Well, an entire decade and a half has passed by, in these April and May afternoons and evenings, in the hours when bells echo through our city, that the St. Mark's Festival is happening.
As if these spring days are especially attractive, and within us a need arises for a close, dear friend musician, with whom we could, after some concert, share our thoughts on music. These thirteen years have passed in a moment, yet still, memory has preserved each concert, each musician, music fan, musical piece...
These years have helped us to understand the meaning of creating a festival, the blood flow and the intensity not only of the festival decor, but also of the responsible work hidden behind the outer image of the festival and which must be performed so that the concerts are carried out to the satisfaction of all... All these thoughts are passing through my mind in these moments of recollection, and sometimes it seems to me that during the years some of those assignments have started to accomplish themselves almost automatically, as if on their own.
As if the reality of the festival living, the festival obligations, from time to time function on their own, liberating us, dear music fans, to think about music, which is the true meaning of every festival performance. Indeed, we will continue to strive to create sensitive ties which connect people from both sides of the festival stage, building precisely through music, unique paths of communication. The permanent sense of this noble companionship is always the same: to offer a world, too tired for any radical changes in spirituality or humanity, a noble moment to catch its breath. ˝THE ST. MARK'S FESTIVAL˝ has, through all these years, managed to maintain and build on the interesting features and variety of the program with the participation of domestic and foreign artists and ensembles, which attract an increasingly greater attention of the audience and the public, and has thus placed itself hand in hand with relevant music events and festivals, not only in Zagreb and Croatia, but also in the European festival scene. The basic idea is music playing by supreme artists in concert and church premises of the Zagreb Upper and Lower Town.
The Festival thus becomes also a festival of meeting of the Croatian music tradition of today with European and world music tradition and performance practice. We can make the comparison also with the musicians of the ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic, and especially the Herbert Von Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic, which has in its divisions during the festivals held until present, also had young newly arrived members as well as a new member composition of the renowned English ensemble ˝Pro Cantione Antiqua˝, the String Quartet Celibidache, the Soloists of the West-Divan Eastern Orchestra, as well as the performance by the ensemble ˝Villancico" from Sweden and the ensemble "Wien" from Austria, the German violoncellists Götz Teutsch and Olaf Maninger as well as the Russian viloloncellist Tatiana Vasiljeva, the Polish conductor Pawel Przytocki, the organ players Martin Baker from London, Marek Stefanski from Krakow and Stefan Kocsis from the Austrian Burgenland as well as the Church Choir from GroBwarasdorf (Burgenland). Also, the performances of Croatian musicians and ensembles during the first decade were of great quality since they included the performances of many young Croatian musicians such as the lutenist Edin Karamazov, ˝The Croatian Brass Quintet˝, Secular singers from the Island of Hvar, organ player and cembalist Pavao Mašić, the Zagreb Quartet, ˝The St. Mark's Soloists˝....
Thus the Festival has started to assume the characteristics of a musical event with a genuine international weight, with the idea of strengthening the middle European musical atmosphere. The success of the St. Mark's Festival is also desired by numerous foreign musicians, that each year they are a part of this above all special event, which gives us great happiness. It is our wish that together with the ensembles and soloists such as the ˝Sextet of the Berlin Philharmonic˝, ˝the St. Mark's Soloists", the counter-tenor Paul Esswood, ˝The Zagreb Soloists˝, the great mezzosopran Marijana Lipovšek, ˝The Camerata of the Berlin Philharmonic˝, the Brandis Quartet, the viola player Wilfried Strehle, the piano player Vladimir Krpan, the violinists Guy Braunstein, Lorenz Nasturica and Daniel Stabrawa, the Trio Berlin, the Celibidache Trio, the Soloists of the Welsh Baroque Orchestra, the Dubrovnik Guitar Trio, the Karamazov Quartet, the Octet of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Slovenian Chamber Choir, the Scholarship Holders of the Chamber Orchestra ˝Herbert von Karajan" of the Berlin Philharmonic, musicians of the Salzburg Cathedral and Members of West – Divan East Orchestra – we offer the Zagreb music audience, as well as the Croatian and foreign cultural public the beauty and idea of chamber music playing. Thus I would like to remind you of the thought of the great composer Ludwig van Beethoven, which explicitly speaks about communication between people:
I have everything you can offer me.
Can you offer me what I do not have?
I have everything – I have myself.
Can you offer me what I do not have, Can you offer me yourself?
As early as in the 13th century, the free royal town of Gradec (today known as the Upper Town) had its own parish of St. Marcus (Svetog Marka). The numerous guilds and individual townsmen erected their votive altars here and people gathered to trade in front of them. The St. Marcus church was, in every respect, the centre of a thriving medieval town life. But when the administrative, cultural and trade centre moved to the Lower Town in the 19th century, the Upper Town lost its former liveliness. Today, notwithstanding all the efforts of the authorities of the City of Zagreb to revitalise this medieval and baroque nucleus by refurbishing some buildings and injecting content to the Upper Town facilities, the Parliamnet and Banski Dvori, the Upper Town sometimes has the atmosphere of a museum.
Sometimes, this museum silence is a happy and beautiful occurrence, however the sounds and tones of life always penetrate the Upper Town. 800 years ago, St. Marcus Day was declared to be a festive event with a market fair being the central event in trade and social life. The town craftsmen and merchants as a majority of the population were its main participants, so this day became the impetus to further development, which eventually turned Zagreb into the capital of Croatia. Today, however the fair has lost this quality: there is no feeling of major church festivity or merry - making. As musicians who have been active in the St. Marcus Church and the Upper Town more than twenty years now, have decided to revive the old - time atmosphere of the Upper Town and its central festivity by creating the "St. Marcus Festival". The idea of the "St. Marcus Festival" was born in September 1998. We would like it to grow into an international event that, thanks to its high artistic standards, assembles renowned Croatian and foreign artists and distinguished ensembles. We further think that the concerts should focus on (vocal) music covering the space from the Early Renaissance to contemporary music, including both Croatian and foreign composers. This of course, means not only solo vocal music, but also music for larger vocal and instrumental ensembles and, if possible, performances. The Festival wishes to establish good relations with similar festivals or events and musicians from all over the world.
Neven Valent, 2010.