Zagreb Live Cam

Croatia’s northwestern capital


A beautiful country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe

There is a total of 6,694 settlements in Croatia: 205 cities and 6,489 villages. 57.1% of the population lives in cities, 42.9% in villages. Four cities have more than a hundred thousand inhabitants. The largest city is Zagreb with about 1.1 million inhabitants, the second largest is Split with 190,000, Rijeka has 170,000, and Osijek has 105,000 inhabitants. The population of seven cities (Dubrovnik, Sisak, Vukovar, Varazdin, Šibenik, Vinkovci and Bjelovar) ranges from 25,000 to 50,000.

Music in Zagreb

The origins of Zagreb, the capital of the Republic of Croatia, now inhabited by some million people, go right back to the year of 1094, when the diocese of Zagreb was first established, with a settlement for the chapter very soon being founded alongside it. And it is actually from this very time that the earliest written musical remains derive. Musical development was further contributed to by the foundation of the cathedral school in the 13th century, the first organ being mentioned as early as 1359. With the gradual influx of musicians from other countries, profane music developed as well, the first secular forms of musicmaking appearing; they had become very well established indeed by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the musical life of Zagreb was in full bloom; 1826 was a notable year that saw the foundation of the Croatian Musical Institute, under the aegis of which the first music school opened, the germ of today's Musical Academy. The Croatian National Theatre has been in operation since 1870, moving into its present-day building, the work of Viennese architects Hellmer and Fellner, in 1895. As well as a number of smaller halls and other facilities for concerts, since 1973 Zagreb has had the contemporarily built and equipped Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall, a modern acoustic complex with two concert halls, the largest of which can accommodate an audience of one thousand and eight hundred. It has seen a very lively and interesting musical life for over quarter of a century now, linking Zagreb in the best possible way with the most important trends in the European cultural tradition and the current world movement.

The History of Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra

The identity of any nation can be seen in its culture. How are nations and individuals to be known if not by their culture? And music is one of the pillars of any culture. And not just any music, but music that penetrates into the depths of the human soul, the capacity for which is what enhances the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra. Various warrior hordes have marched over the region, laying waste the things of this world, without, however, being able to destroy the music here, and it is no wonder then that it was a full 125 years ago that a symphony orchestra came into life here in Zagreb. The center of Croatia, Zagreb, celebrated its 900th anniversary in 1994, while the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, with 125 years of existence, has become one of the trade marks of both Zagreb and the Republic of Croatia. Today it is no exaggeration to say that the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra constitutes the musical soul of the city of Zagreb.

The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, Croatia's oldest orchestra, began its working life in direct connection with the Opera of the Croatian National Theatre. Under the leadership of Ivan von Zajc, composer, conductor and teacher who gave up a brilliant career as a Viennese master of operetta to make his contribution to the cultural advancement of his homeland, it started to put on concerts with excerpts from symphonic works in 1871. As early as April 8, 1884, the first Philharmonic concert was put on, and this was to provide the foundation for a century long need for and habit of widening the musical horizons for both musicians and audiences alike. In time, the Orchestra became more and more professional, with respect to both the skill of the members and the repertoire. It began putting on series of very well received concerts, there being a particularly outstanding one on February 5, 1916, conducted by Fridrik Rukavina, of works by younger Croatian composers: Kresimir Baranovic, Bozidar Sirola, Franjo Dugan, Svetislav Stancic, Dora Pejacevic and Antun Dobronic. This was in fact the beginning of the modern period of Croatian music, modern with respect to both composition and performance.

After World War I, in 1919, members of the Theatre Orchestra, encouraged by Dragutin Arany, formed the Philharmony of the Theatre Orchestra; this name was changed one year later to the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra. Between the wars, the work of the Orchestra was at the constantly higher artistic level. There were results that were constantly more evident from the conducting of the leading artists Kresimir Baranovic, Milan Sachs and Lovro von Matacic. Much more demanding works were being added all the time to the repertoire, while outstanding musicians from both Croatia and other countries took part in the performances. In 1928, the Croatian Philharmonic Society was founded, its task being to provide financial assistance to the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, which had otherwise had to exist on the proceeds of the box office. This period also fixed the sphere of work of the ensemble, composed of highly trained members like those we know today.

