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Dora Pejačević

1885 - 1923

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Countess Maria Theodora Paulina (Dora) Pejačević was a Croatian composer, pianist and violinist and one of the first composers to introduce the orchestral song to Croatian music. Her Symphony in F-sharp minor is considered by scholars to be the first modern symphony in Croatian music. Pejačević is noted for her vocal compositions, piano miniatures, and string quartets, which were heavily influenced by the expressionist and modernist trends of the time.

In her early career, Pejačević’s primary themes were highly representative of the Romantic period, but this would change after her experience working as a paramedic in the First World War after which her works reflected the philosophic movement of nihilism and discussed motifs of death, isolation, and futility of war.

Dora Pejačević was born in Budapest, Kingdom of Hungary, to a noble House of Pejačević. Her father, Teodor Pejačević of Virovitica, was a Croatian count, and her mother, Elisabeth Josepha Vay de Vaya, a Hungarian noblewoman who was an educated singer and pianist. Her mother's prominence led to Dora veering towards music rather than the aristocratic lifestyle that was impressed upon her.

Pejačević composed her first known piece at the age of 12, after which she attended musical schools and academies in Zagreb, Dresden, and Munich. Pejačević remained mostly self-taught, however, as she never attended continuous courses, but rather occasional private lessons. Her artistic talent was primarily developed through her interactions with leading figures of her time such as the pianist Alice Ripper, artist Clara Rilke-Westhoff, writer Anette Kolb, Rainer Maria Rilke, Karl Kraus, and other prominent personalities of the European cultural scene.

In 1913, Pejačević composed a piano concerto, her first orchestral work, marking her as the first ever Croatian composer to write a concerto. Pejačević's earlier compositions mostly consisted of piano pieces, sonatas, and songs and were considered elite in their nature. She later replaced the romantic music of her youth with new musical expressions that corresponded to the time in which she lived - the turbulent war years and the revolutionary changes of the 1920s. These changes are evident in her music through impressionistic and expressionistic elements and harmonies.

The First World War, in which she herself participated as a paramedic, left numerous traces on her and her musical expression. She isolated herself and sought new compositional paths. The result of these efforts were cycles of solo compositions and vocal and orchestral compositions written to the verses of Karl Kraus, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Many of her pieces premiered in Germany, played by major soloists of the era. Throughout her lifetime, Pejačević's compositions were performed in Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Munich, Dresden, and her town of Našice.

Biography taken from Wikipedia.
Photo courtesy of the Croatian Music Information Centre.

Piano Quintet in B minor | 1918 | 35 mins

2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Piano

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Piano Trio in C major | 1910 | 35.5 mins

Violin, Cello, Piano

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Cello Sonata in E minor | 1913 | 28 mins

Cello and Piano

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Violin Sonata in D major, Op. 26 | 1909 | 22 mins

Violin and Piano

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