11 of the best Croatian musicians

Ahead of the England-Croatia World Cup semi-final, here's our run-down of the musicians you need to know from the Balkan country

Countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic
Published: July 11, 2018 at 10:19 am

Just in case you weren't aware, England are playing today in the semi-final of the Fifa World Cup. It's an occasion that we at BBC Music Magazine are as keen to celebrate as much as anyone.


However, before we all join together in yet another chorus of 'Football's coming home', let's not forget that there will be two sides competing this evening. In due deference to our Croatian friends, we have compiled our First XI of classical musicians from the beautiful Balkan country…

1) Max Emanuel Cencic (countertenor)

A TV singing sensation at age six in Zagreb, the young Cencic (b1976) went on to join the famous Vienna Boys Choir. He then pursued a career as a male soprano, and after taking a break from singing and retraining he made his debut as a countertenor in 2001. He's since made recordings with Virgin Classics and Decca.

2) Ivana Gavrić (pianist)

Born in Sarajevo to Croatian parents, the pianist won BBC Music Magazine’s Newcomer of the Year Award in 2011 for her debut disc In the mists, which featured works by Janáček, Schubert, Liszt and Rachmaninov. She has gone on to release three more albums, most recently a collection of Chopin works.

3) Stjepan Hauser (cellist)

One half of 2Cellos, Stjepan Hauser was born in Pula in 1986. The cello duo's 2011 cover of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal was viewed millions of times, turning them into a YouTube sensation. He was also a member of the award-winning Greenwich Trio (once described as the 'New Beaux Arts Trio', and in recent years has regularly toured with Elton John.

4) Ivo Josipović (composer/former president of Croatia)

Best known for his chamber music, Ivo Josipovic's (b1957) many works include a Samba da Camera, which won him an award from the European Broadcasting Union in 1985. If his composition dried up a little from 1910-15 there's a good reason: he was, at the time, serving as Croatia's president!

5) Milko Kelemen (composer)

Milko Kelemen, who died earlier this year, was Croatia’s most important 20th-century composer, his music, often Bartókian in style, embodying what he termed ‘complicated simplicity’. After studying with Messiaen in Paris and Wolfgang Fortner in Freiburg, he settled in Stuttgart as professor of composition at the city’s Academy of Music.

6) Dejan Lazić (pianist/clarinettist/composer)

Now 40, Dejan Lazić was just 13 when he released his first disc - playing not just Mozart's Piano Concerto, K449 but, remarkably, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto too. Today, he largely concentrates on a career as a pianist, though also composes.

7) Ivo Malec (composer)

Though born and trained in Zagreb, Malec (b1925) made his career in Paris after joining the trailblazing Groupe de Recherches Musicales. An internationally renowned composer and conductor, Malec also taught composition at the Paris Conservatoire and was an early experimenter and champion of so-called ‘mixed music’, bringing together traditional and electro-acoustic sounds.

8) Boris Papandopulo (composer)

A Croatian of Greek descent, Boris Papandopulo (1906-91) composed prolifically, ranging from chamber music to film scores. Works such as his Piano Concerto No. 2 distinctively combine Romanticism with folk elements.

9) Dora Pejačević (composer)

Born in Budapest in 1885 into Croatian nobility, Dora Pejačević made a significant mark on the music of her home country. Her Piano Concerto of 1913 and Symphony in F sharp minor, written during the First World War, were landmark works. She died in 1923, at the age of 38, after complications from childbirth.

10) Ivo Pogorelić (pianist)

After Ivo Pogorelić (b1958) was eliminated from the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, jury member and fellow pianist Martha Argerich stormed out in protest, calling the Croat a ‘genius’. A one-time DG artist, his recordings have attracted as much acclaim as criticism. In 1988, he was named a UNESCO Ambassador of Goodwill and in 1994 set up a foundation to help rebuild a maternity hospital in Sarajevo.

11) Renata Pokupić (mezzo-soprano)

Renata Pokupić was born in 1972 in the city of Virovitica, near the Hungarian border. She made her operatic debut in 2003 as Anna in Berlioz's Les Troyens under John Eliot Gardner, and has gone on to sing regularly with Gardiner with his various ensembles.



Rebecca Franks
Rebecca FranksJournalist, Critic and former Managing Editor of BBC Music Magazine

Rebecca Franks is the former Managing Editor of BBC Music Magazine and a regular classical music critic for The Times. She is currently writing her first children's book.

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