Croatian Radiotelevision Choir
Croatian Radiotelevision Choir was founded in the 1940s, continuing the tradition set by the Zagreb Madrigalists. Initially working as a chamber ensemble under Mladen Pozajić, and later Slavko Zlatić, it eventually developed into the first Croatian professional choir. During the last seventy years, its artistic identity was established by a number of eminent musicians, whose efforts, after Igor Kuljerić, one of Croatia's greatest conductors, are nowadays continued in the work of chief-conductor Tonči Bilić.
The Choir’s rich repertoire includes a cappella and vocal-instrumental compositions ranging from early Renaissance to the most recent works, while a special attention is given to the Croatian musical heritage. The choir earned its reputation through regular performances all over Croatia, but also in many noted concerts abroad, for instance in Rome, Moscow, Salzburg, Milan, Paris, Venice and Berlin. They cooperated with numerous eminent Croatian conductors (Lovro pl. Matačić, Milan Horvat, Pavle Dešpalj, Nikša Bareza etc.), numerous international guests (Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Igor Markevitch, Valerij Poljanski) and a number of world-renowned soloists.
The best artistic achievements of the Croatian Radiotelevision Choir include: Schnittke's Psalms of Repentance and Concerto for Choir, Rautavaara's Vigilia, Papandopulo's Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Croatian Mass, Monteverdi's Madrigali Guerrieri et Amorosi and Vespro della Beata Vergine, Bach's St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion, Haydn's The Creation, Handel's Messiah, K. Penderecki's St. Luke Passion, Witold Lutosławski's Trois poèmes d' Henri Michaux (the piece was ordered and composed for the Zagreb Radio-Television Choir, today's Croatian Radio-Television Choir), Stravinski's The Wedding, Kuljerić's Croatian Glagolitic Requiem and the opera Animal Farm, and Tryptichon by Ivan Brkanović. The choir received a Milka Trnina Diploma for outstanding artistic achievements in 2004 for the performance of the Croatian Mass by Boris Papandopulo, and in 2005, for the performance of the Croatian Mass under the direction of Tonči Bilić, recorded for the Cantus label, they won the Porin award for best album in the category of classical music. In 2007, Igor Kuljerić's composition Holy Cross, Give Us Your Mercy, published on CD by Orfej/HRT under the title Deer Searching for a Spring, also under Bilić's direction, won the Porin for best composition written for a soloist or a small ensemble. The CD Croatian Christmas Story (2011) was published in 30 000 copies. For the recently (2012) published recording, Croatian Music At Riva Dei Schiavoni, Croatian Radiotelevision Choir with it’s conductor Tonči Bilić won three Porin awards: for the best album of classical music, for the best performance of the classical music piece (Ego sum qui sum by Julije Skjavetić) and for the best recording of classical music album.
In 1998, at the initiative of their chief-conductor Tonči Bilić, they started working more consistently on a cappella compositions and compositions with minimal instrumental accompaniment. The effort resulted in a cycle – Sfumato – with the aim to present the audience works of Croatian musical heritage, master-pieces and rarely performed classical compositions, as well as the most recent works for choir music from Croatia and abroad. The cycle also has a visual dimension, which can be deduced from the sub-title Spiritual Sounds, Colors and Shapes, achieved in cooperation with the Mimara Museum.
Tonči Bilić is a highly respected Croatian conductor, known for his vigorous activity in many different areas of music and in Croatian cultural life as a whole. He makes successful appearances in concert halls, has conducted operas and ballets, and with diverse ensembles performs works ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary music. He was born in Split in 1969. Bilić received his master’s degree in 1993 at the Zagreb Music Academy in the class of Pavle Dešpalj, who also supervised his post-graduate course. He won the Zagreb University President’s Prize, and was a Lovro and Lilly Matačić Foundation scholar. While still a student, he made his debut in 1992 in the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, as conductor in the multi-medial project of Osman by Ivan Gundulić. From 1994 to 1997 he worked as conductor in the opera company of the Ivan Zajc Croatian National Theatre in Rijeka.
