Projekt Lazarus

“Projekt Lazarus” – revitalization of Croatian musical heritage

On the Croatian and international music scene since 2013 operates a new professional ensemble called „Projekt Lazarus“, whose unusual name hides the main objective of this ensemble – the revitalization of Croatian musical heritage. „Projekt Lazarus“ has been established within the association of Croatian Music Centre by initiator and founder of the ensemble bass Robert Palić, a member of the Opera of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb.

The research, revitalization, promotion and presentation of Croatian musical heritage are the primary objectives of the „Projekt Lazarus“ which are being realized through two main processes; exploring yet undiscovered musical literature from 16th to 18th century in cooperation with experts for that period, and modelling professional ensemble necessary for the preparation and presentation of musical pieces. Also, „Projekt Lazarus“ is focused on the performance of works that have never been or are rarely performed, as well as those that have not yet been recorded.

In attempting to save from oblivion valuable monuments of Croatian musical heritage, an unquenchable source of confirmation that it is part of Western European cultural and civilizational world, the professional musicians of „Projekt Lazarus“ have performed the works of outstanding Croatian composers – Ivan Lukačić, Vinko Jelić, Ivan Šibenčanin, Damjan Nembri, and Francesco Sponga Usper. As in the case of Nembri, we are, to the best of our knowledge, unique in Croatia in marking 120th anniversary of the birth of Dr Dragan Plamenac, the founder of modern Croatian musicology whose last discovery and subject of study was, indeed, Nembri’s „Brevis et facilis psalmorum“ (1641). The concert entitled „Brevis et facilis psalmorum“was presented in November 2016 at the „12th Croatian Music Festival in Vienna“ at the St. Peterskirche. Within few years of its activity the ensemble has held numerous concerts with the aim of presenting top achievements of Croatian composers performed in the series„Lux musicae“, organized by Croatian Music Centre.

In December 2016, „Projekt Lazarus“ made a programmatic breakthrough marking the 110th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest Croatian composers of the twentieth century – Boris Papandopulo. At the concert titled „Papandopulo 110“, the high levelled musical performance was presented by mezzosoprano Martina Menegoni, baritone Matija Meić, violinist Ivan Jakšeković and pianist Božo Letunić.

Through the project „Following the steps of Damjan Nembri“ ensemble „Projekt Lazarus“ has held a concert in August 2017 at the basilica San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice (Italy), as part of „VII international festival Gaetano Callido“. „Projekt Lazarus“ has presented the pieces of early baroque Croatian composers among which the only preserved work of Damjan Nembri – the book of psalms „Brevis et facilis psalmorum“ (published in Venice in 1641) was performed for the first time in modern age at the basilica San Giorgio Maggiore, the very place where Nembri lived and was a Benedictine prior. The same concert program was performed at the „56th Hvar summer festival“ at St. Stephens cathedral, where Damjan Nembri was baptized in December 1584 and at the „47th Varaždin baroque evenings“ in September 2017. In 2018 the „Projekt Lazarus“ started a project aiming to mark 370th anniversary of the death of Croatian composer Ivan Lukačić. The concerts at St. Francis on the Coast church in Split and at St. Francis church in Šibenik brought to the light his only preserved work – a collection of sacred songs „Sacrae cantiones“, published in Venice in 1620. This program has been presented also to the audience in Zagreb, at St. Mary on Dolac church in June 2018.

In August 2018, the „Projekt Lazarus“ achieved a remarkably successful performance at the well-known “Seviqc International Festival” in Slovenia, presenting early baroque Croatian music at Viteška dvorana of Slovenska Bistrica castle. The crown of the many years of intense action of the Projekt Lazarus ensemble within the revitalization of the Croatian musical heritage was realized in September 2018 at the 48th Varaždin Baroque Evenings at Franciscan church, where for the first time in contemporary history were performed many works of the Istrian composer Francesco Sponga Usper, who was baptized in the church of St. Euphemia in Rovinj in 1561. The performance was realized in collaboration with world renowned Japanese cello-player and conductor Hidemi Suzuki and soloists of the Orchestra Libera Classica under the artistic leadership of maestro Darijan Ivezić. This performance brought out a significant reward „Ivan Lukačić“ for the musicological research on Usper’s work „Salmi vespertini“ (published by the Music Information Centre in Zagreb in 2017) to the associate member of the „Projekt Lazarus“ ensemble, a distinguished scholar and musicologist Ennio Stipčević and his assistant Dario Poljak.

