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date: 13 November 2019

Ljubljana (Ger. Laibach).free

  • Bojan Bujic
  • , revised by Ivan Klemenčič

Capital city of Slovenia. The oldest permanent settlement of today’s inner city of Ljubljana is known to be from the time of the culture of urn burial sites of the late Bronze Age. The settlement continued through the entire late Iron Age until the arrival of the Romans. At the beginning of the Christian era the Roman settlement of Emona was founded; this became a diocesan seat in the 4th century ce. It is first mentioned by Pliny the Elder in the middle of the first century, and in the next century by Ptolemy. The Slovenian name Ljubljana, as well as its German variant Laibach, are first mentioned in written sources in 1144 and 1146. Ljubljana gained city rights in the 13th century, and in the 16th century it became the cultural centre of the Slovenian nation; prior to that it had been the capital of the central Slovenian province of Carniola (Kranjska), which was ruled by the Habsburg house for six centuries. In 1918 Ljubljana became the capital of the Slovenian nation and in 1945 of the Federal Republic of Slovenia, both within Yugoslavia. The communist revolution during World War II was followed by a period of communist totalitarianism (1945–90), which meant the forced withdrawal of the Slovenian nation from Western Christian civilization. In 1991 the city became the capital of the independent state of Slovenia, which, in 2004, became part of the European Union and member of NATO (2007 introduction of Euro). After independence the town saw more and more tourists visit, and it ascended to second place of the most recommended destinations in Europe, ‘Best in Europe 2014’ (after Lonely Planet) as one of the most green capitals in Europe. In 2010 Ljubljana was named by Unesco the World Book Capital. For the year 2016 the European Commission declared the town Green capital of Europe. In the same year city of Ljubljana was awarded by World Federation of Travel Journalists and Writers with Golden Apple Award for excellent achievements in the field of tourism and soustainbility.

The city retains the geographical significance of the ‘Ljubljana gateway’, the crossing of paths between the West and the East, from Northern and Central Europe to the Mediterranean and the south. It is situated on the only European point of contact between the Romanic, German, Slavic, and Finno-Ugrian worlds. The proximity of the city to the important cultural centres of Central Europe and its long stability and freedom from Turkish occupation ensured a rich and varied musical life. The cultural identity of Ljubljana as a Central European city has been influenced mostly by the achievements of Italian and German culture, especially with regard to music. The cultural history of Slovenia can be seen as a long process of formation and consolidation of a national and Central European identity.

Art music in the Middle Ages was fostered predominantly by churches and monasteries. A Franciscan monastery was founded by 1242, and music was practised in the church of St Peter from its foundation in the 10th century. The cathedral was musically active from the late Middle Ages and had a song school from the early 15th century. Later the Jesuit college became a centre for musical instruction. The earliest references to organized bodies performing secular music date from the 16th century; in 1544 the city council appointed musicians to the permanent posts of Stadtpfeifer and Landestrompeter, and Stadtgeiger are recorded from 1571. Throughout the 17th century these musicians regularly took part in the numerous musical performances at the Jesuit theatre. In the second half of the 16th century Protestantism was strongly increasing in Slovenian countries. The representatives of this new religion edited more than 50 Slovenian books, among them first Slovenian printed book (1550) and Slovenian Bible (1584). The theatre continued to add more and more splendour to its performances, with frequent visits by Italian opera companies, such as that of Angelo and Pietro Mingotti. Baroque operas had been performed by professional companies since the 1650s; after 1740 the stream of visiting Italian companies was unbroken, and after 1768 German companies also began appearing, presenting Classical repertoire in particular. In the 18th century opera performances were given in the palace of Count Auersperg, until the Stanovsko gledališče (‘Theatre of the Estates’) was opened in 1765. Between 1779 and 1782 Emanuel Schikaneder’s company performed a number of Singspiele and operas.

