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The highest recognition in the Republic of Slovenia for achievements in the field of artistic creation is awarded every year on the eve of Prešeren Day, on the Slovenian cultural holiday, on 7 February. The Prešeren Award is given to artists who have permanently enriched Slovenian cultural heritage with their outstanding artistic achievements during their lifetime’s work. The Prešeren Fund Award is given to artists for their outstanding artistic achievements that have been presented to the public in the three years prior to the award and enrich Slovenian cultural heritage.

Prešeren Awards Ceremony in the Gallus Hall of Cankarjev dom Congress and Cultural Center Ljubljana

Academician Prof Dr Kajetan Gantar, classical philologist and translator

Classical philologist, translator and academician Prof Dr Kajetan Gantar received Prešeren Award for his life's work.

Having a firm place in Slovenian cultural history thanks to his magnificent translations, Prof Dr Kajetan Gantar is a world-renowned scholar and philologist, and certainly one of the key Slovenian intellectuals of his generation.

He is considered one of Slovenia’s giants in the field of translation–one of those who have not only dedicatedly taken on an intermediary and interpretative role, but also performed it with a sense of artistry, a keen understanding of various source text styles and tones, and, above all, with an unwavering linguistic confidence and belief in the expressive power of the Slovenian language.

Kajetan Gantar's contribution to the Slovenian understanding of ancient literature and philosophy is invaluable. We are indebted to him for translations of Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Sappho, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Theocritus, Plutarch, Procopius, Plautus, Terence, Catullus, Propertius, Horace, Ovid, Pseudo-Longinus, several books of the Bible, etc.

He was awarded the Sovre Award for the anthology and translation of ancient Roman đlyric poetry in 1969, and the Prešeren Fund Award for his translation of two comedies by Plautus in 1972.

Gantar wrote extensive accompanying studies for most of his translations, as well as for some of Anton Sovre's earlier translations, which he brought closer to the modern reader through discreet but effective interventions, making them still readable today.

The modernity reflected in these respectful but decisive interventions is, of course, all the more evident in Gantar's own translations. Antiquity, as we have come to know it through his translations into Slovenian, is not coated with a patina, it is not characterised by a single "old" language, but speaks to us in a variety of styles, just as it did at the time of its creation, when its language was the language of the present. Through the translations of Kajetan Gantar, ancient literature appears to us not as a historical curiosity, nor as the buried foundation of our culture, but as something fresh and inspiring. Owing to his flexible spirit, the translator has created a classical tradition which, like all true classics, will remain vital for a long time to come.

Mirko Cuderman, musicologist and conductor

Black and white portrait of the academy-trained painter Professor Herman Gvardjančič

Academy-trained painter Professor Herman Gvardjančič | Author Tone Stojko

Musicologist and conductor Mirko Cuderman received Prešeren Award for his life's work.

With his wide-ranging work covering musical performance and interpretation, musicology, teaching and organisational work, Mirko Cuderman earned his place amongst the most prominent Slovenian musicians of recent decades. After completing his theological studies, he went on to study church music in Vienna and obtained a doctorate in musicology. In 1968, he founded the Consortium Musicum choir, which soon became one of the most high-profile vocal ensembles in Slovenia. The choir was one of the few in Slovenia that focused on performing the most demanding vocal-instrumental pieces, recording, among other things, the popular collection Musica Sacra Slovenica, which was released on 23 LPs. In a time when such projects were met with aversion, this represented an unparalleled artistic and cultural achievement.

In 1984, Cuderman took over as head of the Radio-Television Slovenia Chamber Choir, which significantly expanded its repertoire by systematically recording Slovenian choral music. In 1991, he was also the main promotor of the establishment of the professional Slovenian Chamber Choir. He held the position of artistic and programme director of the choir until his retirement. Most noteworthy was his project dedicated to recording Slovenian choral music, resulting in creation of two monumental anthologies. The Slovenian Choral Music collection features a selection of Slovenian secular choral music on 56 CDs, while the Musica Sacra Slovenica collection is an overview of Slovenian sacred choral music on 33 CDs. It should also be noted that for many years the award-winning composer also successfully headed the Slovenian Octet. Cuderman's artistic production is characterised by a thoughtful interpretative approach, aesthetically refined interpretation, musical sensitivity, a thorough knowledge of the repertoire, a critical evaluation of sources and a true abundance of personal energy. In this way, Dr Cuderman raised Slovenian choral music, and in turn Slovenian music in general, to a level on par with the best globally, thus leaving his indelible mark on it.

