Đuro Živković

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Đuro Živković, also rendered as Djuro Zivkovic (Serbian Cyrillic: Ђуро Живковић; born 1975), is a Serbian-Swedish composer and violinist. Since 2000 he has been living and working in Stockholm, Sweden.


Živković was born in Belgrade, where he studied violin at the Music Academy, and then composition at the same school with Vlastimir Trajković; later he studied at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm under Pär Lindgren.

His musical style is characterized by fantastic narration, virtuoso instrumentation and stylistic highly profiled sound. In his music he has developed a variety of compositional techniques such as polyrhythmic, improvisation, special harmony based scales, microtones, layer-polyphony and heterophony. His "harmonic field" technique is now a topic of an academic research at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz in Austria [1] and can be found in several of his works, including "Le Cimetière Marin" and "The White Angel." He has composed a wide range of works including chamber, orchestral and vocal music, music for solo instruments, choral, and just one short electro-acoustic piece.

Živković is also a professional violinist and violist, performing new music, as well as improviser on violin and piano. He has received many international scholarships and prizes for his work.[2] He also works as a teacher of composition, music theory and aural training, violin and chamber music. Although Živković considers himself entirely as composer, the most of his compositions were composed during summer and winter holidays when he was off from his teaching employment. Some of his key-works have been composed on the countryside in the middle of Sweden, in Gagnef.

Živković’s music is regularly commissioned and performed across the world by the leading musicians and orchestras, such as New York Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Klangforum Wien, Asko|Schönberg, among others.

Selected works[edit]

Metaphysical Poem (1997–1998)[edit]

Sonata for violin and piano is a 37-minutes long monolithic oration in five movements. The sonata is entitled metaphysical, stressing thus the composer’s need for meta-levels in music and his thoughts. All movements are played attacca and both instruments have very little time to rest. The sonata is a step forward from its precedents (Bartok or Shostakovich) in both sound and technique, and is indeed a very serious and complex work of young Zivkovic. The last movement, Ison, is based on Zivkovic’s early piano improvisations, where he added here the violin part. The sonata was written during Zivkovic’s studies at the Music Academy in Belgrade, in the class of Vlastimir Trajković.

The White Angel (2006)[edit]

The emotion and expression of the music is extremely unusual and original, because it doesn't allude in any way to human emotion, or anything formed by the nature. Sighs, sound phrases, wide vibrato, glissandos... everything in this music is in a function of some unusual fascination, spiritual and intuitive onomatopoeias and brave identification of the world of angels. It seems that Zivkovic finds the right theme for the music that he is long in it, but above all - it has given a strong original term for his unusual and supernatural inspiration, stands almost alone in its over-sense beauty. The score of The White Angel is a musical shaping of elements of dynamics, radiation, kinetic and other categories that actually explain the energy, love and moving - the three characteristics of angelic existence. "The White Angel", inspired by Mileshevo's fresco, is in fact the spiritual, moral, aesthetic and technical composing sublimate of all previous intentions and interests of the composer. Formed in a clear form that does not inhibit pure energy of the music, the duration is in a balance of the content and can be said—is well measured (13 min.) and it represents a valuable achievement of the Serbian, Swedish and European music in the 21st century. If nothing else, we couldn't find anything similar and nothing comparable in the modern music that we know. (review by Milorad Marinkovic)

Le Cimetière Marin (2008)[edit]

Paul Valery's poem with the same name inspired Zivkovic for the piece commissioned and dedicated to famous mezzo-soprano Anna Larsson and chamber ensemble Sonanza who gave its premiere. The piece is recorded on the label "Phono Suecia", among other pieces by Swedish composers, and has won the Swedish Grammy award as the best classical CD of year 2009.

