This week, Croatian music, at least a part of it, is “moving” to distant Mexico. There, on Friday, June 10, 2022, at the Principal Theater in Guanajuato, the young, increasingly successful Croatian conductor Ivan Hut will conduct the University of Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra (Orquesta Sinfónica de la Universidad de Guanajuato, OSUG). One of the most prestigious Mexican orchestras, which this year marks the 70th anniversary of its existence, in addition to Shostakovich’s Second and Third Symphonies, will premiere two works by Pavle Dešpalj: Variations for Orchestra and Romantic Variations. The concert will be preceded by a conversation with artists, and one theme will be also Maestro Dešpalj (1934-2021), a world-class conductor, excellent pedagogue and composer of diverse and rich opus of great artistic value. During his rich and prolific career, maestro Dešpalj has influenced many generations of artists, including conductor Ivan Hut. Maestro Hut fondly remembers his teacher and says of him:
Maestro Dešpalj was by inspiration everything that one musician can be to another. He has woven into the souls of all of us and will remain so for a long, long time after his departure. My love for conducting was born behind the pool, in front of him, long ago in Split with the Split Chamber Orchestra. There was never a lack of support from him, both musical and human. I remember the moments when I called him on the phone with big dilemmas. The solution would crystallize just by hearing his voice. He was so strong and we were all so open in front of him. Everyone who has played in front of the maestro knows. I am immensely grateful to him for everything.
The Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra (Orquesta Sinfónica de la Universidad de Guanajuato, OSUG) occupies a special place on the Mexican music scene as one of the most prestigious orchestras in the country of international repute. The inaugural concert was held by the Orchestra on April 25, 1952 under the direction of maestro José Rodríguez Fraust, who conducted it for 34 years! The orchestra was then conducted by maestro Mario Rodríguez Taboada, José Luis Castillo, Enrique Batiz, Juan Trigos and Roberto Beltrán. As the first permanent professional orchestra of a university, the University of Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra has collaborated with many distinguished soloists and conductors, such as Dimitrij Hvorostovsky, Neeme Järvi, Cyprien Katsaris, Katia and Marielle Labéque, Ramón Vargas and others. In addition to more than thirty concerts a season, the University of Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra is also the residential orchestra of the Cervantino International Festival. Thanks to its extensive repertoire and quality, the ensemble has been a guest at numerous national festivals and has had several international tours.
The music material for the Mexican premiere of Variations for Pavle Dešpalj’s Orchestra was provided by the Croatian Music Information Centre of the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall.