Jurij Jenko – clarinet
Jurij is characterised by the word unconventional – in the positive sense, of course.
He could have been an extremely good economist – he was almost convinced that he would pursue that profession on finishing grammar school – which is why in Slowind he has been given the role of “Minister of Finance”.
“I am from the town of Medvode, which is on the border of the Gorenjsko region, so I have the marketing strategy of holding on to wallets in my genes,” he jokes every now and then.
However, if we could look back in time some ten years we would see in the promising boy marching sturdily with a small drum behind the members of the Medvode Wind Band someone who would inevitably devote his life to music. Perhaps to start with his steps were not actually the longest, so the bandsmen had to keep encouraging him, but soon he was to step with large strides amongst the best young clarinettists of the former Yugoslavia.
After three years of learning the clarinet with Slavko Goričar, as a primary school student he won the Yugoslav Young Musicians Competition in Skopje (1977). He then continued the tradition during his secondary school education with Igor Karlin (who even as a student led Jurij into pedagogical waters at the Ljubljana Music High School, where he still teaches today) and with Mihael Gunzek at the Ljubljana Academy of Music, where as a member of a wind quintet he received the Student Prešeren Prize (1984) and a prize at the Yugoslav Musicians Competition in Zagreb (1986).
In the Ljubljana Academy of Music Wind Quintet he accumulated valuable musical experience, as well as becoming familiar with and growing to love chamber music making and the associated musical literature. This experience later led him to transform the original Slowind trio into a quintet. Jurij never forgets to mention that after some years of participating in the Medvode Band he became a member of the Litostroj Wind Orchestra and the Tine Rožanc Folk Group, where he experienced an unforgettable ten years or more.
Even as a student he took care of the scores and performance material at the Slovene Composers Society. He also received a scholarship from the Slovenian Philharmonic, where he first played the Eflatclarinet in the orchestra but soon became the first clarinettist.
“Not only did the audience in the hall applaud the clarinettist for his performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, but they were joined by his colleagues in the orchestra. The preparedness of the conductor and the orchestra, the soloist’s interpretive dissection of the delicate classical fabric of Mozart’s score and the forming of the sonic shape were the precious ingredients of a sovereign success.”
The support of the orchestra leadership of the time enabled Jurij to take one year of leave to study abroad. Paris. The city of other dimensions. It was love at first sight. His studies with Jean-Marc Volta at the Paris Conservatoire in 1988 were crowned by the Prize of the City of Paris. After returning home, he again took up the first clarinet seat at the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and since then has performed a series of excellent concerts both as a member of the orchestraand as a soloist.
”Jurij Jenko and Jože Kotar, to whom the work was dedicated, were an extraordinary concertante presence in the tense reposes and dynamic minimalism, as well as in the changes of register and in virtuosic flight.”
As well as by his companion the clarinet, he is sometimes torn from the warm embrace of his family by the wind, a kite, a board, good coffee, choice literature, excellent food, wine, the sea and aninsatiable desire to discover the new.
When he finally bids farewell to his colleagues of the orchestra we will probably find him somewhere near the intoxicating scent of the sea, in a small boat with fishing tackle and a broad grin on his face.