Cantus Ansambl

“Homemade is the best when played solo-tutti”, says Cantus Ensemble

Cantus Ensemble's latest concert season continues with their first concert in 2024 set for Monday, February 5, 8 pm, at the Small Hall of the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall. As the concert’s titles and subtitles suggest: “Homemade is the best”, especially “when played solo-tutti”.

Cantus Ensemble is the oldest Croatian ensemble for contemporary music and has been active for 23 years. For the first 2024 concert of the season, they have prepared a programme that celebrates selected works of Croatian authors written in solo-tutti arrangements performed under the baton of Ivan Josip Skender, a conductor and a composer who has recently been elected as one of the three artistic directors of Music Biennale Zagreb.

With this concert the ensemble: "confirms its mission of performing and promoting Croatian contemporary music…This concert [by including exclusively works of Croatian authors] is a ‘homemade’ version of the Solo/tutti concert that Cantus Ensemble always has in its season, when members of the ensemble present themselves as soloists, chamber, and orchestral musicians", says Skender.

The programme first focuses on the works of the late Croatian composing greats and continues with first performances of works from representatives of the next generation. Conceptually, the concert starts with composers who are celebrating round anniversaries of birth or death this year: Natko Devčić and Stjepan Šulek (110th anniversary of birth) and Krešimir Šipuš (10th anniversary of death). The concert opens with Šulek's Sonata for Trombone and Piano titled Vox Gabrieli (1973), which quickly became a musical "bestseller" and was quickly snatched up by all trombonists in Croatia and beyond, thanks to a release in the catalogue of the Swiss publisher Editions Bim. In this piece, trombonist Mario Šincek, a longtime member of the Cantus Ensemble, will showcase his unquestionable playing skills along with pianist Srebrenka Poljak. Šincek, an interpreter with a great interest in a wide range of musical expression, is employed as the leader of the Zagreb Philharmonic trombone section and is a professor at the Music Academy in Zagreb.  

The opportunity for a solo performance will also go to harpist Mirjana Krišković, a member of the Croatian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra. She will perform Natko Devčić's Structures TraNsparentes (1966), another hit written for a solo instrument from the 20th century Croatian music repertoire. The piece immediately became available to all harpists in the world thanks to the German publisher Musikverlage Hans Gerig KG. This is followed by Nonetto Per Opera Cent'uno (loosely translated, Nonet for Opus One Hundred) for piano and ensemble by Krešimir Šipuš, who in 1997 was inspired by the theme of the slow, third movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata Op. 101, writing three variations for nine instruments.

The second part of the programme consists of works by living authors of the younger generation, the oldest of whom is the conductor of the concert, Ivan Josip Skender. His piece Five Crocs was commissioned in 2015 by his regular collaborators, sisters Zita and Nadia Varga to whom Skender originally dedicated the piece in the arrangement for piano, clarinet and cello. "In the meantime, the composition has experienced multiple performances by various ensembles who have performed the piece in different versions, including the one for piano, clarinet and viola," Skender says, adding that "the composition has five movements of different characters and durations that interpreters can perform in any order, depending on the atmosphere they want to achieve or - how they like it."

The biggest discoveries of the evening will be two young composers who will be represented by the premieres of their new compositions. Sara Jakopović, after graduating from the Zagreb Mathematical Gymnasium MIOC, enrolled in composition studies at the Music Academy in Zagreb in the class of Berislav Šipuš, who was also her mentor. ''This will be the first time that Cantus Ensemble performs one of my pieces, as well as the first premiere of a work of mine since graduation”, Sara excitedly reveals, admitting that Cantus Ensemble has shaped her musical taste for years and contributed to the development of her compositional style. "Cantus Ensemble is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for me and my colleagues, so working with them means a lot to me; I can continue to discover, learn and nurture my compositional affinity," Sara rejoices, realizing that such occasions are crucial for any young composer.

Cantus Ensemble, comprised of some of the most prominent soloists on the Croatian music scene, enables the extraction of various instrumental groups, experimentation with extended techniques on instruments, as well as exploration of interesting sound colours and gestures, i.e. situations with individual instruments so it will be interesting to hear some new sound combinations.

On the other hand, her two years older colleague Danijela Bošnjak, after graduating harpsichord in the class of Pavao Mašić at the Music Academy in Zagreb, started composition studies in the class of Prof. Zlatko Tanodi, at the same institution. Last year, at the Papandopulo Competition, she won 3rd prize in the duo category for a concert with soprano Antonija Žarković. In her works, she reconciles classics and contemporaneity, old and new, tradition and innovation. She does the same in her latest composition The Silver Swan for which she found inspiration in the eponymous madrigal by the composer Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625). "I adjusted the instrumentation and texture to that picture. I'm really looking forward to the premiere! It is a great honour to be included in Cantus Ensemble’s season", says Bošnjak, a young composer from Samobor who, with great excitement, awaits this most significant concert in her career.

And so are we! – eagerly awaiting this new auditory musical celebration that Cantus Ensemble cooked-up in their lab.

Cantus Ansambl   |
T: +385(0)1 4872-370, 4872-369   |   F: +385(0)1 4872-372

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.