Masterclass for composers


Since 1961, the Music Biennale Zagreb (MBZ) has been dedicated to contemporary music and related art forms. Every year, the Festival offers its audience over 30 programs of various genres, disciplines, and musical formats in numerous venues in Zagreb. In the ever-changing world where art forms, cultural scenes, and art communities blend, and especially in the world hit by the pandemic that has made the presentation, use and creation of art content even more challenging, the MBZ strives to find solutions, platforms for discussions as well as formats and strategies for bringing contemporary music closer to the audience. In addition to many programs that deal with current topics in this year’s edition of the Festival, the Festival format has been adjusted and will be carried out during several months in four festival program blocks. Accordingly, this year’s realization of the masterclass for composers will be liked with those festival blocks and will be held entirely online.

The MBZ Masterclass for Composers was first held at the MBZ Festival in April 2019 (mentors: Nina Šenk, Achim Bornhoeft and João Pedro de Oliveira together with the workshop’s resident ensemble, the excellent Riot). The workshop was held in cooperation with the Music Academy of the University of Zagreb. 18 composers applied, 9 of which passed the selection process, came to Zagreb from 7 different countries, and actively participated in the workshop.



The aim of the workshop is to enable participants to improve their creative understanding and hone their composing skills in individual sessions with prominent composers and in open rehearsals with the ensemble, as well as to deepen their knowledge and discover new approaches to composing for harpsichord.

The 2021 Masterclass of the Music Biennale Zagreb will be held online in three different segments.


1. Masterclass with composer-mentors: Alexander Schubert, Martin Matalon, Sasha Blondeau and Raphaël Cendo.

a) One-on-one online sessions, each participant is assigned to two mentors

From the submitted applications, the composers-mentors, together with the MBZ team, will select students who will have an opportunity to intensively work one-on-one with their assigned mentors via online mentoring sessions held during the Festival. Each student will work on their compositions with two mentors. We recommend that students indicate their mentor picks in the application, although the MBZ and the mentors reserve the right to choose otherwise. Individual 90-minute lessons could be passively attended by all selected participants who can subsequently join a 30-minute joint discussion.

b) Online lectures and discussions

Each mentor will hold one 90-minute lecture along with an extra 30 minutes for discussion with the participants involved. The lectures will be available online for a wider group of interested individuals and uploaded to the channels of the MBZ and the Croatian Composers’ Society.


Lectures (online)

Alexander Schubert – 18 April 2021

Martin Matalon – 27 May 2021

Sasha Blondeau – 16 July 2021

Raphaël Cendo – 15 September 2021


Individual sessions

As arranged with the mentors in the days after the lectures.

(The final version of the materials that the participants want to use during the individual sessions must be sent 3 weeks prior to those sessions.)


2. Open rehearsals with the resident ensemble – Ensemble Quasars (led by Ivan Buffa)

The reading sessions will be performed by the Ensemble Quasars consisting of flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano, led by conductor and composer Ivan Buffa. Individual open rehearsals will last 60 minutes and can be passively attended by all interested participants who will have 15 minutes for a joint discussion after each individual session.

The Ensemble is located in Bratislava, from where they will work online with selected students on the sections of their compositions. The focus will be on the practical tryout of the written sheet music and extended instrumental techniques, as well as the analysis of the structure of the piece and notation.

The sections of compositions for this part of the workshop must not exceed 5 minutes in duration and must be written for an ensemble of one to a maximum of six mentioned instruments (in a free combination per participant’s choice). The composers may apply either with the sections of existing compositions or an unfinished piece and draft scores. The notes must be clearly legible and submitted in the form of scores and sections.


Reading sessions

Ensemble Quasars – 22 and 23 April 2021, a full-day program (the exact schedule will be provided after the selection of participants; instrumental parts must be submitted no later than 2 weeks prior to the start of the session)


3. Harpsichord workshop with Croatian harpsichordist Franjo Bilić

(harpsichord piece not obligatory)

The lecture and presentation of the instrument through examples of selected contemporary music compositions for harpsichord, as well as a tryout of the possibilities of extended techniques for harpsichord.

When applying, the selected students are encouraged to submit a draft score of their composition for harpsichord or an existing finished piece that will be included in this workshop.

Harpsichord workshop

28 May (a full-day program)





All composers may apply, regardless of their country of residence, composing experience or age. Applications must be submitted by 5 March 2021. Applications with the mentor picks indicated must be sent to The MBZ and the mentors reserve the right to choose the participants.


