Žiga Hirschler

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Žiga Hirschler
Žiga Hirschler.jpg
BornMarch 21, 1894
DiedSeptember 1941 (aged 47)[1]
Cause of deathMurdered in Holocaust
OccupationComposer, music critic

Žiga Hirschler (March 21, 1894, Velika Trnovitica near Bjelovar – 1941 Jasenovac concentration camp) was a Croatian Jewish composer, music critic and publicist who was killed during the Holocaust.[2][3]


Žiga Hirschler (Hiršler, Jelenić, pseudonym Hirski), composer and music critic, was born in Velka Trnovitica by Bjelovar on March 21, 1894, and died tragically in the concentration camp of Jasenovac in the autumn of 1941. The biographical details and information about the music he left behind him and his achievements as a composer are discussed in the accounts referred to below, which on this occasion have been supplemented from a personal overview of the scores in his papers.

While still a child, he showed musical inclinations and an affinity for the traditional strains of the Croatian people. His institutional musical education started in 1910 in the school of the Croatian Music Institute in Zagreb, as regular pupil of composition and orchestration in the class of Vjekoslav Rosenberg-Ružić. In 1910/11, Žiga was recorded as being a timpanist in the student orchestra conducted by the same teacher. He learned music theory (harmony and choral singing) from Ćiril Junek, and piano in the class of Sidonija Geiger. From 1912 to 1914 he had lessons in the clarinet in the same school, class of Stanislav Krtička. In 1914 –1916 he was in Varaždin, at the recommendation of Rosenberg-Ružić and Geiger, and was a member of the Orchestral Association there. When the Croatian Music Institute acquired conservatory status in 1916, Hirschler returned to Zagreb and went on with his study of composition with Rosenberg-Ružić. He first appeared in public as composer and conductor on June 13, 1917, at his graduation concert, and the final production of the Conservatory. On that occasion he conducted the Student Orchestra in performances of his own works: Overture in E Minor and First Suite for Orchestra in G Major.

The composing oeuvre of Žiga Hirschler, according to his registration with ZAMP (then the Association of Yugoslav Musicians) of August 28, 1937, came to 37 works, 19 of them instrumental, and 18 vocal and instrumental, mainly for the stage. Many of these works, particularly the orchestral, disappeared in the Holocaust and have gone beyond recall.

Knowledge about the works not extant is possible only on the basis of historical accounts (Goglia and Širola) and newspaper articles about their first and other performances.

Today it is possible to draw conclusions about the features of the oeuvre of Žiga Hirschler on the basis of the extant scores, among other things. From an inspection and analysis of the scores, parts and independent compositions it is possible to notice "two stylistic trends that will over the course of time interweave". The first marks the influence of foreign models of late Romantic and Impressionist stylistic characteristics, where the author does not move outside the borders of tonality (Miniatures, Three Bizarresques, Eroticon, Five Capriccios, the cycles Japanese Spring and Fifteen Japanese Songs), while in the second he is vigorously in search of a national expression (Croatian Dances I and II, Sonatina for Piano, Chaplet of Croatian Folk Songs for Women's Choir and Piano, Croatian Rhapsody for Large Orchestra, String Quartet and Five Impressions for String Quartet and the operetta What Can They Do To Us After All).[4]


As well as technically more demanding chamber works, Hirschler also composed works for teaching purposes, among them Music for Children for violin and piano, Croatian Dances I and II, the collection Young Artist (50 arrangements of folk songs) and Miniatures, which are today a component part of the repertory in pupils' concerts in Croatian music schools, which were at the time required works in the curriculum of the Zagreb state music academy and the Osijek conservatory. Two opuses for four-handed piano can also be included in instructional works: Pearl Oyster (containing 10 four-handed arrangements of folk songs) and Lotus Suite. The works for piano – Three Bizarresques, Eroticon (L’érotique), Cinque caprices and Kobold / Goblin (currently understood not to have survived) are characterised by a skilfully written piano texture, expanded with harmonic colouring and a sense for the characterisation of movements. Most of the works in which he used elements of popular motifs fit in with the characteristics of the time of the Croatian neo-national course, while in only two opuses is it possible to discern elements that indicate his Jewish origin. The most extensive collection of solo songs is the Jewish Folk Songs, in which the author arranged 60 songs with Hebrew and Yiddish texts.

As well as instrumental, vocal, chamber and orchestral works, Hirschler dedicated three operas and five operettas to the music stage. During his lifetime, the operettas were successfully staged in theatres in Zagreb, Ljubljana, Osijek and Plzeň, although Croatian music reviewing of the time was not inclined to be generous about the popularity of this kind of music for entertainment. The popularity of the operettas is confirmed by the operetta hits printed as adverts in offprints, just before the premieres and after the performance. They stayed long on the repertoires and were often performed on programmes of radio stations even after the theatre performances, particularly the Sweet Zagreb Lasses, Love Waltz and Song To Zagreb from the operetta What Can They Do To Us After All and You Want to Go to Smrok, Love, That Is The Secret, Set Off on a Distant, Everyone Has His Own and Football March from the operetta Forward Ours. These many titles of hits are still to be found today in the Collection of Musical Sources and Audio Materials of the National and University Library in Zagreb, as witnesses of their time.