The Academia Operosorum, a predecessor of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, was founded in 1693. The important Academia Philharmonicorum (founded 1701) was an aristocratic music institution which performed oratorios and orchestral music until the middle of the century. A Baroque society, it was the first in the Habsburg monarchy, and its classically oriented successor, the middle-class Philharmonische Gesellschaft (founded in 1794), later together with aristocracy was also one of the very first societies of its kind. The orchestra of this society from its inception performed many works by contemporary Viennese composers. It elected Haydn (1800) and Beethoven (1819) to honorary membership. In gratitude, Beethoven gave the Philharmonic a copy of the score to his Pastoral Symphony with his hand-written additions and corrections, while Haydn expressed his thanks with the parts to the C major Missa in Tempore belli or Paukenmesse (both are preserved in the National and University Library in Ljubljana). Other celebrated honorary members include Paganini (1824) and Brahms (1885). In 1816 the society opened a public music school; one of the unsuccessful applicants for the post of teacher was the 19-year-old Schubert. The society continued until the early years of the 20th century, remaining identified with the German-speaking section of the population.

The activity of the Slovenian nationalists in the mid-19th century was centred on the čitalnice (reading rooms), cultural societies which devoted much time to music, especially choral. The Ljubljana reading Room appeared in 1861. From 1872 onwards, musical life was the domain of the Glasbena matica (Musical Centre). As the then central music institution in the Slovenian territories, it was engaged in the propagation of folk music and it supported the creative work of Slovenian composers and oversaw the publication of their compositions, as well as taking responsibility for music education and performance. It founded a large choir as well as the first Slovenian Philharmonic (Slovenska filharmonija; 1908–13) under Václav Talich. Among its international successes was an appearance in Vienna at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, with a choral concert and a performance of The Spectre’s Bride conducted by its composer, Dvořák. On the latter’s 60th anniversary, Glasbena matica organized a gala concert of his works and elected him as an honorary member. The division into two streams of parallel effort by the German-speaking minority and Slovenian-speaking majority caused several crises as well as a positive spirit of competition during the period of growing national consciousness in the second half of the 19th century, which substantially enhanced the level and extent of musical life.

Operatic activity was likewise divided between the German Landestheater and the Slovenian Dramatično društvo (Dramatic Society) from which the Slovenian Opera evolved. The Theatre of the Estates was destroyed by fire in 1887, and in 1892 a new Slovenian theatre was built. The house was shared by the German and Slovenian ensembles and was known as the Slovensko deželno gledališče (Slovenian Regional Theatre). Mahler spent the 1881–2 season as conductor at the German theatre, and started conducting operas in Ljubljana. The Slovenian Opera owed its remarkable progress to Fran Gerbič, who was its musical director between 1886 and 1895. Fritz Reiner conducted the opera in the 1910–11 season, and Václav Talich in 1909–10 and 1911–12. The building now houses the opera and ballet of the Slovenian National Theatre. In December 2011, performances commenced in the completely renovated opera house (526–605 seats, with additional spaces for performers); the normal season extends from September to June.

