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Vol 2, No 19
15 May 2000
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Croatian Issues Music Days Revived
After a four-year hiatus,
Croatia's festival of 20th-century music is back

Borko Špoljarić

Thirty years have passed since the first "Croatian Music Days" occured, and yet it doesn't take more than a large-sized office file to store all the history, as well as other artifacts left behind by these music events. Slight is the summary of the material evidence passed on, but even as such, it speaks to us more than one could imagine, judging by its sole quantity. For, thirty catalogues and a few programme sheets bear witness to the efforts the people working on this event over the last three decades have invested in it, as well as to the cultural, political and social background that formed the scenery where these events occurred.

Croatian music past

The history of "Croatian Music Days" goes back to 1970. The organisers - the Croatian Composers' Society and the Zagreb Concert Management - endeavoured to draw Croatian music production nearer to its domestic cultural environment, applying more subtle and efficient actions. "Dissatisfied by the sporadic appearances in public, we have considered a concentrated action, such as, for instance, Croatian Music Week, an event that should become traditional, presenting the best annual achievements in our Republic," wrote Zlatko Pribernik, the Croatian Composers' Society manifestation committee president, in the prologue to the Croatian Music Days catalogue in 1970.

The purpose of creating a new music festival was clear: in the new-founded state that was created after World War II, musical performance was to be established and injected in the veins of the public, in order to stimulate interest in Croatian music. This newly-conceived performance, organised for the first time on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Croatian Composers' Society, was titled a "Panorama of Croatian Music," and took the form of a series of concerts, exhibitions and lectures spread throughout the year, crowned by the final programme bearing the name of "Croatian Music Days," held in December. However, the following year the Panorama was abandoned and the Days was restructured into an independent musical happening.

With the first issue of Days, the weight was laid on two parallel tracks: the first, striving to achieve the best possible affirmation of the current domestic accomplishments and the second, of no less importance, recollecting the images from Croatian music past (this gesture of recollecting was supposed to remind the public of the common musical heritage, as well as to re-weave the fragile and, in the course of the history, often severed threads of a collective cultural memory).

At first, these reflections included music written in the period from World War I onwards, but was expanded later to included of all Croatian music. It is interesting to note that the organisers represented the idea of a programmatic transparency from the very beginning of Days, based on the idea of the musical styles and provincial pluralism. Thus, even if the ideology of the ruling Socialist party strongly influenced opinions about the purposes of this musical event, it did not effect the programme's policy, which stressed the equivalence of all the music styles.

All is equal

This proclaimed equivalence included not only classical music, but also other music genres, such as jazz, musicals and rock operas, turning Days into a general review of Croatian music activities. The subsequent Days revolved around the preset borderlines of the programmatic concept, differing in its understanding and the quality of realisation.

In 1973, Days expanded to other Croatian cities, and the tradition of singling out Croatian composers' anniversaries was begun. Thus, in 1973 Blagoje Bersa was commemorated, in 1974 Boris Papandopulo, in 1975 Jakov Gotovac and Ivo Tijardović, etc. Also, musicologists' and music writers' meetings were introduced, adding to the gradually increasing number of events, making the prorgamme more and more ambitious.

Concerts were organised in schools and factories, and presentations of the Croatian discography and interviews with Croatian composers staged. The tenth anniversary catalogue produced an impressive list of about 3000 works performed since 1970. And it was during the second half of the 1970s that Croatian Music Days reached their peak.

Time for a makeover

The increasing financial, social and political problems in the former Yugoslavia as well as the recent conflicts there, have affected the Days unfavourably. In 1994, Days resumed a biannual course, and the role of the Croatian musicians' first performance stage was taken over by the International Music Festival in Opatija.

Sadly, the 22nd edition of the Croatian Music Days, in 1996, was the last time this event took place. However, it was not before April of this year that the Croatian Composers' Society decided to revitalise this music festival, following its former concept.

Thus, Croatian Music Days 2000 celebrated three anniversaries: the 100th birth anniversary of a musician, pedagogue and composer Zlatko Grgošević (1900-1987), the 75th birthday of both a composer, violinist and pedagogue Miroslav Miletić (1925) and of a composer, conductor, arranger, bassist and outstanding jazz player Miljenko Prohaska (1925).

In addition to these anniversaries, Days curator Stanko Horvat, a composer and lecturer at the Music Academy in Zagreb, put together a programme consisting of three compositions for strings (Anđelko Igrec, Rudolf Bruči, Srećko Bradić), a concert programme for the organ (Branko Lazarin, Emil Cossetto and Sanja Drakulić, Adalbert Marković, Marko Ruždjak and Josip Magdić) and a particularly interesting concert, at which the members of the Symphonic Wind Orchestra of the Croatian Army and the conductor Tomislav Fačini performed the works of a recently graduated composer Vjekoslav Nježić and four works by Zagreb Music Academy students Frano Đurović, Sanja Stojanović, Krešimir Seletković and Dijana Bukvić. The concert activities outside Zagreb included performances in Varaždin and Dubrovnik.

The 23rd Croatian Music Days, modest compared to previous years, sought to refresh the memories of the reputation that was created over the last three decades. In many segments, it was a success, giving a foretaste of better years to come. "All of the events radiated positively, the programme had a fragrance of concept," noted one composer who attended the event. The organisers hope that the renewal of this event will continue its development into a biannual form.

So, should you desire to find out more about the 20th century Croatian music, the right time and place for that will be Zagreb, April 2002, and the 24th Croatian Music Days.

Borko Špoljarić, 15 May 2000

Moving on:



Focus: Croatia
Dejan Jović
Tuđman's Convenient Death

Dragan Antulov

Sharon Fisher
EU Hopes

Đurđa Knežević
Gender Politics

Mirjana Domini

Zoran Ferić
New Literature

Jurica Pavičić

Sue Bagust

Borko Špoljarić
Music Days

Ivo Goldstein
The Yugoslav Conflicts

Zoran Pusić

Igor Nobilo

Mladen Vedriš
The Economy

William A Everett
Contemporary Music

Anna Maria Gruenfelder
The Church

President of Croatia
Stipe Mesić

Croatian Deputy PM
Goran Granić

Vesna Pusić, Croatian People's Party leader

Vlado Gotovac, Liberal Party leader

Brian J Požun
Tito Revival

Oliver Craske
UK Looks East

Jan Čulík
Roma and TV

Mel Huang
Latvian Victory

Elke de Wit
Klaus Krämer

Culture Calendar:

Ustaša Legacy

PR and Extremism

Czech Republic