From 1997 he was the permanent conductor and since 2005 has been the chief conductor of the Choir of Croatian Radio Television, with many concert appearances and recordings. Under his leadership, it has developed into a very high quality ensemble. Bilić is artistic director of the highly-reputed Croatian RTV Choir Sfumato cycle, which in 2008 celebrated the tenth anniversary of exceptionally successful work. Within this context he produced the first Croatian performances of many of the key compositions from the a cappella repertoire (A. Schnittke, Concerto for Mixed Chorus, Psalms of Repentance; A. Pärt, Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem, Kanon Pokajanen; E. Rautavaara Vigilia; F. Martin, Mass; A. Schönberg: Friede auf Erden; C. Monteverdi, Madrigali Guerrieri et Amorosi; S. Rachmaninoff All Night Vigil [first performance in Croatia since 1938] and so on).
Since 1999 he has appeared regularly with the Croatian RTV Symphony Orchestra and has been a frequent guest of many Croatian ensembles: of the Zagreb Philharmonic, of the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, of the Croatian Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestras of the Zagreb and Rijeka operas, of the Split, Varaždin and Zadar chamber orchestras, of the Croatian Baroque Ensemble, of the Cantus Contemporary Music Ensemble and the Symphonic Wind Orchestra of the Croatian Army.
International guest appearances include those with the Choir of the Netherlands Radio and the Netherlands Chamber Choir/ the Nederlands Kamerkoor (on which occasion he won the special commendation of Eric Ericson), the Bratislava orchestra Musica Aeterna, Les Sacqueboutiers de Toulouse, the Witold Lutosławski Philharmonia in Wrocław, the Budapest Danubia Symphony Orchestra, the Dohnanyi Symphony Orchestra and the Pannon Philharmonic (in the Palace of Culture in Budapest). In the 2010/2011 concert season, he performed with the Wiener Concert-Verein Orchestra in Musikverein in Vienna, the Witold Lutosławski Philharmonics in Wrocław, the Dohnányi Symphony Orchestra in Budapest, and the Dušan Skovran String Orchestra in Belgrade.
Tonči Bilić has performed at many festivals (the Zagreb Music Biennale – the first performance of Animal Farm by Igor Kuljerić, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, Varaždin Baroque Evenings, Musical Evenings in St Donat in Zadar, Osor Musical Evenings, Autumn Festivities in Bratislava, Belgrade Cello Fest and so on). He has also taken part in the international project On the Border of Musical Humanism, which is supported by the European Commission by performing with the HRT Choir at festivals in France (Les Preludes de Sable sur Sarthe) and the Czech Republic (Prague). He regularly records for radio, television and film production.
His performances of Croatian Glagolitic Requiem by Igor Kuljerić (on a CD issued by Cantus and Croatian RTV), the concert performance of the opera Porin by Vatroslav Lisinski on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall, which was broadcast live as part of the 2003/2004 Euroradio Opera Season of the European Broadcasting Union and the special performance of Haydn`s Creation drew him to the attention of critics and the public. Before Christmas 2011, in cooperation with Vecernji list newspaper, his CD Croatian Christmas Story came out with exceptional success and was sold in 30 000 copies.
From 2000 to 2009, he created programs for the Vatroslav Lisinski concert hall in Zagreb working as a Producer, Artistic Director and General Director. At that time, the Vatroslav Lisinski concert hall was proclaimed to be a cultural Superbrand. A cycle of live broadcasts in HD from the Metropolitan in New York was launched under the name Metropolitan at Lisinski and a number of the top classical musicians performed. He won several music awards- Porin Award and Milka Trnina Award (2009). He is a member of the Lovro and Lilly Matačić Fund Committee, as well as a member of the Matačić Contest first round jury. In 2012, he became President of the Croatian Youth Music Organization and was apointed as Director of Split Summer Festival and the Croatian National Theater in Split. He is also a member of the Osor Musical Evenings Committee.