The application must contain:


  • 2-3 compositions that best present the applicant’s work in their opinion (scores & links to audio and/or video recordings of compositions)

  • Applicant’s CV

  • A short presentation of their work, artistic visions, and goals in the form of a letter or a video

  • A draft score of a composition or a finished score of a piece for any combination of instruments with or without electronics for individual sessions. The piece may contain multimedia, improvisational or interactive elements.

  • A score of a section or an entire piece for any combination or an entire ensemble of provided instruments without electronics for the workshop with the Ensemble Quasars

  • A draft score of a composition or a finished score of a piece for harpsichord without electronics (free choice)





Participation fee

90.00 EUR – for students from Croatia and the region

190.00 EUR – for all other candidates

Participants are provided with the Festival pass and are welcome to all other MBZ programs that will be held live or online.


Application deadline:

22nd March 2021


Mentors and ensemble

Composers: Alexander Schubert, Martin Matalon, Sasha Blondeau, Raphael Cendo

Alexander Schubert studied bioinformatics and multimedia composition in Hamburg. He is focused on exploring the boundary between the acoustic and electronic worlds. He studies the interaction between the digital and the analog in compositions, immersive installations, and stage pieces. In his pieces, he implements trial ambiences or realizes spaces for interaction using which he questions the ways of perception and presentation. Common topics in this field are authenticity and virtualization. He explores the influence and formulation of digital media on aesthetic point of view and communication from a post-digital perspective. Recent research topics in his work include virtual reality, artificial intelligence and art pieces created using online media. His pieces have been performed by numerous ensembles over 700 times in more than 30 countries in the last few years. Schubert is one of the founders of the Ensemble Decoder and a professor at the University for Music in Hamburg.

Martin Matalon graduated in composition from the Boston Conservatory, and earned his master’s degree from Julliard. After graduating, he founded the Music Nobile, a long-standing ensemble dedicated to contemporary music. He won, among others, the J.S. Guggenheim Fellowship, the L’Institut de France Award of the Académie des Beaux Arts, the City of Barcelona Award, the Grand Prix des Lycéens, the Charles Ives Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. After two major collaborations with the IRCAM, music for the exhibition organized by the Pompidou Center on the theme of J.L. Borges and music for a restored version of the silent movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang, Matalon dedicated himself to Luis Buñuel and successfully composed music for several of his epic movies. His opus includes compositions for a diverse array of genres and ensembles, from solo instruments and chamber ensembles to orchestras. He also wrote for the Orchestre Philharmonique de France, Orquesta de Barcelona y Catalunya, Ensemble Intercontemporain, MusikFabrik and Ensemble Modern, and his opera L’Ombre de Venceslao was so successful at the Opéra de Rennes that it toured 9 opera houses in France and South America. In addition to composing, Matalon also conducts, and over the years has also taught at several renowned educational institutions, including the CNSMD de Lyon (since 2017).

Sasha J. Blondeau is a French composer of contemporary mixed, instrumental and electroacoustic music interested in the interaction between instrumental writing and "electroacoustic" writing in the same space of expressivity. He has a PhD in musical composition in the Ircam-Sorbonne Université-CNRS program. Blondeau has worked with Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ensemble Court-Circuit, Ensemble Talea, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Ensemble Insomnio, Ensemble XX-21 and with the interpreters Sarah Maria Sun and soloists from Musikfabrik, Hae-Sun Kang, Christophe Desjardins and Séverine Ballon. Future projects include collaborations with Ensemble Intercontemporain, Kwadrofonik ensemble and the Diotima Quartet.

Raphael Cendo studied piano and composition at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, and then graduated in composition, analysis, and orchestration from the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris. After graduating, he joined a composition and computer music class at the IRCAM, where his mentors included Marco Stroppa, Brian Ferneyhough, Fausto Romitelli and Philippe Manoury. He taught, among others, at the Conservatoire de Nanterre, the Escola Superior de Música Catalunya in Barcelona (ESMUC), the Summer School in Darmstadt and the Voix Nouvelles composition sessions in Royaumont, and regularly holds lectures and masterclasses in the US, Russia and Europe. He received the Espoir Award (‘New Talent’) at the International Composer Competition of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra awarded by the Francis and Mica Salabert Foundation, the Pierre Cardin Award of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the Hervé Dugardin and Georges Enesco Award given by the SACEM, and the Silver Lion (Leone d'argento) at the Venice Biennale in 2020.

Quasars Ensemble, established in 2008, is a music ensemble, unique in its breadth of the repertoire consisting of contemporary classical music as well as of the music of the past eras. It confronts the latest contemporary works with the structural principles of the foregone classical music. The orchestra’s focus is on the introduction of rare and forgotten ensemble pieces, particularly by the Slovak authors. The ensemble performed concert works of some of the world’s most influential contemporary music composers such as Bent Sørensen, Michael Jarrell, Kaija Saariaho, Toshio Hosokowa and Tristan Murail with composers themselves in attendance. Quasars Ensemble cooperated with artists like Camilla Hoitenga (flute) Mario Caroli (flute), Ilya Gringolts (violin), Dalibor Karvay (violin), Lionel Peintre (barytone) Sergej Kopčák (bass) and Stephan Loges (barytone). In 2012, Quasars Ensemble was selected to take part in International Summer Course for New Music in Darmstadt, Germany, considered to be the most prestigious contemporary music event in the world. Quasars Ensemble has been the resident ensemble of the Kasárne/Kulturpark Cultural Center in Košice. Its concert cycle was an essential element in the European Capital of Culture 2013 and ISCM Music World Days 2013 projects in the city. In a unique arrangement, the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra hosted Quasars as its soloist performing Ivan Buffa’s „Organismi“. Quasars Ensemble has a recording contract with Hevhetia Recording Company. Their album containing pieces by Schönberg, Albrecht and Hindemith, who are considered the founding fathers of the chamber symphony, was awarded with the most prominent artistic award in Slovakia – Krištálové krídlo (Crystal Wing). Harmonie, a prestigious Czech music magazine, gave their recording of the works of Mahler, Debussy, Albrecht and Poulenc its „Editor’s Choice“ award and a six-star rating.

Ivan Buffa, artistic director of Quasars Ensemble, studied piano and composition in Bratislava and in Vienna at Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst, taught by Prof. Michael Jarrell. His works have already been heard at many festivals such as Wien Modern, Takefu International Music Festival, Tage der Neuen Musik Bamberg, Ostrava Days, Muzički Biennale Zagreb, ISCM World Music Days 2015 in Ljublana, Melos-Ethos Bratislava and others. In 2007, Ivan Buffa has been awarded the Ján Levoslav Bella prize for his composition titled “Ritual“, which was performed at the Aspekte Festival in Salzburg, Austria. As a conductor and a pianist, he recorded ten CDs containing 20th century music and presented more than 100 Slovak pieces. As a conductor, he has a wide repertoire, ranging from late romanticism throughout impressionism, neoclassicism, expressionism, post-war avant-garde to the recent works. Apart from performing with all the state chamber orchestras in Slovakia, he also cooperated with Bamberg Symphony. Ivan Buffa is the Head of the Association of Slovak Composers and a member of numerous festival committees. He also teaches compositionat The Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava.

Franjo Bilić graduated magna cum laude in harpsichord from the Music Academy in Zagreb in the class of Professor Pavao Mašić. He studied harpsichord, contemporary harpsichord, clavichord at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam in the class of Professor Menno van Delft, basso continuo with Kris Verhelst and rhetoric with Peter van Heygen. He also studied at the University for Music in Bern with Rolf Schumacher, Florian Ziemen and Philippe Bach and at the Music Academy in Zagreb with professors Mladen Tarbuk and Tomislav Fačini. He is currently studying conducting in Vienna with Professor Johannes Wildner. He has performed in many cities across Europe and in Wisconsin (US). He has collaborated with numerous ensembles and orchestras both in the country and abroad and has won a number of prizes at international competitions. In 2019, he won the first prize and a special award for the best performance of a contemporary music piece at the Wanda Landowska Competition in Bari (Italy). His greatest accomplishment was the performance of 7 recitals (2 in the Netherlands and 5 in Croatia) of the rarely performed Bach’s piece The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988. Some of his most notable achievements as a conductor were conducting three performances of the opera Agrippina by G. F. Handel at the HNK Zagreb as the maestro al cembalo for which he received two Rector’s Awards. In Bern, he conducted the Orchestra of the Swiss Army, and in Croatia he has collaborated with the Ensemble Projekt Lazarus and ZOKOR. He is interested in notography, arranging, and composing and is the manager of a number of ensembles. He holds international summer courses for harpsichord students in Varaždin, which, in addition to individual sessions, also include lessons in Baroque dance, group classes, lectures and recitals.