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Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra turns 70

Ljubljana, 13 January - The Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, which prides itself on being one of the oldest philharmonic orchestras in the world, will celebrate its 70th anniversary tonight with a concert featuring several pieces of Spanish music.

Ljubljana
The Slovenian Philharmonic.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

The Slovenian Philharmonic was established in 1947 and the orchestra played its first concert, conducted by Spanish Salvador Bacarisse, on 13 January 1948.

Founding the Philharmonic meant having an independent professional orchestra and having symphonic music played regularly in Slovenia ever since.

The idea for a professional orchestra was given by composer Marjan Kozina, conductor Samo Hubad and musicologist Vlado Golob.

The government embraced it, establishing the Philharmonic on 30 December 1947 as a public musical institution tasked with playing Slovenian and foreign music.

The new institution joined the Slovenian Opera, the Music Academy and other musical organisations as one of the cornerstones of musical culture in Slovenia.

Together with the Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestra has evolved into the leading Slovenian orchestra.

In its early years, the Philharmonic had a symphony orchestra, two choirs, a string quartet and an office organising concerts, which according to musicologist Ivan Klemenčič started a new chapter in music in Slovenia.

In 1952, the "performing collective of the Slovenian Philharmonic, the orchestra and the choir" received the Prešeren Prize for its 1950/51 concert season.

But the choir was disbanded in 1976, which made it difficult to put on large-scale vocal and instrumental concerts. The situation was not resolved until in 1991 with the founding of the Slovenian Chamber Choir.

Another milestone was 1982, when a new arts centre - Cankarjev Dom - opened in Ljubljana, giving concert-goers a much better acoustic experience. The Philharmonic has played its annual series of concerts there ever since.

The orchestra has worked with acclaimed soloists and conductors from Slovenia and abroad, and toured many venues and festivals.

It has worked with conductors including Oskar Danon, Uroš Lajovic, Marko Letonja, George Pehlivanian, Emmanuel Villaume and Keri-Lynn Wilson.

One of its biggest highlights was the 2012 tour of eleven European cities, during which it played Tchaikovsky's opera Iolanta with the soprano Anna Netrebko.

Although celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the Philharmonic traces its roots back to 1701, when Academia Philharmonicorum Labacensis was established as its first predecessor.

Its second predecessor was the Philharmonic Society, which was established in 1794 and played symphonic concerts in Ljubljana until the breakup of the Austrian-Hungarian empire.

This became unacceptable in a changed political situation when the State of Slovenians, Croats and Serbs (SHS) or later Yugoslavia emerged on this territory.

The Philharmonic Society played its last concert in 1918, which left Ljubljana without regular symphonic concerts for a while.

Consequently, musical activity until WWII largely centred around the musical society Glasbena Matica, which also facilitated the writing of Slovenian music.

Tonight's concert will bring music by Manuel de Falla, Salvador Bacarisse and Isaac Albeniz, in what is in fact the programme of the very first concert from 1948.

The orchestra will be conducted by Simon Krečič, featuring Jure Goručan on the piano.

The orchestra is celebrating the anniversary after having been involved in a controversy over conductor Lajovic and director Damjan Damjanovič for more than a year.

The musicians managed to force Lajovic to step down for his alleged inappropriate attitude towards them and Damjanovič has been dismissed by the Culture Ministry.

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© STA, 2018