The particular feature of the composing work of Žiga Hirschler is that he "cultivated at once two branches of the art of music: the serious and the cheerful.” At the time when in the theatre the operetta What Can They Do To Us After All was put on the stage, 1935, Hirschler also wrote the Sonatina that won him the prize of Radio Zagreb; in another case, during the time of the premier of the operetta From Zagreb to Zagreb, 1937, he was awarded a prize for his String Quartet. At the same time the author's "hits from various operettas were being played in cafes and other public venues".

Periodicals record the information that in 1929 Hirschler's compositions were also performed on Radio Hamburg, including fragments of the operetta Crown Prince John, stage music from the children's drama When Stories Set Out into the World to the words of Egon Hillgenberg (Als die Märchen auswanderten) as well as music for the piano. An impressive success of Hirschler the composer was the performance of his piano trio Lyrical Intermezzi as part of the International Music Festival in Brussels in 1938, at which this work of his, along with the compositions of Croatian composers Odak, Gotovac and Dobronić, was sent with the intention of it representing contemporary work in music of the Yugoslavia of that time. Hirschler's works were being performed on Radio Zagreb, Radio Ljubljana and Radio Belgrade while the composer himself was editing many programmes about Croatian and Jewish music. Katić says that Hirschler "as long-term collaborator of Radiowelt placed over 300 pictures of our artists without ever even once including his own, although at the time he had regular lectures in Zagreb Radio". This confirms Hirschler's unselfish advocacy of the presentation of Croatian music and Croatian artists in the media and in newspaper pages. Žiga Hirschler's work as music publicist and journalist is shown by the large number of his writings about music reviews and critiques of concerts in the periodicals of the day in which he collected a lot of information about music, musicians and the musical conditions of his time in Croatia.

Today there are but few printed compositions to tell of Hirschler the composer, but about his work as a conductor it is possible to find out through the testimonies of his contemporaries, from newspaper accounts, and from the written memoirs of the musicians themselves. At the time of the inception of the Independent State of Croatia in 1941, Hirschler was employed in the propaganda department of the Croatian Authors' Society in Zagreb. He soon lost his job. Although he could have got out of Zagreb, he stayed by his sick father in his flat in Boškovićeva ulica 21, Zagreb. He was soon arrested and transported to Jasenovac. Many of the leading musicians of Zagreb and other distinguished people endeavoured to extricate him from the camp. Their efforts were without success, and Hirschler died, probably, in November 1941.[4]



  • Dvije renesansne noći
  • Fiorentinska noć, 1926
  • Svadbena noć, 1931
  • Mara


  • Pobjednica oceana, 1928
  • Kaj nam pak moreju, 1935
  • Napred naš, 1936
  • Iz Zagreba u Zagreb, 1937

His Burlesk has been played on radio by Dan Franklin Smith but not recorded.


  1. ^ "Festival hrvatske glazbe u Berlinu 24. rujan – 05. listopad 2008". www.mic.hr (in Croatian). Muzički Informativni Centar.
  2. ^ Kraus (1998, p. 256)
  3. ^ The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians. Albert Ernest Wier – 1938 "Hirschler, Sigismund, Croatian composer, teacher and music critic, born Trnovica. near Bjelovar, Mar. 21, 1894; studied at the Agram Conservatory."
  4. ^ a b http://mic.hr/products/two-song-cycles


  • Kraus, Ognjen (1998). Dva stoljeća povijesti i kulture Židova u Zagrebu i Hrvatskoj. Zagreb: Židovska općina Zagreb. ISBN 953-96836-2-9.
  • Snješka Knežević, Aleksander Laslo (2011). Židovski Zagreb. Zagreb: AGM, Židovska općina Zagreb. ISBN 978-953-174-393-8.
  • Goldstein, Ivo (2005). Židovi u Zagrebu 1918 – 1941. Zagreb: Novi Liber. ISBN 953-6045-23-0.
  • Goldstein, Ivo (2001). Holokaust u Zagrebu. Zagreb: Novi Liber. ISBN 953-6045-19-2.
  • Pintar, Marijana, Hirschler, Žiga (Hiršler), u: Macan, Trpimir (ur.), Hrvatski biografski leksikon, Zagreb: Leksikografski zavod Miroslav Krleža, 1983., str. 580–581. (Croatian)
  • Polić, Branko, Prekinuti roman Žige Hirschlera, Cantus, 1994, 80/81, str. 25. (Croatian)
  • "Torta – Popijevke hrvatskih skladatelja uz klavirsku pratnju" (priredili Kristina Beck – Kukavčić i Felix Spiller; Edicije Spiller – hrvatski skladatelji, Zagreb 2005). (Croatian)
  • Vujnović-Tonković, Ankica, Pisana riječ Žige Hirschlera, Novi Omanut – Prilog židovskoj povijesti i kulturi, 1995, 12, str. 5–7. (Croatian)