The idea about the festival that would consolidate Varaždin’s rich tradition and history in culture, music and education – particularly in music, was born in 1968 on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the Music School Varaždin. A group of Croatian musicians and cultural public workers decided this tradition could be best illustrated by the festival Varaždin Baroque Evenings that would consolidate and present the richest and the most extensively preserved heritage: musical, architectural, horticultural, visual, literary and educational. In the year 1971, the first three-day-long festival was held, at that time one of the few in Europe, specialized in this type of music in Europe. At that time musicologists and musicians were extensively discussing the ways of performing this music – whether to use the contemporary instruments and existing ensembles or using instruments and sorts of ensembles from the past times. Europe had renovated architecture and instruments; among the corpus of ensembles and orchestras there were artists profiled in Baroque music. The leading countries in the mentioned aspect were England, Germany and France.
Baroque music has been persistent in Croatian baroque capital and former capital city for almost fifty years. Varaždin Baroque Evenings (VBE) is held in autumn, mainly in churches and palaces, but not only in Varaždin – the festival had overgrown the city boundaries since 1971 when the first three-day-long festival was held. Now it is a two-week festival with thirty concerts, performed by few hundreds of musicians in front of approximately ten thousand people from all over the world. It is renowned as a European and world-famous early music festival. Concerts are now held mostly in Northwestern Croatia, but VBE had been a guest in numerous European countries. European Festivals Association (EFFE) commented VBE saying: “The high cultural and national importance of the festival is unquestionable” and then gave the festival the prestigious Label 2017-2018. Some of the most memorable performances from the past festival years are: the concert of Jordi Savall, a doyen of baroque music, the festival opening concert of The Vienna Boys’ Choir (in 2012), Le Concert Spirituel concert conducted by Herce Niquet and numerous concerts held by Le Tendre Amour, a Spanish ensemble, which prove that Baroque can be funny and grandiose at the same time. It is important to mention that VBE is mainly about authenticity – the authenticity of ambient because Varaždin is one of the best-maintained baroque cities and the program is held in palaces, churches and castles from that period; authenticity of performance because concerts are performed on baroque instruments; and authenticity of the programme consisting of baroque compositions. In this year’s edition, which will be held from September 21 to October 3, the scheduled program (including Croatian and Japanese musicians) will show all of us that those two countries are close enough, although they are objectively far away. Varaždin will host some the most prominent Japanese musicians – Hidemi Suzuki and the members of the Orchestra Libera Classica will perform the opening concert, while their colleagues from Vocal Ensemble La Fonteverde and Bach Collegium Japan will follow a few days later. However, the festival is not only about music. The city of Varaždin transforms into what it used to be in the twelve century, what can be normally seen only in movies. We are very proud of our baroque history, and based on history, we are building the future. That is why we chose our slogan to be “Varaždin Baroque Evenings – more than music”. It includes numerous accompanying events – from the flower show in Varaždin Old Castle, book promotions, exhibitions, and festive gastronomy events. This year we will present some new content – rock-baroque nights and baroque beer. Let us built the bridges between Croatia and Japan through culture! You can be a brick too!