After World War I the city became one of the foremost musical centres of Yugoslavia. The main task of performing orchestral music fell on the orchestra of the opera. The Ljubljana PO was founded from members of this orchestra in 1934, and operated until 1941 with conductors Lovro von Matačić, René Baton and Hermann Scherchen. Between 1935 and 1945, occasional public performances were also given by the Ljubljana RO, the whole period between two wars also with performanes of the Orkestralno društvo (Orchestra´s Society) of Glasbena matica. In 1948 the Slovenian Philharmonic was established, taking the name of the orchestra that had existed earlier in the century. It incorporated both choruses and the large orchestra from Radio Ljubljana. During the inter-war period Glasbena matica continued its manifold activity – it supported a choir and an orchestra, published music, and opened a music school; in 1934 the Institute for Folk Music was started under its auspices. After World War II Ljubljana Radio-Television (from 1990 RTV Slovenija) renewed its orchestra (in 1955) and choir (as early as 1945), which were considered the best in Yugoslavia, while in the 1980s opinion favoured the Slovenian Philharmonic. The latter orchestra organizes two subscription series each season (with each subscription concert being performed twice) and a vocal subscription series, as well as making numerous other appearances and recordings, and has collaborated with a series of renowned Slovenian and foreign conductors and soloists (Rubinstein, Richter, Michelangeli, Pogorelich, Ozim, Ojstrah, Menuhin, Kremer, Mutter, Rostropovich, Holliger, Pavarotti, M. Lipovšek, B. Fink, D. Tomšič, I. Grafenauer, Matačić, Sanderling, Kondrashin, Berio, Haenchen, Letonja, Mehta, Kleiber (an honorary member since 2004), Muti, Abbado with his two orchestras, Bernstein with BRSO Munich, Harnoncourt with Concentus Musicus, Fedosejev with SO Tchaikovsky, Marriner, and many others). A notable success was in 2012, when the orchestra undertook a European tour (11 concerts in renowned concert halls in Ljubljana, Stuttgart, Munich, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Prague, Essen, and Vienna) performing a concert version of Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta, with soprano Netrebko in the leading role and chief conductor E. Villaume, as well as recording the opera for Deutsche Grammophon (2015). In 1982 the Cankarjev dom Cultural and Congress Center opened its doors, with events being staged in four large halls. The largest, Gallus Hall (from 1400 to more than 1545 seats), named after one of the leading European late-Renaissance composers Jacobus Gallus Carniolus, houses an organ and from the very start has been the seat of the Slovenian Philharmonic. It also provides a venue for occasional projects of the Ljubljana Opera and the RO with its subscription series, as well as hosting two subscription series featuring foreign orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists (including last years until 2015 the Orchestre National de France under Daniele Gatti, the Philharmonia Orchestra (London) under Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Staatskapelle Dresden under Myung-Whun Chung; the pianists Lang Lang and Evgeny Kissin; the Emerson quartet and Quatuor Ébène). The acoustics in the Gallus Hall are regarded as being among the best in the world for concert halls of its size, and have been praised by artists such as Lorin Maazel.

The city’s long tradition of music schools continued with the founding of Glasbena matica’s school in 1882 and a Conservatory in 1919. In 1926 this was reorganized as a state conservatory and in 1939 it became the Music Academy. After World War II the Academy of Music became part of the University of Ljubljana, an institution with more than 50,000 students. The Academy Orchestra has been very successful abroad (e.g. in Berlin). Since World War II all important Slovenian music institutions have been concentrated in Ljubljana. In addition to those already mentioned, these include the Department of Musicology (founded 1961) at the University of Ljubljana, the Institute of Musicology (founded 1972) at the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Music Collection (founded 1948) of the National and University Library. Among the various music societies, the Society of Slovene Composers, with more than 100 members, is of particular note (editions of members include over 2200 volumes of printed and recorded music). The traditional Ljubljana Festival, founded in 1952, is held each summer with selected Slovenian and first-rate foreign musicians and ensembles. In 2013, for example, it prepared 70 events involving 2500 performers from more than 40 countries, and recorded more than 50,000 local and foreign visitors; the events took place at the Križanke Summer Theatre as well as at other venues, including the Gallus Hall in Cankarjev dom. The festival’s history has been marked by numerous Slovenian artists and ensembles (including pianist D. Tomšič, a pupil of Rubinstein, trombonist V. Globokar, mezzo-sopranos M. Lipovšek and B. Fink), celebrated foreign artists (K. Ricciarelli, G. Bumbry, A. Gheorghiu, E. Garanča, D. Hvorostovsky, Carreras, Menuhin, Kremer, Bashmet, Rostropovich, Maisky, G. Capuçon, D. Matsuev, Penderecki, Mehta, Muti, Gergiev, Rattle, Maazel, Chailly, Davis, Jansons, Gatti), a number of the best orchestras (the Vienna and Munich Philharmonics, La Scala Philharmonic, the New York and Israel Philharmonics, the RPO (London), the London SO, the Mariinsky Theatre SO of Saint Petersburg, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam), and opera and ballet ensembles (Bolshoi Theatre, La Scala, Mariinsky Theatre).

The music history of Ljubljana is to a large extent also the music history of Slovenia as a whole (Slovenia’s second-largest city, Maribor, has transformed itself into the second musical centre). The need to express Slovenian identity has stimulated a breadth and a level of musical culture which is on a par with much bigger cities.


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