Anja Štefan, poet and writer

Black and white portrait of the novelist and journalist Dušan Jelinčič

Novelist and journalist Dušan Jelinčič | Author Tone Stojko

Poet and writer Anja Štefan received Prešeren Fund Award for her literary creativity over the last three years, especially for her collection of fairy tales Three Hundred Rabbits, for her poetry collection I Have Green Shoes and for her original fairy tale The Rabbit’s House.

"From sunrise till sunset, all day long, its work is hard work yet also free," writes Anja Štefan in her poem about a bee, as if she were talking about herself. Since her debut as a writer more than 25 years ago, this distinguished children's author has produced works that have already become part of the canonised treasury of Slovenian texts and go beyond children's fiction. Among her works published in the last three years, three titles stand out:

With her collection Three Hundred Rabbits, she breathed new life into a carefully selected choice of Slovenian folk tales belonging to the legacy of Milko Matičetov. Her rewritings demonstrate her knowledge of the field and her remarkable mastery of language and ability to rework stories. They are fresh literary masterpieces that respectfully preserve the traces of the classic storytelling.

In the poetry collection I Have Green Shoes, she vividly depicts images from the modern world using masterful verses that are varied in motif and sophisticated in form and sound.

In her original fairy tale The Rabbit's House, she uses the same expertly paced rhythm to tell a timeless story of solidarity, on one hand, and exploitation, on the other, prompting a reflection on an individual’s actions within the community.

Jette Ostan Vejrup, theatre actress

Black and white portrait of the Drago Ivanuša, composer of theatre and film music

Drago Ivanuša, composer of theatre and film music | Author Tone Stojko

Theatre actress Jette Ostan Vejrup received Prešeren Fund Award for several premiere roles over the last three years.

Through her dedicated creative work, Jette Ostan Vejrup has left an indelible mark on Slovenian theatre and culture. She has not only enriched dozens of theatre performances with her unique acting and artistic presence, but also introduced her own unique gentleness into her non-native language, in which she confidently continues to explore new areas of theatre creativity. She dives into energies and temperatures with great skill, attention and subtlety, and carefully plans and executes every gesture, look, line and movement, exuding vibrant harmony with the other actors and ensuring uncompromising support for the overall logic of the production. With a wide range of acting tools involved in shaping roles such as Clytemnestra, Imelda Marcos and several in the performances Seven Days and 2020, Jette Ostan Vejrup has proven to have a sophisticated and vast creative range that works well for both classical drama principles and performative theatre. Her remarkable mastery of the actor's habitus allows her to not overwhelm the characters, but to anchor them in her own empathic openness and vulnerability. The profound subtlety of Ostan Vejrup's onstage existence comes from a synthesis of accurate instinct and understanding, which is a result of her insight into the range of human experiences and the warmth they fill her with.

Jette Ostan Vejrup is undeniably a unique master of her art, opening up the complexity of life (not only the one on stage) to perception, unafraid of diving into it and never bringing it closer to viewers in a predictable manner, while remaining invaluably, movingly and unerringly human.

Damijan Močnik, composer

Black and white portrait of the pianist Alexander Gadjiev

Pianist Alexander Gadjiev | Author Tone Stojko

Composer Damijan Močnik received Prešeren Fund Award for his creative opus of vocal and vocal-instrumental music over the last three years.

He has achieved several national and international achievements in recent years. He was included in a selection of "composers of the week" by a French radio station, and the vocal ensemble of the German radio station SWR, a renowned ensemble in the field of contemporary vocal music, has performed his motets at several concerts. Damijan Močnik was commissioned to compose the piece Peregrinatio for three mixed choirs for the prestigious Montpellier Festival, while the Popakademie Baden-Württemberg commissioned the large-scale cantata An die Freude to celebrate the anniversary of Beethoven's birth. He also received favourable reviews for his topical socio-critical youth opera I Like You, which was staged in his home country. In his compositions, Damijan Močnik superimposes contemporary sharpness on medieval sonorities as if in a mysterious fresco, layers open harmonies over choral songs, dresses Beethoven's motifs in mixtures of registers and weaves them into a polyrhythmically exciting and multilayered musical fabric that delights listeners and performers alike. All this rightly makes him one of the most prominent contemporary Slovenian choral and vocal-instrumental music composers.