In 2019, the Projekt Lazarus ensemble has made a number of concerts at home and abroad. In Zagreb, in the church of St. Mary’s at Dolac, two pearls of Baroque music were performed at Lent; Damian Nembri’s collection of psalms from Hvar and Domenico Scarlatti’s masterpiece Stabat Mater. At the Easter concert, in the first part of the concert, the ensemble performed four-voice motets from the Clio sacra collection, Davidicos psalmos vespertinis horis adscriptos musicis decantans (a collection of David’s Evening Psalms) by the composer of the first half of the 17th century Bonaventura Beretta, printed in Venice in 1635. It is noteworthy that this collection has been published in contemporary record as part of the Corpus Musicum Franciscanum edition, which publishes works by Franciscan composers, with contributions of Croatian musicologists. In the second part of the concert the ensemble performed Croatian Easter songs arranged by famous Croatian composers.

In June 2019, the Projekt Lazarus ensemble recorded for the Croatian Radio and Television the psalms of Damjan Nembri, one of the most important monuments of the Croatian music baroque, and performed the same work at the 59th Musical Evenings in St. Donatus in Zadar, in which Damjan Nembri was for many years the prior of the monastery of St. Grisogono. In addition to Nembri’s psalms, Domenico Scarlatti’s masterpiece “Stabat Mater” was also performed.

In August there was an appearance at the international festival “Seviqc” in Brežice, which featured Bonaventura Beretta with his psalms “Clio sacra” and Domenico Scarlatti with “Stabat Mater”. With the same program, in September 2019, the project “Projekt Lazarus” performed at the 49th Varaždin Baroque Evenings festival.

The Projekt Lazarus presented the CroBaroque program on Sunday, November 10th, 2019, at the Church of Santa Maria dell ‘Anima in Rome and featured the works by the most significant composers of Croatian Baroque; Ivan Lukačić, Vinko Jelić, Ivan Šibenčanin, Francesco Sponga Usper and Damjan Nembri as well as their contemporary Italian composer Bonaventura Beretta. This performance was held within the framework of projects of cultural promotion, public diplomacy and international recognition of the Republic of Croatia, under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian Embassy in the Vatican.

In December 2019 at the Church of St. Ivan Nepomuk in the parish of Lučko / Stupnik Projekt Lazarus promoted the best achievements of the Croatian musical heritage within the 4th cycle of classical music “Lux musicae”. The concert program featured a Croatian baroque authors, as well as songs from the Cithara octochorda and the Pauline songbook.

Within the “Rijeka Music” cycle at the concert on December 20th, 2019 in the beautiful Marble Hall of the Maritime and Historical Museum of the Croatian Littoral (“Governor’s Palace”), the Projekt Lazarus presented a cross-section of works by Croatian baroque composers, and thus performed works of Jelić, Lukačić, Usper, Šibenčanin and Nembri.

In 2020, due to the corona virus pandemic, the realization of numerous programs was prevented, but the ensemble Project Lazarus remained at the music scene thanks to the fact that concerts from previous years were broadcasted on Croatian Catholic Radio and the third program of Radio Slovenia.

Artistic director of the „Projekt Lazarus“ ensemble is conductor Darijan Ivezić and its artistic collaborator and producer is pianist Martina Mičija Palić. Artistic associate and advisor of the ensemble is distinguished scholar and musicologist Ennio Stipčević. In 2020. ensemble has prepared a few programmes under the leadership of young conductor Franjo Bilić.

Beside the conductor and artistic collaborator, the basic setup of the ensemble „Projekt Lazarus“ is as follows: Daniela Perosa, Tanja Rupnik and Tanja Ruždjak – sopranos, Martina Menegoni and Nikolina Virgej Pintar – mezzosopranos, Ivan Martinčić and Siniša Galović – tenors, Matija Meić – baritone and Robert Palić – bass. The setup of the ensemble adjusts according to the demands of selected program, therefore the following associates has been engaged so far for ensemble needs; Darija Auguštan-soprano, Loredana Medan and Sonja Runje – mezzosopranos, Goran Zorić and Hrvoje Foretić – tenors, Siniša Štork and Martin Feller – basses, as well as distinguished instrumentalists – violinist Ivan Jakšeković and pianist Božo Letunić.