Brigita Pavlič joined Narodni dom Maribor in 1996, having taken over the reins of Concert Management after the departure of Metka Čurman. Even though her arrival may have raised many an eyebrow (Brigita previously worked in the media industry and was an ethnology and German major by education), her appointment to this position soon proved to be right call. Full of zeal and willing to work hard, she rolled up her sleeves immediately. She multiplied the number of concert events, changed the public appearance and advertising strategy of concert programmes, introduced commentaries and discussions before concerts, and attracted new musicology talents to write reviews. The immense breadth of her intellect, her openness, and contagious energy not only convinced the numerous sceptics, many of them became part of her team, in which she always fostered genuine relationships, the exchange of knowledge and opinions, cooperation, and working together.
She began bringing to life her vision, built with unwavering optimism, courage, and perseverance, by reviving the Maribor Philharmonic, which she upgraded with the festival Musical September that, with the artistic support of Janko Šetinc and Radovan Vlatković, brought to Maribor internationally acclaimed musicians who, thanks also to Brigita’s heart, hospitality, and sincere friendship, took Maribor as their own and were glad to return to the city time and time again. With Festival Maribor, a project born out of her own idea that first saw the light of day in 2008, she expanded the concept of a festival as a music laboratory and made its foundations even more ambitious. With a daring stroke of her brush she outlined the festival’s road to the most prominent classical music festivals in Europe and, with the help of her almost notorious stubbornness, she immediately began making good on her idea by bringing on board as the artistic director violin soloist Richard Tognetti, leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, one of the most sought-after musical ensembles in the world. This ignited a creative fire and made the cauldron boil and bubble to a point that even the greatest optimists could hardly imagine just a few years prior.
Aside from appearances by world-class musicians, one of Festival Maribor’s many calling cards was primarily its exceptional programme design that featured innovative listings and creative interventions that employed a carefully structured combination of the known and tested and new musical exploits to daringly move the boundaries of what is considered to be in-the-box and usual. Naturally, this was soon noticed by visitors, who began frequenting the festival from far and wide, even from other continents, and it didn’t take long for the pundits to join and agree. Foreign critics and media spread the name Festival Maribor across the globe with overflowing excitement and praise. BBC even shot a documentary about the ins and outs of the festival and it had a loyal following of journalists and media across Europe and, naturally, in Australia.
The reputation of Festival Maribor soon spilled over to other musical programmes that Brigita was involved in – from the Orchestra and Chamber cycles to concert spectacles hosted by the stages of Festival Lent. The list of world-class projects, symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles, conductors and soloists that we had the privilege to applaud thanks to Brigita is long, far too long to fit in here.
One of Brigita’s most important achievements during her time working in music that certainly warrants a mention was her selfless support of Slovenian music artists. Every year, she invited a young, up-and-coming Slovenian musician to appear at festival Musical September, while renowned artists and ensembles regularly appeared in both season programmes. Festival Maribor has proven particularly effective in securing a breakthrough for Slovenian musicians to appear on international stages, and Brigita followed her plan of treating the festival as an international exchange platform right until she handed over the reins in 2015. These regular festival engagements with a colourful international ensemble of world-renowned musicians served as a springboard for numerous Slovenian artists and a key that opened the doors to foreign concert halls, leading to invitations for touring with renowned ensembles and orchestras. It is safe to say that an entire generation of Slovenian musicians is rightfully grateful today for what Brigita has done for them. Even those who have worked with her when they were already household names always speak of her in superlatives and with deep respect.
Brigita has passed on now. Yet her many years of dedicated and selfless work, coupled with her extensive knowledge, eternal optimism, courage, and unwavering belief that there’s no such thing as “it can’t be done”, leave behind an exceptional musical heritage with gems that we certainly cannot fully comprehend yet today. While she received numerous awards, such as the Glazer Award that she received in 2004 for exceptional achievements in organizing the music scene, these awards do not even begin to tell the story of her and what she meant to the development of music and culture in Maribor and Slovenia.
Farewell, dearest Brigita. You gave us so much. You made this world of ours a better place. You will remain in our hearts and minds forever with thousands of unforgettable moments we shared with you.