On the Guarding of the Heart

Composition for chamber orchestra by Djuro Zivkovic written in 2011.

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The title page of the first edition.


“On the Guarding of the Heart” (2011) – a chamber orchestra piece by Djuro Zivkovic is commissioned and dedicated to Das Klangforum Wien. The piece represents Zivkovic’s highest achievement in his compositional technique, complexity and musical accessibility.

The composition was premiered by one of the most respected ensembles for the contemporary music, Klangforum Wien and British conductor Clement Power, in November 2011. The premiere took place on the contemporary music festival – 20th Composers’ Review, held annually in Belgrade. The performance of Zivkovic’s music made a strong impression on the audience and the performers. The piece is commissioned by and dedicated to the prestigious ensemble.
Djuro Zivkovic’s “On the Guarding of the Heart” is written impressively, pushing the instrumental virtuosity and a sublime compositional imagination to the highest levels. The work is inspired by a spiritual philosophy of the past, however it is a work that speaks to each of us at this very moment — it brings a message about the true reality of the world that is essentially required for the spiritual and artistic transformation of the society.
Zivkovic keeps a discourse about the time, about the spirit, and the incarnation of matter. In “On the Guarding of the Heart” one can find radiant harmonies, crystallisation of melodies, lightest light and darkest darkness, flashes, unusual vibrations and noises on the threshold of audibility, a deep concentration and frozen time. His composition is very precise in style, balanced in form, and written virtuously as it can be imagined with a pure improvisation. For this work, the composer was awarded the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 2014.

J. Inge ©


“On the Guarding of the Heart” is directly inspired by my two previous pieces “I Shall Contemplate…” and “Le Cimetière Marin”. All of them are religious music, which I freely call cantata, the name I borrow from and refer to Bach’s master pieces.
“On the Guarding of the Heart” is an instrumental cantata, and it derives many of the musical ideas from “I Shall Contemplate…”. Both pieces could be performed attacca, in such a way that the latter ends the pieces.
The main theme of “On the Guarding of the Heart” is the need to return into oneself, to descent with the intellect in to the depths of the heart, to guard it and to seek there the hidden treasure of the inner kingdom. The music is very stimulated by reading of the Philokalia; it is about a hard-achieved detachment, stillness and watchfulness, it is about solitude and exile.

Djuro Zivkovic


Technique and style

(more to come)

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