By Jane Snyder
Inside the contemporary-style building across the street from the Croatian National Theatre lies Blagoje Bersa Concert Hall. Opened in January 2016, the 300-seat hall showcases performances from a variety of music schools traveling in from all around the world. The concert hall, named after famous Croatian composer Blagoje Bersa, is a part of the Academy of Music for the University of Zagreb. The venue offers new concerts every few days and allows for travelers and locals of Zagreb to experience the dedication and skill of student musicians. Tickets for most of the shows are either free or around 20 kunas (3 USD), making these concerts a perfect event for travelers on a budget.
On May 24, 2016, the concert hall welcomed to the stage the Karlovac Music School’s chamber orchestra along with saxophone soloist Ivor Reljic and piano soloist Monika Trgovčević. The Karlovac Chamber Orchestra, consisting of both professors and students, used the performance to celebrate their 30th anniversary as an ensemble. Half way through the recital, the orchestra was joined by wind and percussion players from the University of Zagreb, evolving the orchestra into a full symphony.
Before the start of the program, the audience of all ages whispered among themselves in plush red seats until they were hushed by the sound of a violin tuning note. For an hour and a half, Veton Marevci, the 24-year-old conductor, led the orchestra through four pieces: Ceznja by Croatian composer Paul Despalj; Saxophone Concerto, Op. 109 by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov; Pavana, Op. 50 by French composer Gabriel Faure and the well-known Piano Concerto in A minor by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.
The room’s architecture, with walls covered in geometric wooden sound panels, intensified the smooth arpeggios of the saxophone and highlighted the soft plucking of the violin strings. Trgovčević, playing on a Steinway grand piano, filled the hall with heavy chords and danced with her feet on gold pedals. Marevci shaped the music with sharp movements of his baton while the bows of the cello players followed in sync. At the end of the program the two soloists surprised the audience with the Spanish-style piano and saxophone duet Piece en Forme de Habanera by Maurice Ravel—leaving Blagoje Bursa Concert Hall resonating with applause.
Throughout the year the Zagreb Academy of Music hosts similar events in the Blagoje Bursa Concert Hall as well as holds concerts for the music academy’s own ensembles. The next guest performance is from the University of St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble (May 31, 2016 at 8 p.m.) playing selections including Blue Shades by Frank Ticheli and Ode for Trumpet by Alfred Reed. Future show dates are updated monthly on the school’s website.