Tours are an important part of an orchestra's activities, much like international and domestic guest performances and collaborations and exchanges with other orchestras. Performances at prestigious concert halls all over Europe and the rest of the world are listed as proud milestone achievements in the rich biography of the oldest and largest Croatian orchestra – Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra promotes the city of Zagreb with its concert performances and artistic excellence. It acts as a cultural ambassador of Croatia that speaks the universal language of music.
International guest performances of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra
The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra has played in most European countries, as well as in Russia, the USA, Mexico, Japan, China, Argentina, Oman and Kuwait. In February 2016 the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra performed at the most coveted musical venue in the United States – Carnegie Hall in New York. The highlights of 2017 included two notable tours: in early 2017, as part of its first Chinese tour, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra held seven concerts in seven Chinese cities: Chongqing, Nanchang, Kunming, Liuzhou, Guilin, Wuzhou, with the grand finale held in the ˮPearl of the Orient“ – the city of Shanghai, as well as the tour of Argentina in June 2017. The concerts in three cities in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Rosario, Tucuman) also helped to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Argentina and Croatia.
The Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said Al Said, a connoisseur and aficionado of music, invited the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra to perform in Oman, which it did on three occasions at the majestic edifice of the Royal Opera House Muscat.
In January 2019 the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra visited Kuwait City for three concert performances conducted by Dawid Jan Runtz. In addition to being another impressive and famous building, the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre in Kuwait City is the largest cultural centre in the Middle East. It is a part of a newly constructed cultural neighbourhood whose clear goal is to provide a multipurpose venue for a variety of events from all areas of culture and the arts as well as for exchanging and producing ideas and know-how through international cooperation.
After visiting distant countries across the Atlantic, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra continued its musical journey toward European music centres, including the following three countries: Austria, Germany and Switzerland, visiting five cities: Vienna, Dresden, Munich, Zurich and Frankfurt for five wonderful guest performances conducted by Kristjan Järvi. The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra painted the venerated European stages that made the history of global music, as well as of European cities where they serve as cultural hubs, with the musical colours of Zagreb and Croatia. From the hallowed Musikverein in Vienna and the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, where the famed Carmina Burana by Carl Orff premiered, to Gasteig – the home of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and the acoustically unrivalled Tonhalle in Zurich, whose opening ceremony in 1895 was conducted by none other than Johannes Brahms himself.
A more recent noteworthy guest performance before the outbreak of the pandemic was the concert that marked the beginning of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 23 January 2020 at the grandiose venue of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in the eternal city of Rome.
It should also be noted that the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra especially makes sure to include the works of Croatian composers (Blagoje Bersa, Boris Papandopulo, Natko Devčić, Jakov Gotovac, Vatroslav Lisinski...) in its repertoire with the aim to showcase the wealth of Croatian culture and musical heritage.
Domestic guest performances of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra
The Orchestra's concert activities also include performances in other Croatian cities. Cognisant of its responsibility to society and the significance of culture and cultural institutions in the revitalisation of areas less exposed to the Orchestra's activities, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra traditionally, ever since the post-war concert performance among the ruins of Eltz Castle in 1998, holds a concert in Vukovar every year for the residents of this heroic city in cooperation with the Vukovar City Museum. The 20th jubilee of the first post-war concert performance by the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra in Vukovar was celebrated on 18 September 2018. It was in the now distant 1998 that the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra held its first concert in Vukovar after the war. The concert took place outside the ruins of Eltz Castle, which were a symbol of a devastated city and a lost generation, while the music elicited a cry for hope of a better tomorrow. Tomorrow had become today and from the ruins sprang a city, even more beautiful, taller and prouder, on the banks of the famous beautiful blue Danube which tells the story of a heroic city and its citizens who breathed new life into it. Another concert was held on that same field outside Eltz Castle twenty years later, but now with a more appealing backdrop, one where the colours were brighter, the grass greener and the people's smiles broader. Beethoven's Eroica Symphony was aptly performed with David Danzmayr as the chief conductor.
Every May, the cooperation with the town of Đakovo yields a concert that takes place in the solemn and sacral ambience of the Đakovo Cathedral as part of the Strossmayer's Days festival. The cooperation also produced a public award presented to the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra by the town of Đakovo in 2013.
For years the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra has participated in the celebration of Zaprešić Day and also headlined the central celebration of the 300th anniversary of the pride of Croatia – the Sinjska Alka with a gala concert.
The Orchestra is a regular fixture at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. Concert performances by the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra with the pianist Ivo Pogorelić, cellist Mischa Maisky, violinist Julian Rachlin or the cellist Monika Leskovar are genuine musical treats reserved for the renowned festival in Dubrovnik which for 70 years now proudly arises from the most beautiful walls of Croatian culture. It is an honour for the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra to perform at the Varaždin Baroque Evenings, the Josip Štolcer Slavenski May Music Memorial in Čakovec and the Milko Kelemen Days festival in Slatina in order to contribute to the organisation of these worthwhile cultural events around Croatia.
It is exactly the concerts in Slavonski Brod, Drniš, Čakovec, Pazin, Varaždin, Zadar, Šibenik etc. that bring cultural and musical content to areas without their own orchestra, among people who do not have the privilege of attending classical music concerts or have to travel a long way to see a concert in Zagreb.
New Year's Concerts in Salzburg
In keeping with tradition of all great orchestras, after its traditional Philharmonic Ball, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra travelled to Mozart's City on four occasions to perform gala concerts on the morning of the New Year at the renowned Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg. Nowhere is the tradition of New Year's concerts and balls as deeply rooted and (wide)spread as in Austria, a country that brought forth some of the greatest composers in the history of music (Mozart, Mahler, Bruckner, Haydn, Schubert, the Strauss family...), consequently raising the bar for musical excellence. This is why the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra was deeply honoured and delighted to usher the audience in Salzburg into the New Year in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 by riding the musical waves of the Blue Danube. It was also an opportunity to play a part in the preservation of the tradition of New Year's concerts which has been passed onto us, long after the age of Viennese salons, courts and dazzling balls.