Union, receiving invitations from Odessa, Vilnius, Tbilisi, and Yerevan. Spasić had the opportunity to collaborate on the concert platform with some of the world’s most praised classical music soloists, such as violinists Leonid Kogan, Igor Oistrakh, and Stefan Milenković, cellist André Navarra, pianists Shura Cherkassky and Alexander Uninsky, and operatic tenor Luigi Alva.
In 1976, Spasić moved to his native city of Belgrade to become the artistic leader and conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of RTV Belgrade, which was later renamed the Symphony Orchestra of RTV Serbia. This exclusively classical ensemble was managed and conducted by him until 1990. During the nearly fifteen years he was in charge of this orchestra, he worked on countless TV productions and numerous theatre concerts with music by, amongst others, Liszt (Symphony to Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’), Tchaikovsky (‘Manfred’ Symphony), Borodin, Prokofiev, Sibelius, and Saint-Saëns (Cello Concerto no. 1). He also worked with several other classical ensembles, including the RTV Belgrade Female Octet, which he conducted in their 1979 performance at the Zagreb Music Biennale. In 1980-’81, Spasić was the president of UMUS, the Association of Musical Artists of Serbia.
From 1990 onwards, Radivoje Spasić worked as the Director of Music Production at RTV Serbia, having the responsibility for not only the symphony orchestra, but for the RTV Belgrade Jazz Band (led by Zvonimir Škerl), the mixed chorus, two child choruses, two folk music ensembles, the music library, and the recording department of the broadcaster as well. After his retirement in 1997, Spasić moved to Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Radivoje Spasić in the Eurovision Song Contest
For Spasić, his two appearances in the Eurovision Song Contest were not exactly the highlight in his career: “My great love has always been classical music. I have never been fond of listening to pop or rock – not even to jazz. As a young conductor at RTV Sarajevo, I was given all kinds of commissions, ranging from operas, oratorios, and symphonies to popular music, for example the Eurovision pre-selections and the international Eurovision Song Contest. Conducting and recording popular music was, what I would call, showing professional attitude towards my job. That is the reason why I accompanied Sabahudin Kurt to Copenhagen in ’64 and Vice Vukov to Naples, one year later. Although, of course, there was a language barrier, I did not find it extremely difficult to work with the Danish and Italian orchestras. As a conductor, you do not always need words – you can resolve most problems by simply using your hands. Moreover, the music was very easy. I mean, conducting classical works such as Schuman’s ‘Piano Concerto’ or the ‘Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso’ by Saint-Saëns is infinitely more complicated than leading the orchestra for a three-minute popular song! When we scored so few points, that did not come as a surprise to me and it certainly did not hurt me personally. For me, this was just another job.”
The Yugoslavian pre-selection of 1965 was marred by two scandals. Originally, nothing pointed to Spasić conducting in the contest in Naples; he was not even included on the list of invited musicians for the Yugoslavian pre-selection. What was more, a shortlist containing the vocalists, arrangers, and conductors, from which the participating song composers could choose, did not include a single name from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because of this, the Union of Bosnian Composers organized a protest, as a result of which Radivoje Spasić, in the end, was added to the list of conductors. In the Yugoslavian pre-selection held in Zagreb, he led the orchestra during the rendition of the two songs which had been submitted by Bosnian composers. One of those songs, ‘Čežnja’, was chosen as the Yugoslavian representative for the international contest. Prior to the pre-selection in Zagreb, ‘Čežnja’ had nearly been disqualified, when it transpired that composer Julijo Marić had written the orchestration to his work himself; as he was not included in the previously mentioned shortlist of arrangers, this was considered as a breach of rules. In the end, however, because Marić’s orchestration was generally thought of as good, it was decided upon to not disqualify the song and publish the arrangement under the name of one of the short listed musicians, Vojislav Simić from Serbia.
Spasić never returned to the Eurovision Song Contest podium after 1965, although there were two more Bosnian songs to represent Yugoslavia in the 1970s. Spasić about this: “After some years at RTV Sarajevo, my reputation as a conductor grew. This meant that, sometimes, I had the option to give some of my commissions to other, younger musicians. For them, this was an opportunity to advance their own careers. As I was not fond of working on pop music, I decided to give away the particular job of working on Eurovision to Esad Arnautalić, who was a staff arranger for Bosnian radio and television at that time.”
Other artists on Radivoje Spasić