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William Everett (University of Missouri - Kansas City)


Nation/Culture. Located in southeastern Europe with a coastline along the eastern Adriatic, the horseshoe-shaped country of Croatia was settled by Slavs in the seventh century. The Kingdom of Croatia (established 925) entered a personal royal union with Hungary in 1102, and became part of the Habsburg Empire in 1527. This union lasted until 1918, when Croatia was in turn part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes; the Kingdom of Yugoslavia; and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Since 1991, the Republic of Croatia has been an independent state. Croatia became a member of the European Union on July 1, 2013. The official language is Croatian, and English is widely spoken.


Because of its geographical location, Croatia is a cultural and musical crossroads, with influences from Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans all being readily apparent. Different regions, such as Slavonia, Zagorje, Istria, and Dalmatia, have distinctive local customs and practices.


Musical Genres. Croatia has been part of all major movements in European art music history. A distinctive Glagolitic singing tradition dates from the Middle Ages, characterized by singing in parallel thirds. The Renaissance and Baroque eras reflect a close affinity between Croatian and Italian musicians. The Italian influence is evident in the symphonies of Luka Sorkocevic, written in the eighteenth century in Dubrovnik. In the nineteenth century, continental influences became more prominent, and Zagreb became a major musical center with the establishment of the Croatian National Opera in 1870 and the next year, an orchestra that later became the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra. The Illyrian Movement’s influence produced numerous “rousing songs” with patriotic texts and Singing Societies were established in Karlovac (“Zora,” 1858) and Zagreb (“Kolo,” 1862). Operas in Croatian began to appear in the nineteenth century, most notably Ljubav I zloba (Love and Malice, 1846) by Vatroslav Lisinski, the first major opera in Croatian, and Nikola Subic Zrinjski (1876) by Ivan Zajc, considered to be the composer’s masterpiece and a work that is still in the repertory today. Croatian composers since the early twentieth century have written in all major idioms and genres, and the Zagreb Biennele for Contemporary Music (established 1961) ranks among Europe’s leading new music festivals. In 2010, Ivo Josipovic, a composer as well as a politician, was elected President of Croatia. The country has four opera houses, several symphony and chamber orchestras, numerous choirs, and many other performing organizations.


Various traditional music styles exist throughout the different regions of Croatia. In the eastern parts of the country, diatonic two-part singing is typical and instruments include the gajde and the dude (both types of bagpipes) as well as the tambura (a long-necked lute in various shapes and sizes). Tambura ensembles often accompany kolo, or round dances. In the latter part of the twentieth century, tambura ensembles were strongly identified with Croatian identity.


Northern regions practice a unison singing style characterized by wide-ranged melodies and mixed or asymmetrical meters. Notable instruments include the tambura and cimbal (dulcimer), as well as violins. Bandisti (brass bands) play for social functions including weddings.


Chromaticism infuses folk songs from the northern Adriatic region, where singing in parallel thirds is common. In the Lika region, drones often appear under two-part singing at the interval of a second. Narrative songs performed by guslari (performers who accompany themselves on the gusle, a two-stringed chordophone) form an important part of the musical heritage of the region, alongside ojkanje, a particular singing style characterized by melisma.


Klapa is extremely popular in coastal Dalmatia and on the islands. Originally performed by a male group of four to eight singers, female and mixed klapa ensembles are also popular today. The top two parts often sing in parallel thirds while the lower two provide harmonic support in open fifths. Among the characteristic musical instruments of the region are the lirica (a three-stringed bowed chordophone) and the diple (a woodwind instrument).


Popular musical styles of various sorts exist in Croatia. Many groups incorporate regional idioms into their music, while others are more cosmopolitan in scope. Notable performers include Daleka Obala, Electro Team (ET), Thompson, and Baruni. Among Croatian-born singers now residing in the U.S. are Tajci (who represented Yugoslavia in the 1990 Eurovision Song Competition) and Nenad Bach.


Multiple resources are available for Croatian music. The Croatian Music Information Center ( maintains a website dedicated to Croatian music. The Croatian Composers’ Society is active in promoting the music of composers in Croatia through publications, a website (, and recordings. The Croatian Musicological Society ( publishes books on Croatian music topics as well as its journals International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music (IRASM) and Arti musices. Croatia Records ( is the largest Croatian recording label and releases music in a variety of genres.


