The Croatian Radio and TV Tamburitza Orchestra made their first ever visit to the US in September, 2004.
What the heck is Tamburitza you ask? This music is from Croatia and is played on instruments called tambura. It is a stringed instrument related to the Russian balalaika, the Ukrainian bandura and the Italian mandolin.
These instruments are thought to be descended from the Lute from India. The first record of a tambura in Croatia was in the 15 century in Bosnia, which at that time was part of the Croatian Kingdom.
In the past youngsters would learn to play the tamburitza thus it was passed down from one generation to the next. The instrument would be played on every festive occasion in the village. One event, which in olden times would last for days, was the wedding. Every villager would be invited and they would dance and sing to the music of the tamburitza
The first amateur tamburitza orchestra was formed in Croatia in 1847. When Croatians began moving to the US in the 1830s they brought this music with them with many being organized. For instance in Cleveland today we have 2 adult and 2 junior groups.
This music has not only been important to Croatians but has played a role in classical music. For instance Joseph Haydn, who came from the Croatian area of Burgenland, Austria, used several Croatian folk songs as the basis for his symphonies. For instance Haydn's London Symphony No. 104, Haydn uses a Croatian folk song as the theme for the fourth movement.
Today there are 10s of thousands of Croatian tamburitza songs.
Perhaps the most famous Croatian orchestra today is The Tamburitza Orchestra of the Croatian Radio and Television. This group is a unique instrumental ensemble founded in 1941 as a professional orchestra of the Zagreb Radio.
During its long activity marked by a continuous care for the folk heritage, the orchestra has presented the Croatian traditional music in various programs of the Croatian Radio and Television, as well as at many concerts and festivals. The ensemble repertoire has, thus, expanded over the years to encompass diverse musical genres, ranging from classical music to jazz.
The Tamburitza Orchestra of the Croatian Radio and Television has given guest performances in many European countries, prominent among them being a concert in Milan in 1980 when the musicians played F. Lehar's The Merry Widow under the baton of Lovro pl. Matacic at RAI. In the years of the Croatian War of Independence in 1991 the orchestra gave many benefit concerts around Croatia , and continue to participate in fund-raising.
The orchestra has recorded 10,000 folk songs, dances, and composed original works.
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