Review: Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Concert Hall

While the world’s attention is currently turned to Central Europe and the fate of the former satellites of the USSR, what better than to welcome in Nottingham the best Croatian orchestra, the Zagreb Philharmonic.

And music lovers were there. The evening began with the Overture in D minor by Dora Pejačević. Pejačević being a pioneering Croatian composer of the early 20th century and the first to write a concerto. Its opening in D is bold and exuberant, alternating between walking moments and calmer segments. You may hear snippets reminiscent of Strauss or Wagner.

Next, to take us into the intermission, was Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor. And for the role of the virtuoso violinist, the future star Tamsin Waley-Cohen joined the scene. The Concert Hall program describes Tamsin as having “an adventurous career”. And she certainly has an impressive resume, touring the world and performing at top notch venues. Tonight she excelled at Sibelius, and the feeling of admiration in the stalls was palpable. Perfect note and carried out brilliantly. It was a privilege to hear him play.

After the break, it’s the turn of Gustav Mahler and his First Symphony. To quote the Concert Hall website, [Symphony Number 1] ‘is no less groundbreaking, reflecting his belief that the symphony should be like the world. It must contain everything.

A concert of impeccable and inspiring performances that drew enthusiastic applause from the audience

Indeed, Mahler drew extensively for the play, evoking peasant dances, military hymns and even a parody funeral march based on the nursery rhyme Frère Jacques. You could close your eyes and feel adrift on ocean currents of raw harmony. The melody rising like a great wave, propelling you upwards, only for you to slide to the other side, eager for the next wave of symphonic energy.

Jan Latham-Koenig was the conductor, clearly appreciated by his orchestra and the audience. With a catalog of credits as long as a cellist’s bow, Latham-Koenig has occupied many positions among the cream of the classical world. Conductor at the Kobolov Novaya Opera Theater in Moscow and musical director at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago when he was only two years old. His no-nonsense approach, on the show, kept proceedings admirably sharp and professional.

And what about the Zagreb Orchestra itself? Its origins go back more than a hundred years. When he’s not performing in his native country, he travels the world and works with the stars of the international concert circuit. They consider themselves ambassadors of Croatia and they definitely put it on the musical map.

A concert of impeccable and inspiring performances that drew enthusiastic applause from the audience. A tonic for the soul in these troubling days.

The Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra concert took place at the Royal Concert Hall on Friday, April 8, 2022. For more information about the concerts at the Royal Concert Hall in 2022, please visit their website

Comments are closed.