Notable Musicians.

Renaissance: Julije Skjatevic (Guilio Schiavetti)

Baroque: Ivan Lukacic, Tomaso Cecchini

Classical: Julije Bajamonti, Luka Sorkocevic, Antun Sorkocevic, Amando Ivancic, Ivan Jarnovic, Josip Mihovil Stratico

Romantic: Ferdo Wiesner-Livadic, Ivan Padovec, Vatroslav Lisinski, Ivan Zajc, Franjo Ksaver Kuhac

Twentieth-century composers: Dora Pjeacevic, Blagoje Bersa, Franjo Dugan, Josip Hatze, Antun Dobronic, Ivan Matetic-Ronjgov, Krsto Odak, Jakov Gotovac, Boris Papandopulo, Miklo Kelemen, Ivo Malec, Stanko Horvat, Davorin Kempf, Marko Jruzdjak, Frano Parac, Berislav Sipus, Mladen Tarbuk, Srdjan Dedic

Performers: Milka Trnina (dramatic soprano), Zinka Milanov (spinto soprano), Lovro von Matacic (conductor), Antonio Janigro (cellist, conductor), Zlatko Balokovic (violinist), Ivo Pogorelich (pianist), Radovan Vlatkovic (horn player), Max Emanuel Cencic (countertenor)

Musicologists/Ethnomusicologists: Franjo Ksaver Kuhac, Josip Andreis, Lovro Zupanovic, Dragan Plamenac, Ivo Supicic, Koraljka Kos, Jerko Bezic, Eva Sedak, Niksa Gligo, Stanislav Tuksar, Vjera Katalinic, Naila Ceribasic, Nada Bezic, Dalibor Davidovic, Hana Breko Kustura


Music in Higher Education. The most comprehensive tertiary music institution in Croatia is the Academy of Music, part of the University of Zagreb. The Music Academy has approximately 500 students and 150 professors. Music can also be studied at the Arts Academy in Split and at the Pedagogical Faculty of the University of Osijek.


Music in Schools. Croatia has a highly developed system of music schools that provide in-depth musical education for pre-collegiate students.



Dalibor Cikojevic, Dean of the Music Academy in Zagreb, is a pianist who gave lecture-recitals on the piano music of Boris Papandopulo at the 2009 CMS International Conference and at the 2012 CMS National Conference.

Vice-Dean Mladen Janjanin, former Dean of the Music Academy, is a pianist whose attendance at the 2012 CMS National Conference helped to make it an especially memorable event.

Stanislav Tuksar is a musicologist at the University of Zagreb who has been to the U.S. on numerous occasions.


Recommendations for Listening.

Boris Papandopulo: Piano Music. Nicholas Phillips, piano. Albany TROY 1274 (2011).


Croatie: Musiques d’autrefois (Croatia: Music of Long Ago). Ocora Radio France C 600006 (1997). (Recordings of traditional musics taken from radio broadcasts between 1958 and 1993)


Fire on the Sea. Klapa Fortunal. Siam Records SMD-50010 (2000).


Luka Sorkocevic: Complete Instrumental Works. Salburger Hofmusik, Wolfgang Brunner. CPO 999 678-2 (2003).


Terra Adriatica. Dialogos. l’empreinte digitale ED 13107 (1999). (Italian and Croatian medieval sacred music)


Recommendations for Reading.

Andreis, Josip. Translated Vladimir Ivir. Music in Croatia. Zagreb: Institute of Musicology—Academy of Music, 1982.


Baker, Catherine. Sounds of the Borderland: Popular Music, War and Nationalism in Croatia since 1991. Farnham, U.K. and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010.


Everett, William A. “Contemporary Music in Croatia: Traditions and Innovations.” Central Europe Review 2, no. 19 (May 15, 2000).


Tuksar, Stanislav, ed. Zagreb 1094-1994: Zagreb i hrvatske zemlje kao most izmedu srednjoeuropskih I mediteranskih glazbenih kultura / Zagreb and Croatian Lands as a Bridge between Central-European and Mediterranean Musical Cultures. Proceedings of the International Musicological Symposium Held in Zagreb, Croatia, on September 28-October 1, 1994. Zagreb: Croatian Musicological Society, 1998.


Tuksar, Stanislav, and Grozdana Marsevic, “Croatia” in Grove Music Online