The sound recording medium Croatian Flute Album flautu was created as the result of a longtime collaboration between two Croatian musicians – the flute player Ivana Zahirović and the piano player Mia Elezović. The compositions that the two musicians perform on the album are flautist works by some of the most distinguished authors of contemporary Croatian music. In this review, we bring you the biographies of both these two musicians and of the Croatian composers whose music is presented on the CD, with an overview of their chosen works.
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Ivana Zahirović, an outstanding Croatian flutist, comes from the small town of Sisak near Zagreb. She performs as a soloist and orchestral musician in Croatia and around the world.
Ms. Zahirović started playing flute in Sisak at the age of 9 and graduated from the Music High school in Zagreb in the class of Prof. Nives Janković. At the age of 16 she began her study with Irena Grafenauer at University Mozarteum in Salzburg, where she received the grade of Excellence and the Master of Arts degree. In addition, she was enrolled in the post-graduate studies with Michael M. Kofler at University Mozarteum and with Maria Goldschmidt at University of Arts in Zurich, where she graduated in pedagogy as well as the baroque flute. At the age of 20, Ms. Zahirović became a member of Orchestra-Academy of Zurich Opera House for two years. After that she was a member of Symphony Orchestra Mozarteum Salzburg, Symphony Orchestra Biel and Münchner Symphoniker. Currently she collaborates with orchestras such as Munich Radio Orchestra and Bavarian State Orchestra in Munich. Her first solo CD Serenade has been produced in the Switzerland, and she was featured on Croatian Radio and TV.
Ms. Zahirović is a winner of national and international competitions such as the Lions Club International Competition in the Switzerland, AUDI Mozart in Italy, and Alexandra and Buono International Flute Competition in New York which enabled her to give numerous concerts as a soloist and as a member of the AUDI Mozart Woodwind Quintet. As a member of organizations for chamber music in Villa Musica in Mainz, she achieved a number of concerts with internationally renowned musicians such as Radovan Vlatković, and Sergio Azzollini and received numbers of awards and scholarships such as Myrna Brown in the USA.
As a soloist she has performed with the Zagreb Philharmonic, Croatian Chamber Orchestra, Zagreb Soloists, Munich Camerata, Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento and the Orchestra da Camera di Caserta. Ms. Zahirović has given recitals in various European countries, Latin America and the United States as well prestigious festivals, such as the St. Marco Festival in Zagreb and Baroque Festival in Varazdin, Croatia. Ms. Zahirović is member of Duo Bach, with harpist Laima Bach, Duo Flugita with guitarist Georgy Moravsky and in Ultima Rara, the ensemble for contemporary music.
In 2010 she made her debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall with pianist Mia Elezović.
Born in Zagreb, Croatia, Mia Elezović was enrolled in Zagreb Music School in the class of Blaženka Zorić and later at Music Academy Zagreb with Zvjezdana Bašić. After graduating in 1995 (at age of 19), she moved to Vienna, where she studied at the Hochschule fur Musik in Wien with Hans Petermandl. In 1997, she moved to Frankfurt/Main for Aufbaustudium with Herbert Seidel. Parallel she was a student of the master program at Music Academy in Zagreb with Zvjezdana Bašić, where she received her MM degree in 2001. She finished her postgraduate studies in Frankfurt in the winter 2001/2002.
Ms. Elezovic has performed in concerts internationally, giving solo recitals as well as chamber music concerts in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czeck Republic, Germany, Italy, Japan, Slovenia, Spain and the United States. She has also appeared as a soloist with the Croatian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, The Croatian Chamber Orchestra, String Orchestra Gaudeamus under conductors MO Kazushi Ono, Pavle Despalj, Ralphe Pascal, Petar Skerjanec, Zlatan Srzic. She has also appeared with notable success on radio and television in Croatia and Germany.
She leads a very active musical life participating in various festivals as Hamamatsu Music Academy, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Holland Music Session, International Keyboard Festival- New York, Meranofest, Las Vegas Music Festival.
In the spring 2004, Ms. Elezovic has been invited from the Japanese government for 10-months training in Japan. She was making a research on the field of Japanese contemporary music for piano at Showa Music Academy. Since April 2005 she became a Faculty member of Kyoto University for Music and Art as well of British School in Tokyo. In February 2006, after winning an audition, she has been invited to be a piano-soloist member in the Spanish National Ensemble for Contemporary Music in Madrid.
Ms. Elezović moved to New York City in September 2007 for the program at Manhattan School of Music, where she enrolled in a unique and new program called Contemporary Performance and in May 2009 received her 2nd master degree. In 2008 she became part of accompanying department at Manhattan School of Music as well as faculty at Kids on Keys Music School, Bergen Academy of Music and ALPHA School of Music. In autumn 2010 Ms. Elezovic became a Faculty member at Royal Conservatory of Liege, Belgium. Ms. Elezovic has an active free-lancing performing schedule in the USA as well as Europe.
