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Glowing firefly sits on a stone at dusk

“Little firefly, glaringly illuminated and frightened by unbearable beauty”: this is the English translation of the orchestral piece by Milica Djordjević, commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker.

In 2007, the composer wrote a work about a firefly: Svitac u tegli, “Firefly in a Jar.” “The new piece is like a picture from an album, from the memoirs of a firefly,” says Milica Djordjević. It's about remembering a truly existential moment – “this swirl of beauty, dreams, hope, struggle,” as she puts it. The result is “a flicker that contains majestic beauty and brutality.”

Milica Djordjević was born in Belgrade in 1984. Childhood ended for her before her seventh birthday, when the Yugoslav wars, which were to last almost a decade, began,. Nevertheless, young Milica made plans for the future, wanting to become a painter, a physicist, a theater director. She enrolled in piano lessons at the music school without asking her parents.

At 17, she began studying composition in Belgrade, then went to Strasbourg and to IRCAM in Paris before graduating from the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin in 2013.

In 2015 she won the Belmont Prize, in 2016 the Composition Promotion Prize of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, and in 2020 the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Of their commission for a short piece for the Philharmonie's 60th birthday, she says, “The challenge of writing a piece under five minutes was quite exciting, especially if, like me, you think in terms of long gestures, large areas, and development processes.“

Light is an important theme in Milica Djordjevic's work: bioluminescence, stars, light reflections on metals - all this becomes music in her work. Fireflies, she explains, are threatened with extinction, both literally and figuratively. “They are one of my eternal preoccupations, not only as creatures whose luminous rhythms in the grass marked the summers of my childhood, but also as a metaphor.”

The new work is, in her words, “compressed, condensed, charged with emotions that I associate with different times in Belgrade and Berlin.” The piece for large orchestra features triple winds and begins with a delicate, fragile texture of high harmonics and charging percussion. It then builds, finally ending in a roaring, blinding explosion.