Founded in 1953 as an ensemble of the Zagreb Radio and Television under the artistic leadership of the renowned violoncellist and conductor Antonio Janigro, the ensemble I Solisti di Zagreb (= ISDZ, Zagreb Soloists) managed to achieve their goal trough hard work and absolute dedication – they became one of the prominent chamber orchestras in the world.
The Zagreb Soloists have performed without a conductor since 1968 (led by the concert-master Dragutin Hrdjok) and they found their longtime artistic director and concertmaster Tonko Ninić. In 1997 the same position was filled by Anđelko Krpan, in 2002 the artistic director of the ensemble was Karlo Slobodan Fio, while in the jubilee season, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ensemble, the role of concert-master is once again played by their longtime leader, maestro Tonko Ninić. From March 2006 concert-master and artistic leader is Borivoj Martinic-Jercic. Most ensemble members graduated from the Academy of Music in Zagreb and share virtuosic mastery of their instruments, remarkable discipline as well as incredible enthusiasm and love for ensemble playing.
They have given over 3,000 concerts in all continents, thus winning recognition as well as public and critical acclaim in the major centers of music and famous concert halls, such as Musikverein (Vienna), Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), the Royal Festival Hall (London), Berlin Philharmonic Hall (Moscow), Santa Cecilia (Rome), Salle Pleyel (Paris), Carnegie Hall (New York), Opera House (Sydney), Victoria Hall (Geneva), Teatro Real (Madrid), Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), etc. They have also given regular guest performances in the best known music festivals, such as Salzburg, Prague, Edinburgh, Berlin, Bergen, Barcelona, Istanbul, Prades, Ossiach, Dubrovnik, and others. The ensemble has played with many great soloists like Henryk Szeryng, Alfred Brendel, Christian Ferras, Pierre Fournier, Leonard Rose, James Galway, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Aldo Ciccolini, Katia Ricciarelli, Lily Laskine, Zuzana Ružičkova, Mario Brunello, Isabelle Moretti, Guy Touvron, and many others.
The extensive repertoire of the Zagreb Soloists includes baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary works, while special attention is given to the opus of Croatian authors, both the past and the contemporary ones. They have recorded over seventy LP's and CD's for Vanguard, EMI, RCA, ASV, Eurodisc, Melodia, Hispa-vox, Pickwick and Croatia Records.
The Zagreb Soloists have received recognition and numerous prestigious awards including the following: the 1st prize in Mar de Plata (for the album The 18th Century Concertos), the Pablo Casals Medal, the Elisabeth Sprague Coolidge Medal (for the performance of contemporary music), the Vladimir Nazor, Milka Trnina, Orlando Awards (for the best performance of a Croatian work), the Ivan Lukačić Award given by the Varaždin Baroque Evenings, then the Villa Manin and UNESCO Awards, the City of Zagreb Award (twice), a Silver CD present by the record company Croatia Records, the Order of National Merits, the City of Zagreb Plaque, several Croatian music awards Porin, a silver plaque of the Jeunesses Musicales, and many others.
During the Croatian War of Independence the Zagreb Soloists gave about seventy benefit concerts (to raise funds for Dubrovnik, destroyed schools of music in Croatia, then for the destroyed building of the National Theatre in Osijek, Children’s Hospital in Zagreb, devastated Croatian churches and monuments). They also played series of concerts to celebrate the newly-independent Republic of Croatia.
They represent history on the concert stage. The dimension of their global achievement in chamber playing, that is in favor of spiritual quality of life, during their existence is so large that only their ensemble playing, which began in the meantime, returns us back to these days which once again acknowledge the above mentioned appeal of the acquired right to be considered an institution.