Vito Žuraj’s work is characterized by powerful and meticulously crafted compositions, tailor-made for the performers and often including scenic elements and spatial sound concepts. Born in Maribor in 1979, his works have quickly gained recognition at major concert halls and festivals, interpreted among others by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern and the RIAS Kammerchor.
In the current season he is working on a concert for harp and strings, for which the twelve highest strings of the harp will be retuned microtonally. The premiere in October 2020 at the Kölner Philharmonie will be performed by soloist Marion Ravot and the Münchener Kammerorchester. Another key composition of this season is INNEN for chamber choir and ensemble based on a text by Händl Klaus. Departing from Beethoven's hearing loss, the piece examines the consequences of sensory limitations on artistic expression.
Vito Žuraj studied composition with Marko Mihevc in Ljubljana and continued his studies with Lothar Voigtländer in Dresden and Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe. His experience with the technology and aesthetics of electronic sound generation – gained during a master's programme in music technology with Thomas A. Troge and at the ZKM Karlsruhe, and consolidated through co-operations with the Experimentalstudio des SWR and IRCAM – does not only serve him for his own compositional work: as a professor of composition and music theory at the Music Academy of the University of Ljubljana since 2015, he initiated the setting up of an electronic music studio, parallel to his lectureship in Karlsruhe.
An avid tennis player, Vito Žuraj uses this experience as inspiration for a now-extensive series of works, including 2011’s Changeover for instrumental groups and orchestra, premiered with the Ensemble Modern and the hr-symphony orchestra under Johannes Kalitzke. He has long been closely associated with the Ensemble Modern, which has since premiered several of his works, including Runaround (2014), Übürall (2013), Restrung (2012) and Warm-up (2012). The Ensemble Modern also featured a retrospective program of his work in 2017 – one of two concerts showcasing his work at the Elbphilharmonie in spring 2017, as the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester also gave the world premiere of his composition Stand up.
Numerous other ensembles and orchestras regularly perform works by Vito Žuraj. The Klangforum Wien took his 2013 composition Fired-up on tour to Milan, Paris and Vienna. The partially staged composition Insideout was premiered by the Scharoun Ensemble directed by Matthias Pintscher at the Salzburg Festival in 2013, reprised by the New York Philharmonic in 2014 and the Ensemble intercontemporain in 2016. I-formation, a work for two orchestras commissioned by KölnMusik and written for the 30th anniversary of the Cologne Philharmonie, was premiered in September 2016 by the WDR Symphony Orchestra under Jukka-Pekka Saraste and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln under François Xavier-Roth. Last season’s premieres included Drive for trio percussion and instrumental groups, created while in residence at the Philharmonic Orchestra Erfurt, as well as the ensemble composition Tension, performed at the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik with the Klangforum Wien under Emilio Pomárico and reprised in Vienna under Peter Rundel. In addition, the Philharmonia Orchestra premiered the English version of his farce Ubuquity for soprano and ensemble in April 2018.
In the 2018/19 season, additional conceptual and boundary-breaking works were premiered, including Der Verwandler, composed for the SWR Vocal Ensemble and SWR Symphony Orchestra, which is inspired by the alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger, inventor of European porcelain. Porcelain bells and wind chimes were created in collaboration with the manufacturer in Meissen for the performance. In his composition Hors d’oeuvre, the instrumentation reveals its unusual approach to the concerto form: the work, written for chef-performer and chamber orchestra, was premiered by the WDR Symphony Orchestra under Peter Rundel together with star chef Daniel Gottschlich.
In spring 2016, Vito Žuraj was awarded the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize by the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Orchestra Academy. The prize included a commission for Alavó, which was performed in Berlin, Paris and Lucerne. Vito Žuraj has also been honoured with the city of Stuttgart’s composition award and the Prešeren Advancement Award, the highest decoration for artists in Slovenia. In 2014 he was a recipient of fellowships from the Villa Massimo in Rome, the Academy of Arts in Berlin and the ZKM Karlsruhe. At the start of 2019 he was appointed by Prof. Monika Grütters for a three-year term to the committee to jury fellowships for Villa Massimo, the Casa Baldi in Olevano, the Deutsche Studienzentrum in Venice and the Cité des Arts in Paris.
Recordings of Vito Žuraj’s works have been published on the label Neos, among others. A CD showcasing his work was also released by Wergo as part of the contemporary music edition of the German Music Council.
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