Countess Dora Pejačević (Budapest, 1885 – Munich, 1923) the oldest daughter of the Croatian civil governor Teodor Pejačević and a Hungarian baroness Lille Vay de Vaya, is the first and best known Croatian composer, who was, unfortunately, like many other artists, better known and appreciated abroad than in Croatia. Although she studied music in Budapest, Zagreb, Dresden and Munich, she was mainly self-educated. As an artist she mostly developed through contacts with the leading personalities and intellectuals of her time like Reiner M. Rilke, Annette Kolb, Karl Kraus and many others. She travelled very frequently but she always composed in her castle in Našice. She lived in the time that was marked as the boundary between the late Romanticism and the so called national style in Croatia. The influences of R. Wagner and G. Mahler mirror in her music, and the influences of R. Schumann, J. Brahms, E. Grieg and P.I. Tchaikovsky are obvious. Her works were on the repertory of many respectable artists and her name appeared on programmes and concert posters with the greatest world composers. She had set the foundation for the newer Croatian chamber and concert music. She left 58 opuses created between 1897 and 1922 in the field of orchestra, vocal, chamber and piano music. Her most famous work is ‘Piano concert’ from 1913 known as the first piano concert in Croatian music. Her short but intensive life ended tragically – she died giving birth to her son in 2 Munich, where she lived for the last 2 years of her life, married to a German officer.
The violin sonata, called Slavic sonata op. 43 is a temperament and passionate work, marked with gloomy melancholy and huge expressivity. It mirrors the time of the First World War along with the absent changes in countess’ Pejačević homeland. It reveals nostalgia for monarchy and the inclination to Slavic folk music which symbolises new political future. Her style is close to that of modern expression by Rahmaninov, Janacek, Skrjabin and Fauré. Although it was composed for a violin, this part can easily be performed on a flute, which enriches the flute repertory.
Bruno Bjelinski (Trieste 1909 – Zagreb 1992) created a diverse and opulent musical opus. In his early creative period he was interested only in the piano and chamber music, however, later he wrote a large number of orchestral pieces from concerts for musical instrument and an orchestra, fifteen symphonies and sinfoniettas, several operas, a few children’s music-theatre pieces and ballets to a large number of other musical achievements. His opus of songs, duets, trios, quartets and quintets for string, wind and combined chamber ensembles is equally important. Before he started composing, he had graduated from law school with a doctorate, as well as worked as a court and solicitor’s clerk. However, music was more important to him, so he enrolled to the Music Academy while he was still at the .University. After the Second World War, Bjelinski taught counterpoint and polyphony in music schools in Split and Zagreb, and later at the Music Academy in Zagreb.
The constant characteristic in the opus of Bruno Bjelinski is a neo-classical form and musical expression. Bjelinski is moving within the limits of tonality and is not prone to avantgarde experimenting. His music is chanted, rhythmically different and polyphonic, and Mediterranean cheerfulness and openness can be recognized in most of his works.
This is what the composer wrote about the creation of his April-Sonatina: “April-Sonatina is a pupils order’. One day a young female voice called me from Ljubljana: ‘Hello, I’m playing your Flute Concert and now I need one sonata! I love your music; it is so simple and beautiful, like old Chinese lyric poetry. I’m coming to Zagreb with my father tomorrow, so can I call on you?’ The next day a father came with his 15-year-old daughter. He was keen on nature and mountaineering, just like me, so we spent a couple of pleasant hours together. The piece was finished the following month. I called it April-Sonatina because the weather in April changes very quickly, just like Allegro, Adagio and Allegro in one musical piece. The young flutist – Irena Grafenauer who now lives in Munich – played this piece so beautifully on a festival in Opatija that a publishing house Gerig in Cologne immediately decided to publish it.”
Božidar Kunc (Zagreb, 1903 – Detroit,1964) was the brother of the famous female soprano Zinka Milanov, the prima donna of the Metropolitan opera in New York. At the very beginning of his career he distinguished himself through a brilliant orchestra debut: his Concert for violin and orchestra was performed in its first run by Zlatko Baloković and The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra. The songs that he composed during that period undoubtedly have the stylish characteristics of his colleagues Dora Pejačević and especially Dragan Plamenac and Ivana Lang. This period is characterised by the composer’s extended marginalization of his own creative impulse when he worked as a professor at Music Academy in Zagreb. However, Božidar, as the brother of an extremely talented young singer who needed a reliable accompanist and friend, decided to support the career of the future opera diva. In 1951 he followed his sister and emigrated to the USA. Taking into consideration drastic changes in his life – a foreign country, a new language – Kunc had to fight his depression by composing instrumental music. He died too soon and tragically on the concert podium in Detroit performing his First piano concert. Kunc had two different lives – one in Croatia and the other in the USA, which divided his activities amongst composing, solo, accompaniment and rehearsing piano playing and pedagogy. His music only slightly touches Croatian element because its main stylish stimulus is Ravel’s late impressionism.
