Ever since Serbia achieved autonomy in the 1830s, and particularly since it became an independent state in 1878, the Serbian cultural and national identity was expressed in music by nurturing the old traditions dating to the times of the Nemanjić Dynasty and in folk and church music after the Turkish occupation. After the great migrations to the north, music art became stagnant, and its development continued in new cultural centres in the North-West. The first singing societies in the restored Serbia, and Vojvodina at the time, were both the means and the expression of the process of national and artistic coming of age. The first theatre plays with songs were an expression of aspirations towards civil Europe - the source of music creators, influences, as well as educated Serbian musicians, who were quite rare at the time.
In the period between the two World Wars all key musical institutions were established (Philharmonic Orchestra, Opera House, Ballet Troupe, Music Academy), along with new musical societies, symphonic and chamber orchestras. Prominent European musicians and ensembles had guest performances in Belgrade. in the period between the two World Wars, Radio Belgrade and many magazines and newspapers promoted music, music culture and education. With the beginning of World War II, the continuity in creation of music and the art of performance was briefly interrupted, but the music expression and sensibility were significantly changed under the dictatorship of the new, revolutionary Government. Nevertheless, owing to a series of circumstances, the operations and artistic mission of national musical institutions were relatively quickly restored, and a large number of new cultural and artistic societies, choirs and chamber orchestras were established, and the old ones restored.
There is a broad spectrum of musical genres and expressions in Serbia today, particularly in Belgrade, where Serbian musicians who live and work abroad often perform as guests, along with the prominent international artists, ensembles and musical groups of all genres. In Central Serbia, the music scene consists of occasional musical events and guest performances from the capital, and only rarely from the European centres.
The present state of affairs on the public music scene reflects the consequences of political and social events from the past twenty hears, and over the past years it has also been affected by consequences of the financial and economic crisis, which is also the case with other kinds of art (with rare exceptions). The crisis affecting national cultural institutions is not only financial in nature, but a crisis of "authorship" and management. For example, the number of opera premieres is in constant decline, while the repertoires hardly ever include Serbian operas and ballet works. A number of leading ensembles with long tradition and significant achievements are also in crisis, which is reflected in the "adjustments" of their repertoires to the "lighter", more popular genres.
Key words: Serbian music, history of music, composing, music performance, festivals, opera and ballet, orchestras, choirs, musical education, publishing and journalism
* This is an overview of the development of music life in the territory of present-day Serbia from the beginning of the 19th century to the present day, including: a concise summary of the development of all significant institutions, work and achievements of authors and performers, festivals, education, and publishing.
Note: Information on the author and reviewers is given at the end of this overview.
Written by: Dr BRANKA RADOVIĆ, musicologist, professor of music history at the Faculty of Philology and Arts, Kragujevac, and Opera Director at the Madlenianum Opera and Theatre, Belgrade (Zemun)
Reviewed by: Dr Sonja Marinković, musicologist, professor at the Faculty of Music Arts, Belgrade; Dr Snežana Nikolajević, professor at the Faculty of Philology and Arts, Kragujevac
Translated by: Snežana Vujović