Igor Kuljerić: Croatian Glagolitic Requiem. © 2020 BRmedia Service GmbH

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Mystical Eastern Chants

GERALD FENECH is impressed by Igor Kuljerić's Croatian Glagolitic Requiem

'An enticing discovery that has all the hallmarks to command serious investigation from all music lovers across the board. Sound and presentation are first-rate.'

 

In 1991 Croatia separated from Yugoslavia to become an independent republic. A young state housing an ancient people with a future full of hope for better days. But this fledgling country paid a heavy price for its freedom with a four-year war that brought untold suffering, misery and death. Indeed, history was repeating itself. Ever since the barbarian invasions, Croats had settled in the region between the Pannonian Basin and the Dalmatian coast, situated on the Christian interface between Rome, Aquileia and Constantinople, and between Slavic Orthodoxy and Roman Christianity. The periods of self-determination were all too brief; a Croatian royal dynasty evaporated in 1097, after which the Hungarian crown ruled for nearly nine centuries. Up to the end of the First World War Croatia was constantly dependent on two great powers: the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. At the end of the 1980s, with the death of Josip Broz Tito, the Socialist Republic comprising Slovenes, Serbs and Croats crumbled again, and as they say, the rest is history.

It was against this turbulent background that Igor Kuljerić (1938-2006) spent his childhood absorbing various musical impressions on the Dalmatian coast, elements that were to strongly influence him in his later compositions. Once, when asked about the musical roots of his Croatian Glagolitic Requiem composed in 1996, Kuljerić confessed that it had arisen 'out of a deep desire to transform something I heard in my youth, and carried inside me from then on, into music - when the Glagolitic rites echoed within me'.

Listen — Kuljerić: Pokoj vični (Croatian Glagolitic Requiem)
(track 1, 0:47-1:45) © 2020 BRmedia Service GmbH :

From the 1960s onwards Kuljerić became a central figure in Croatian musical life and he was the recipient of many prestigious positions, while also being the catalyst of several festivities in his native country. This 'Requiem' cannot be compared to the standard pieces we are accustomed to - those of Berlioz, Verdi and others, say. It is stirring and utterly moving, and its powerful suggestive imagery leaves a profound effect on the listener. And all this against the mystical Glagolitic chants of the East. The real message of this uplifting piece lies, maybe, in the 'Offertorium' which ends thus: 'Lord, in praise we offer you sacrifices and prayers, accept them on behalf of those whom we remember this day. Lord, make them pass from death to life.'

Listen — Kuljerić: Žrtve i moljenija tebi (Croatian Glagolitic Requiem)
(track 13, 0:08-1:08) © 2020 BRmedia Service GmbH :

Premiered on 27 July 1996, the work was wholeheartedly embraced by local audiences but, as with all Croatian music, it is only in very recent times that this musical treasure trove has started to emerge.

Listen — Kuljerić: Aganče Boži (Croatian Glagolitic Requiem)
(track 16, 0:00-0:59) © 2020 BRmedia Service GmbH :

Jakov Gotovac (1895-1982) is one of the most important cornerstones of the Croatian national style in music. Born in Split, he worked for many years in Zagreb as chief opera conductor and director of many a choral society. His musical language is mainly based on folkloric dances and melodies, inspiring his countrymen with works such as the Hymn to Freedom. Though it lasts only four minutes, this piece has an intensely heroic element that is hard to resist, and the text by the baroque poet Ivan Gundulić is an impassioned cry for freedom that increases one's determination to attain such a priceless goal.

Listen — Jakov Gotovac: Hymn to Freedom
(track 18, 3:09-4:06) © 2020 BRmedia Service GmbH :

An enticing discovery that has all the hallmarks to command serious investigation from all music lovers across the board. Sound and presentation are first-rate.

Copyright © 30 September 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta

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