The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra boasts 150 years of tradition of first-class musicianship in Zagreb and across Croatia. It acts as a promoter of the art of music in Croatia and a cultural ambassador of Croatia in the world. It is a symbol of the city in which it operates and a musical institution that captures the urban image of Zagreb as a central European musical, art and cultural centre. As early as 1871 the Orchestra became professionally active in Zagreb and in 1920 it acquired the name it still bears today. All the while, it has provided the Croatian capital with the very best classical music, shaping a history that has been written by first-rate chief conductors, such as: Friedrich Zaun, Milan Horvat, Lovro von Matačić, Mladen Bašić, Pavle Dešpalj, Kazushi Ono, Pavel Kogan, Alexander Rahbari. Vjekoslav Šutej and David Danzmayr. A bevy of renowned conductors have performed with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra: Leopold Stokowski, Paul Kletzki, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Kurt Sanderling, Carlo Zecchi, Jean Martinon, Milan Sachs, Krešimir Baranović, Boris Papandopulo, Stjepan Šulek, Milko Kelemen, Igor Stravinski, Krzysztof Penderecki and many others. Recent guest performers include: Dmitri Kitayenko, Lorin Maazel, Leopold Hager, Valery Gergiev and Sir Neville Marriner. Also notable are guest performances by great soloists: Yehudi Menuhin, Antonio Janigro, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonid Kogan, Luciano Pavarotti, Ivo Pogorelić, Montserrat Caballe, Alexander Rudin, David Garett, Julian Rachlin, Shlomo Mintz, Mischa Maisky…
The highlight of the 2011/2012 season was establishing a more active cooperation with Maestro Dmitri Kitayenko. His activities as artistic advisor to the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra heralded a new era in the Orchestra’s history which was marked by a new artistic ardour, notable musical achievements as well as large-scale concert and discographical projects.
In July 2012 at Arena Zagreb, the Zagreb and Slovenian philharmonic orchestras accompanied by eight vocal soloists and a choir comprising nearly a thousand singers from Croatia and Slovenia and conducted by the famous Russian conductor Valery Gergiev produced the musical mega spectacle Symphony of a Thousand by Gustav Mahler. The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra has performed in most European countries, as well as in Russia, the USA, Mexico, Japan, Oman, China, Argentina and Kuwait. It is a regular fixture at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival and the Music Biennale Zagreb. In February 2016 the Orchestra performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, the most prestigious music venue in the USA. The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra was invited to hold gala concerts on New Year’s morning in Salzburg for four years running.
The Orchestra pays special attention to developing interest and familiarising children and youth with classical music via the Children and Youth Music Week project which draws a large number of young people of all ages to Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall every year with interactive musical projects for the stage.
In order to achieve the same goal, during the 2019/2020 season the Orchestra kickstarted its MINIMINI cycle which is specifically aimed at children by offering original productions based on well-known literary works, such as the Hedgehog’s Home, Christmas at the Winterdreads and Hansel and Gretel, and provides a tiny musical gateway into the big world of children. The traditional cooperation with the Academy of Music in Zagreb plays an important role in the Orchestra’s activities by allowing prospective musicians to prove their mettle on the big concert stage and show that they are exceptional enough to become a member of the Orchestra. For the first time in its history, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra realised a project financed by the ERDF and IPA II funds of the European Union, along with its partner Music Youth of Novi Sad. The aforementioned project called Filmharmonics, comprising of screenings of silent films with musical accompaniment by the Orchestra, visited four locations: Novi Sad, Ilok, Vukovar and Subotica, bridging the gap and pushing boundaries as well as enriching the cultural life of the local communities by merging two art forms – music and film.
Over the decades, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra has stimulated Croatian musical creativity by performing, premiering and recording numerous pieces of music by Croatian composers. It takes special care of young talented musicians and presents the Young Musician of the Year award to the best of them. The Orchestra has opened its doors to anyone curious of its work by organising the Doors Open Day under the motto ˮGetting to know the Orchestra means getting to love itˮ.
The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra also boasts an enviable and decorated discography that has won myriad awards, such as the Croatian music award Porin, with albums released by reputable Croatian and international record companies (Virgin Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Naxos, Parma Recordings, Oehms Classics).
The three CDs released by the prestigious record company Oehms Classics as recordings of Maestro Dmitri Kitayenko conducting performances of the works of Russian artists, such as Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Prokofiev and Khachaturian, have allowed the Orchestra to make great strides in showcasing their talent to the global musical and cultural audience and provide permanent archival material of a successful collaboration with Maestro Dmitry Kitayenko, one of the most important conductors of our time.
In 2017 and 2018 the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra received the coveted City of Zagreb Award as high public acknowledgement of their outstanding merit in promoting music and culture.
Helmed by their chief conductor Dawid Runtz, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra resumes its successful concert activities.