Andreja Zakonjšek Krt, soprano

Black and white portrait of the soprano Andreja Zakonjšek Krt

Soprano Andreja Zakonjšek Krt | Author Tone Stojko

Soprano Andreja Zakonjšek Krt received Prešeren Fund Award for the roles of Amelia in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra and Marguerite in Gounod's Faust.

Soprano Andreja Zakonjšek Krt obtained a degree in music pedagogy from the Faculty of Education in Maribor and continued her studies at the Department of Concert Singing at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz. Since 1996, she has been employed as a full-time soloist at the Opera of the Slovene National Theatre Maribor. Her operatic repertoire is very broad, ranging from the Monteverdi era to contemporary opera productions, and her concert repertoire includes works from the early Baroque to 20th century music. Among her most notable stage portrayals are the title role of Poppaea in Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppaea and the expressive role of Madame Lidoine in Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites. In considering her work over the last three years, her portrayals of Amelie in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra and Marguerite in Gounod's Faust deserve special mention. She is very convincing in all operatic and operetta roles, as well as in performing concert vocal-instrumental works and solo songs. She elevates her roles to a highly professional level in terms of technique and interpretation, rendering both her singing and acting performances utterly compelling.

Dušan Kirbiš, painter

Black and white portrait of the film director and screenwriter Matevž Luzar

Film director and screenwriter Matevž Luzar | Author Tone Stojko

Painter Dušan Kirbiš received Prešeren Fund Award for the exhibition On the Origin of Images at the Ptuj City Gallery.

Dušan Kirbiš has been one of the central figures of Slovenian painting in the last decades. His authentic expression and creativity have earned him considerable esteem in Slovenia as well as in the wider cultural space. Kirbiš is not only a superb artist, but also an expert in the history of art and a researcher of the theoretical foundations of painting. This was convincingly brought to light in a fascinating manner by the analytically conceived and conceptually well-thought-out exhibition On the Origin of Images, which was on view at the Ptuj City Gallery in spring 2021. The artist presented his 40 years of work in five thematic strands that interweave into considerations on images: Genius loci – Genii locorum, Podvajanje pogleda, Tableau objet, Simulacra and Simulation, and Object and Ontology.  Kirbiš's work – even his earliest paintings – is characterised by a deep interest in the tangible appearance of the image and the metaphysics of the image in all its forms and stages of creation. Dr Tomaž Brejc has described Kirbiš as "a guardian of tradition". Although his use of modern visual technology and diverse media, materials and practices is ever-present and implicit, he is always first and foremost a painter who delves into painterly metaphysics.

Špela Čadež, director and creator of animated films

Black and white portrait of Rok Žnidaršič, Jerneja Fischer Knap and Samo Mlakar from the architectural studio Medprostor

The architectural studio Medprostor | Author Tone Stojko

Director and creator of animated films Špela Čadež received Prešeren Fund Award for directing the animated film Steakhouse.

Špela Čadež is a highly respected name in the domestic and international creative circles. She is an animator, producer and director.

After completing her studies, she worked in Berlin, where she wrote the script for the animated film Boles, which was the very artistic achievement that established Špela Čadež as the most successful animator in Slovenia. The film has received more than 50 awards and nominations and has been screened at 130 festivals worldwide.

Her latest animated film Steakhouse is a continuation of her rich creative tradition.

The animated masterpiece tackles the issue of domestic violence. It focuses on Franc and Liza, a couple who can no longer see each other due to the thick smoke coming from a plate with a steak that is burnt beyond recognition. Although the narrative's message is razor-sharp, the animation is bright and witty and offers a rich auditory experience. Špela Čadež makes the best use out of animation. The short film Steakhouse is a well-crafted, auditorily rich and perfectly directed work.