Soliloquy op. 61 is one of the most important works in Croatian literature for solo flute in the 20th century. It consists of three parts, the first and the third being slow like an improvisation, whilst between them there is a virtuoso and technically very demanding perpetuo mobile. This piece, being very pastoral and melancholic, leaves the impression of Syrinx mood, and there are obvious hints of Croatian folklore. This short but intensive work is a real gem in flute literature.
Krsto Odak (Siverić, near Drnis, 1888 – Zagreb, 1965) came from a modest working-class family. The first part of his life until 1919 – with the exception of 1912 and 1913 which he spent in Munich after he was ordained to the priesthood – is connected to small social environments in his native regions where he served as a Franciscan. In 1919 he left the clerical order and finally decided to dedicate his life to music, so he went to Prague where he studied at Viteszlav Novak. After finishing his studies in 1922 Odak went to Zagreb where he worked as a professor at the Music Academy until 1962 and developed his intensive pedagogical activity. Even though he started his intensive composing work in his thirties, Odak left a large and significant legacy to Croatian music of the 20th century, which is based on a positive attitude to national ideology on the one hand, while on the other hand a smaller but very important part of his opus is completely freed of the influence of folk elements. As a pronounced polyphonic, Odak was the master of expressive melody line. Religious themes are very frequent in his works and he loved using themes from Hrvatsko zagorje, Međimurje and the Adriatic. Therefore, his opus contains a number of works, especially chorus, which are a certain stylization of folk music model.
Sonata for flute and piano op. 41 is Odak’s remake of the violin sonata op. 1. It was composed in 1946, shortly after the Second World War. It contains all the important characteristics of Odak’s style. Formed as a three-movement sonata it bursts with a large number of different, mostly folk motifs, sudden changes of character and temperament as well as the depth of music thought, which is emphasized in the second movement. The last movement, which sounds like an old Sicilian dance with its lively tarantella rhythm and brings melancholic themes from the second movement near its end, finishes in a virtuous and brilliant way.
Davor Bobić (Varaždin, 1968) graduated composition, music theory and classic accordion at the State Conservatory P. I. Tchaikovsky in Kiev. After returning to his homeland, he started a unique class of composition for primary and secondary education at Music School in Varaždin. He won numerous awards, some of which are Ivo Vuljević for the best young Croatian artist, Stjepan Šulek for the best orchestral work by a young Croatian author and the award by Varaždin County for extraordinary achievements in culture. He has also received the decoration of The Order of Croatian Trefoil and The Order of Croatian Danica, and in 2008 he received the eminent award Boris Papandopulo. Since 1999 he has been the manager of the Concert Office in Varaždin, the public culture institution. He is an extraordinary professor and the head of the Department of Music Art at the Arts Academy in Osijek, as well as the head of the Department of Music Pedagogy. In 2009 he was appointed the sub-dean for science and art at the previously mentioned school and in 2006 the principal of the respectable national festival Varaždin Baroque Evenings.
His works are performed by leading Croatian and foreign musicians, ensembles and orchestras. He has written more than 120 works from piano miniatures to large vocal-symphonic works.
‘Characteristic suite’ in five movements, dedicated to the composer’s son, was written in 1995. With its simple, almost childish expression, this piece of music is full of motifs from Croatian folklore, first and foremost folk melodies from Međimurje.
Emil Cossetto (Trieste, 1918 – Zagreb, 2006) graduated conducting at Music Academy in Zagreb. He cooperated with many domestic and international art ensembles and was a long standing conductor of numerous choirs. In 1945 he established mixed choirs in The Youth Cultural Club Joza Vlahović and The Cultural Club Moša Pijade and led them for a long period of time. An enormous organizational contribution of Emil Cossetto in the development of choir singing has to be subjoined with his internationally acclaimed conducting skills, as well as the rich choir opus created for more than half a century. He was interested in mixed, male, female and children ensembles, both a cappella and accompanied by the piano and different instrumental combinations, all the way to the symphony and tamburitza orchestra. He left an extensive choir opus. He wrote for a choir accompanied by a symphony orchestra and vocal lyricism with the piano or orchestral accompaniment, while his instrumental opus was dedicated to all string and wind instruments. With his works he contributed to the riches of Croatian music and he pointed the choir singers towards new contents closer to a contemporary listener. Rustic roots of authentic music traditions are fully expressed in Cossetto’s interpretations of Croatian folklore, and his re-makes of Sephardic and Ashkenazi folklore have to be mentioned.
Capriccio is the last movement in Cossetto’s cyclic work ‘Five pieces for flute and piano’. This short brilliant movement composed with virtuosity and imbued with Croatian folk motifs is distinguished by fluttering, cheerful and humoristic-satiric character.