Cantus Ansambl

A conversation with the composer: Danijel Legin

Tea Kulaš, a soloist, is to debut a brand new piece for the organ solo at the forthcoming Cantus Ensemble concert on 17 December 2022. It was composed by the youngest author in the program, Danijel Legin, a composer, pedagogue, also the winner of the Stjepan Šulek award, Rudolf and Margita Matz scholarship, and many other grants and commissions; an author who is also engaged in sheet music publishing.

The composer reveals the roots of his inspiration before the performance and how his composing affects other activities he is engaged in.

Isn’t that right, you have never composed for organ solo?

This is my third composition for the organ, actually. The first one, Toccata, was created ages ago when I was still attending the Zlatko Grgošević Elementary School of Music in Sesvete. 

Some of my teachers were Boris Klarić and organ player Gorana Vidnjević Fabijanić who would encourage my first composing attempts. Gorana advised me on the most critical aspects of treating the organ sonically and technically, following my coming up with the idea of writing a piece for the organ. I still remember and apply that advice to date!

Soon after obtaining a degree at the Music Academy of Zagreb, I was commissioned by the Heferer Art Workshop to create a new composition for the organ. The work entitled "Christmas Fantasy" was performed by Pavao Mašić at the concert "Christmas in Lepoglava" on 19 December 2010.

What were the challenges in composing for the organ? Did you have this very occasion in mind for the first performance, as well as this organ player?

It was my pleasure to consider a variety of sound colors and the sound possibilities of organs. The organ is a fantastic instrument with vibrant sound possibilities, yet they require a specific approach, just like any other instrument. It is a rather curious aspect of the composing process.

The additional challenge for a composer is the centuries-long history of organs, all the musical and non-musical associations that we relate to organ music, and the effect these elements have in creating a new piece.

Although I had no plans to compose a new piece for the organ, the Cantus Ensemble's commission and the opportunity to collaborate with Tea Kulaš made me very happy, so I gladly accepted the commission.

Which contemporary organ pieces have affected you, if any?

Rather than choosing specific organ pieces, I would highlight the Latvian organ player Iveta Apkalna. As her approach to interpretation and her choice of J. S. Bach's organ repertoire is specific, I have been listening to her recordings in the last few years. It is difficult to speak of a specific influence, but the music I get in contact with has a certain effect on my work.

Do you compose simultaneously with other ongoing projects? If so, what else are you working on at the moment? Or are you exclusively dedicated to the new piece for the organ?

While I was still a university student, I realized that my work in composition yields the best results if I am dedicated to a single composition/project.

I have worked similarly on this new piece for the organ in the last several months. I have several new projects awaiting me after this, including new music for the viola solo, for Andrea Nikolić, a Croatian violist with a Viennese address.

Alongside composing new music, I prepare (and sometimes revise) earlier works published by the Dutch publishing house Donemus.

How do your other projects, such as sheet music publishing - through which you familiarize yourself with a plethora of others' works - but also pedagogy and film music composition affect your 'classical' composer's work?

All the mentioned activities are excellent opportunities for interaction and collaboration with musicians from various music realms who have different perspectives. I want to highlight my engagement in music sheet publishing, which enables me to collaborate with contemporary composers in Croatia and abroad. Preparing a music sheet is a process during which one familiarizes themselves with a piece of music. This always allows me to learn new things, which I can apply to my own composing.

That is practically a mini-masterclass with a particular composer via which I get to know their opus, various composing techniques, and artistic tendencies that are pronounced in a given piece.

How would you describe your partnership with Cantus Ensemble and their role in the music scene?

Cantus Ensemble is an indispensable part of the contemporary music scene, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to collaborate. Berislav Šipuš gave me the opportunity to write for Cantus Ensemble while I was still a university student, so I always gladly take the chance to collaborate with outstanding Cantus musicians!


Cantus Ansambl   |
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HDS, Berislavićeva 9, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia

Concert cycle Cantus Ansambl is supported by City of Zagreb and international activities by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia.