Music Biennale Zagreb 2025 announced: Broken relationships at the heart of 33rd festival edition

The next, 33rd edition of Music Biennale Zagreb (MBZ) was announced and presented at today’s press conference at the Museum of Broken Relationships. The concept and the central topic of the upcoming edition, as well as a number of additional elements were presented by: Ivan Josip Skender, one of the newly elected Artistic Directors of MBZ, Fanny Martin, the new MBZ Executive Director, Iva Višak, ballet master of the Ballet Ensemble of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, maestro Pascal Rophé, chief conductor of the HRT Symphony Orchestra, and Antun Tomislav Šaban, Secretary General of the Croatian Composers’ Society. A new visual identity created by designer Ivorin Vrkaš was also presented.


The 33rd edition of Music Biennale Zagreb will take place 5 – 12 April 2025, at numerous locations in Zagreb: Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall, Croatian National Theatre, Lauba Gallery, Zagreb Youth Theatre, Museum of Contemporary Art, Pogon Jedinstvo, Močvara Club, several churches, as well as several abandoned city spaces.


As its starting point and central theme, the MBZ 2025 will explore the notion of Broken Relationships, primarily inspired by Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships. This idea will be an integral part of thinking around, and consequently, creating the program of the new edition. It is the tradition of Music Biennale Zagreb to break with tradition. In the following year, the goal is to explore complex opposites through creativity, collaboration and gatherings, that after any kind of disruption (re)define our positions, and the course and direction of movement.


The new edition of Music Biennale Zagreb will be run for the first time by as many as three new artistic directors and under the management of the newly-appointed executive director. So, a lot of new blood coursing through the veins of our festival. For more than 60 years, the festival program has reflected the current situation in Croatia and the world, showcasing relevant music in correlation with the turbulent times we live in, and I believe MBZ will continue to do so, said Antun Tomislav Šaban, the Secretary General of the Croatian Composers’ Society in his opening speech. He went on to announce Juraj Marko Žerovnik as the winner of the competition for the Milko Kelemen Award. As the recipient of the award for young composers, he will have the opportunity to compose a new piece premiered by the Cantus Ensemble as part of the MBZ 2025.


International project manager and interdisciplinary producer Fanny Martin was appointed Executive Director of the MBZ in early 2024. It is with great excitement that I’ve joined the MBZ team in creating the upcoming edition, as well as forging strong partnerships at the local, regional and international level. This public event, which includes a press conference and a Sunday concert, has a two-fold purpose. On the one hand, it serves as our internal rehearsal – to test out ideas before the main edition, and on the other, to warm up and create excitement around the upcoming festival. We want the audience to start thinking about the central theme – of Broken Relationships. How does this topic relate to music, the festival, and Zagreb? We also want to show that we are open to all kinds of cooperations: with local and regional cultural collectives, tourism partners and other international festivals. Although the theme of the festival is Broken Relationships, we are actually building new and strengthening existing ones, said Fanny Martin.


As the new artistic leadership was elected in 2023, the programming concept for the 2025 edition is jointly created by composers Ivan Josip Skender, Davor Vincze and Tomislav Oliver. All three were involved in the festival in previous years, but in different capacities and perspectives.

If we contemplate the idea of ​​‘broken ties’, it does not have to refer only to a relationship between two people, we can view it in a global context. For example – artists who left their native countries to create in a new environment, art that breaks with tradition, cities that have broken the connection with their architecture, bonds between countries that have been violently severed, and along with them artistic collaborations..., said one of the Artistic Directors, Ivan Josip Skender. When I think around this topic as an artist, as a conductor, I break the connection with a music score and the music written within it after the performance, that is, when the ‘microcosm’ of its duration ends, and as a composer, after I complete a work. Returning to these works can be a deeply intimate process, like the kintsugi art of repairing broken pottery with gold. In many cases, this applies to all aspects of life, added Skender.

MBZ 2025 is in the final stages of preparation. Our vision continues the guiding principle of Biennale’s creator, Milko Kelemen – to bring new and unexplored tendencies to Zagreb, to provide a training ground for our local composers and performers where they can present themselves to an international audience, and for the music performed at MBZ to live on through performances by foreign ensembles or at festivals outside Croatia, concluded Skender. The MBZ 2025 program will include performances and presentations by artists (ensembles, soloists, composers) from United States, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Finland, Luxembourg, Poland, etc. Croatian performing artists will present themselves through the Ballet and Orchestra Ensembles of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, the HRT Symphony Orchestra, and the Cantus Ensemble, as well as many smaller ensembles and soloists.

Croatian composers will have the opportunity to collaborate with foreign ensembles, while the visiting ensemble Pink Noise (USA) will hold a workshop for music students. In addition, there will be master workshops for composers at the Music Academy, held by renowned lecturers: George Lewis (USA), Liza Lim (Australia), Pierre Jodlowski (France, Poland) and Mauro Lanza (Italy, Germany).

For the first time, there will also be an accompanying musicological symposium, organised and moderated by Laura Emmery, an American musicologist of international renown, whose research focuses on music of the 20th and 21st centuries and post-tonal theory, with an interdisciplinary approach relying on philosophy, literary criticism, critical theory, and performance studies.


The 33rd edition of MBZ will kick off on 5 April 2025, with the premiere performance of three ballet pieces under the joint title of Broken Relationships at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb. It will be an experimental and innovative project – that is, the Committee of the Zagreb National Theatre, consisting of: national champions Irena Pasarić, Tomislav Petranović, Svebor Sečak, and Ballet Director Massimiliano Volpini, have selected the choreographers for these ballets to be Alessandro Giaquinto from Germany, Dickson Mbi from the United Kingdom and Takuya Sumitomo from Japan, the premier danseur of the HNK Zagreb Ballet, announced Iva Višak, the ballet master of the HNK Zagreb Ballet. The management of Music Biennale has selected Polish composer Rafał Ryterski to compose the music.


All of them were given the theme of Broken Relationships, to which they will align and contrast music and dance in a stimulating creative process. Gathered around the themes of separation, breakup and dissolution, the artists respond with encounter, dialogue and open experimentation. In the process, their task is to put everything broken, fragmented and fractured back together, fuse new compositions with new choreographies, negotiate their creative positions, forge bonds between fractures and find common points in sharp contrasts. At the site of rupture, meet to once again find a space for negotiation, adaptation and compromise, which are three prerequisites not only for art, but also for any new love, added Iva Višak. Our last collaboration was realised in 2015, with the theatre piece Kings of Gods, choreographed by Pascal Touzeau and set to music by Ivana Kiš and Tomislav Oliver. We are extremely happy that after ten years, our Ballet once again has the opportunity to participate in a co-production with this prestigious festival.


We should also highlight the continuous cooperation with the Croatian Radiotelevision Symphony Orchestra, which this year will include the performance of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia for eight voices and orchestra and the premiere of a new composition by George Lewis, commissioned in partnership with the musikprotokoll festival. As the head conductor of the HRT orchestra, but also a conductor who has been in touch with new music for 35 years, I consider it our duty to have a privileged partnership with Music Biennale Zagreb. In addition, I am extremely happy that we will commemorate Luciano Berio’s 100th birthday with a performance of his incredible symphony. Its famous third movement is a magnificent homage to all the composer greats of the early 20th century and quotes pieces by Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky and Mahler, said the chief conductor of the HRT Symphony Orchestra, maestro Pascal Rophé.

In the following year’s time, there will be regular concerts, residencies and various events, held in anticipation of MBZ 2025. The start of the programming research ahead of the new MBZ edition will be officially launched by the concert of renowned violinist and multimedia artist Dejana Sekulić (dejana sekulić), which will be held on Sunday, 26 May, at 8:00 p.m. at Zagreb’s Lauba Gallery. Interrupted. Continued is a performance referencing different types of displacement ([e]migrational, educational, emotional, personal, socio-cultural). As an inevitable part of life, it often brings with it a sense of disconnection not only from the outside world, but also from oneself. However, these breaks are only temporary states that lead to different ways of connecting. Before the concert, at 7:30 p.m., there will be a talk with Dejana Sekulić and the artistic leadership of MBZ. The concert starts at 8 p.m., while the afterparty starts at 9 p.m. Entrance to the concert is free of charge.