The sea is close to the first person voice of the poem; the dead rest under the gravestones. Zivkovic causes time to cease. This takes place through the seldom resting glissandi, as slow as long waves on the surface of the sea. An improvisational attitude towards his composing gives rise to an ever-changing colour spectrum. [3]

On the Guarding of the Heart (2011)[edit]

Commissioned and dedicated to Das Klangforum Wien. The premiere was led by British conductor Clement Power. The piece represents Zivkovic's highest achievement in his compositional technique, complexity and musical accessibility. For this work, the composer was awarded the 2014 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.[4]

Živković offers a Utopia of new stability and order that, within the social chaos, can be found only in society’s ‘antipode’: the individual. However, the ‘information’ about their own depths to which they allegedly descend is conveyed to the individuals through a work of art, a phenomenon whose ontological and phenomenological foundation relies on institutional support and social engagement – in other words, it stems from the place it occupies in a society’s production structure. Also, the knowledge of ‘the depths of the heart’ comes from a composer who mastered the technique, and is not likely to use all of those fantasies to snap the audience out of their lethargy and confront them with the current problems. On the contrary, by eliminating uncertainty he induces us to ‘descend’ somewhere where ‘eternity’ overpowers current problems, and that place he calls ‘the heart’ of ‘the spiritual’. Živković, therefore, as a creator, builds the image of a guardian of tradition who, thanks to his technical skills, transcends national boundaries, proving the ‘propriety’ and ‘extra-temporality’ of his construction of Serbian heritage, which, if adequately mediated, will demonstrate its value by closeness to universal ‘truths’. [5]

Ascetic Discourse (2012)[edit]

Commissioned and dedicated to Carina Vinke (mezzo-soprano), New European Ensemble (The Netherlands) and Christian Karlsen (conductor). The piece earned the "Mokranjac Award 2012", the Serbian Culture State Prize for the best piece. The Award Committee writes the following:

"Ascetic Discourse", a cantata for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble, is a generously designed and substantially diverse music that is characterized by multidirectional communication, both with the modern trends, as well as the ancient, traditional sources of inspiration and musical thought. The text of father Philimon taken from the old Byzantine collection of spiritual texts "Philokalia" has profoundly defined his colourful, delicate, innovative and emotionally experienced music. Djuro Zivkovic sovereignly rules with the modern compositional and musical techniques, which stand deep in the function of his artistic individuality that possesses a finished aesthetic style. "Ascetic Discourse" is a work of music that establishes a step forward into the new and authentic Serbian and in European contemporary music." [6]

Unceasing Prayers (2013)[edit]

Concerto for cello and orchestra, commissioned by Swedish Radio. The premiere was given by cellist Hanna Dahlkvist and conductor Shi-Yeon Sung, together with Malmö Symphony Orchestra. The music is inspired by book "The Way of a Pilgrim", a 19th-century Russian work, recounting the narrator's journey as a mendicant pilgrim across Russia while practicing the Jesus Prayer. Musical elements which Zivkovic include in the concerto are: numerous repetitions, plain chant from the Russian north, church bells, Syrian Orthodox church song, etc. The piece is strongly associated with "Ascetic Discourse" in which the concerto has its roots. The first movement is entitled "Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ", as a spiritual reminiscence of Bach's chorale prelude BWV 639.


  • Eclat de larme - composition prize at the first pre-art competition in Switzerland, 2005
  • Le Cimetière Marin - Swedish Grammy Award (Grammis) on Sonanza's CD Unheard of Again - 2009
  • Ascetic Discourse - Mokranjac Award, Serbian State Prize, for the best piece of the year - 2012
  • On the Guarding of the Heart - Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, 2014
  • Unceasing Prayers - Nominated for the Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco - le Prix de Composition Musicale, 2015
  • Carin Malmlöf-Forsslings-Award, by the Swedish Rolay Music Academy, 2018

Other Grants[edit]

  • Performing Rights Society, Sweden
  • Arts Grants Committee, Sweden
  • Irino Institute, Japan
  • The Royal Academy of Music, Sweden
  • A five-years composing grant (2014–18) by Konstnärsnämnden, Sweden


  1. ^ Patterns of Intuition - POINT
  2. ^ Zivkovic wins Grawemeyer music prize Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  3. ^ Erik Wallrup: from the CD booklet.
  4. ^ http://grawemeyer.org/news-updates/zivkovic-wins-grawemeyer-music-prize
  5. ^ Excerpt from: M. Milojkovic: New Sound: International Magazine for Music;2012, Issue 39, p81
  6. ^ http://composers.rs/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Obrazlozenje-2012.pdf

External links[edit]