After World War II, outstanding artistic directors fixed their particular stamp upon the development of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra; also very influential were the orchestra's frequent guest appearances abroad. In 1945, the first post-war conductor was the great German artist Friedrich Zaun, who worked in Zagreb with great success until 1956. From 1948 on the ensemble appeared under the name of the State Symphony Orchestra, while from 1955 it once again assumed its current name. From 1956 to 1970, a full fourteen years, the chief conductor was Dr. Milan Horvat, a conductor of very great precision and knowledge. He is still remembered for his skilled performances of works of the classical, romantic and contemporary repertoire, a special place among which is held by 20th century classics. From 1970 to 1980 the orchestra was conducted by one of the last conducting legends of the century, Lovro von Matacic, who did guest work in Bayreuth, La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and many other of the world's most highly developed musical centers, and his mastery had a very direct influence on the extremely high musical level of the orchestra. In a certain period, Matacic's choice of repertoire expressed an aspiration diametrically opposed to that of Ivan von Zajc. While Zajc felt the need to widen the horizons of his operating musicians, teaching them to play symphonic music, Lovro von Matacic brought opera to the concert hall, especially those operas less often performed in the theatre. The high level of musical awareness in the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra has been retained under Matacic's successors: Mladen Basic (1970-1977), Pavle Despalj (1978-1985), Pavel Kogan (1988-1990) and Kazushi Ono(1990-1996).

One thing that is certain is that the quality of an orchestra can be judged by the amount of foreign guests, both composers and soloists, that the ensemble has the opportunity to work with. This list is extremely rich indeed in the case of Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, so that it is possible to mention just a few of the most famous names. As far as conductors are concerned these are Bruno Walter, Carlo Zecchi, Clemens Krauss, Ernst Marzendorfer, Felix Weingartner, Rafael Kubelik, Leopold Stokowski, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Kiril Kondrasin, Zubin Mehta, Paul Klecki, Jean Martinon, Leopold Hager, Aaron Copland, Sir John Barbirolli, Philippe Entremont and Lorin Maazel, the last of whom appeared with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra in 1987, at the time the World University Games were held, performing Bethoven's Ninth Symphony on the occasion of the birth of the five billionth member of the world's population. Among soloists, the following have made appearances with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra: Pina Carmirelli, Maurizio Pollini, Sviatoslav Richter, Aldo Ciccolini, Andre Navarra, David Oistrakh, Henryk Szeryng, Monique de la Bruchollerie, Ivan Moravec, Igor Bezrodni, Nikita Magaloff, Daniel Shafran, Enrico Manardi, Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli, Yuri Bukov, Mikhail Pletniov, Alexander Uninsky, Wolfgang Schneiderchann, Monique Haas, Mstislav Rostropovich, Wanda Wilkomirska, Walter Klein, Rudolf Firkusny, Marta Argerich, Ivo Pogorelich and Fou Ts'Ong.

For its superlatively effective work, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra has received many prizes and recognitions, including, as many as four times, the Prize of City of Zagreb, the last time in 1988 for its performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. Over the years the orchestra has had the chance to display the richness of its knowledge and experience round the world; of its many foreign tours, at least a few should be mentioned. By way of example, over a 25 year period, during 1958 - 1982, the orchestra held 362 concerts abroad, in 15 countries; it appeared 44 times in Austria, 92 in Germany, 74 in Italy, 17 in Great Britain, and 14 in the USA. We might add to this tours in Switzerland, France, the USSR, Belgium, Spain, portugal, Bulgaria, Poland, the Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania. There was the great tour of 1990 which took the orchestra to Taiwan and Hong Kong, and the brilliantly successful tour of Japan in 1992.

An enormous number of people all round the world have had the chance to listen to the music-making of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, getting to know something of the cultural range and achievements of its homeland at the same time. On the occasion of the orchestra's guest appearance in Graz, the Austrian paper Die Weltpresse said: "This is and orchestra with a marvelous sound and a very high level of performance." The German critic of the 1961 tour headed his piece in the Kieler Nachrichten "Beauty, sound, temperament", and wrote as follows: "So much freshness, warmth, brilliance of sound, such a precision in the ensemble playing, these are things characteristic only of first rate orchestras." The Lyons Echo-Liberte wrote in connection with a guest appearance in 1968: "This is an ensemble of a hundred players constituting a sound mass subject to the most strict of disciplines." The critic of the British paper The Northern Echo wrote about a night of mature brilliance and mentioned the impressive appearance of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, which showed a high level of technical performance, talent and self-confidence, in addition, to well-considered interpretation. At the great American tour of 1981 the orchestra appeared at New York's Carnegie Hall and in the capital's Kennedy Center. On this latter occasion leading critic John Rockwell remarked: "This concert was genuine pleasure... The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra is an ensemble of great artistry and powerful individuality." Music critic Joanna Sheeny wrote in The Washington Post: "This is an orchestra distinguished by a discreet, almost muted way of playing, and a quality that is in sharp contradistinction to the extroverted brilliance and virtuosity so characteristic of the majority of American orchestras... They managed to achieve a sound full of profound sensitivity, without ever at the same time falling into cheap emotionalism."