Music Biennale Zagreb - EFFE Laureate

Simon Mundy - 12 Sep 2019

Simon Mundy interviews Antun Tomislav Šaban, Secretary General of the Croatian Composers's Society.

There are not too many festivals which can boast that Stravinsky appeared at the second edition and that, many years later, its then Artistic Director, Ivo Josipovic, became President of the country from 2010-2015 and had to be protected by bodyguards at his own concerts. But that sums up both the prestige of the Music Biennale Zagreb (MBZ) and the central position it has in the artistic life of Croatia.

The Otheroom

Run by the nation's Composers' Association, it has been hosting a combination of the world's leading creative voices and its own members since 1960. During the last thirty years of communism, when it was part of Yugoslavia, Zagreb capitalised on its political position of being an acceptable destination for both Soviet bloc and Western musicians. It allowed local composers the ability to hear what their colleagues from both traditions were doing, whether the experimentalism of the West Germans or the more traditional idioms favoured by the Soviet aesthetic.

Antun Tomislav Šaban, the composer who is guiding the festival between editions in his capacity of Croatian Composers' Society's Secretary General (the next is in April 2021) feels that MBZ has its special place because it is not afraid to concentrate wholly on the music of its own time: a full scale immersion in which musicians and audiences can take a critical view of their own period. “We have two duties, I think. One,” he says, “is to give our own composers the chance to hear their music in well-prepared performances so that their quality can be shown in an international context and to their peers from abroad. The other is to let audiences here get to know what are now contemporary classics by composers who are still with us – or have been part of the festival's history.”

For 2021 MBZ will have a female composer in artistic control for the first time. Margareta Ferek Petrić is a 37 year-old composer from Zagreb, now based in Vienna. She is relishing the challenge and feels that she can refresh the model as the festival enters its third generation. “MBZ represents the diversity and creativity of the Croatian and international contemporary music scene. My goal is to have a festival where artistic collaborations between musicians and composers are as important as winning over the audience of the future. Through workshops and concerts for children and young people, I also want to encourage music students to explore new sounds. In 2021 & 2023 we will celebrate the founder, Milko Kelemen; draw a bow over time confronting the tradition with new artistic approaches, always creating a stage for curious minds of all generations.”

Note from the EFFE International Jury

Since 1961 Music Biennale Zagreb (MBZ) has been dedicated to presenting and supporting the development of contemporary music of all genres through two prevailing ideas: tolerance and high quality music production and creativity. The festival features both “living legends” and upcoming talents, offering its audience a wide range of approaches to contemporary artistic expression, featuring symphonic and chamber orchestras, experimental music theatre, contemporary dance, jazz, electronic and alternative music.

Music Biennale Zagreb
6-13 April 2019
Zagreb, Croatia