“In music school, every pupil must practice and be prepared for a class – they must practice by themselves and not rely on teachers. In music school, pupils are encouraged to work independently and to fulfill their duties, which has great influence on forming children’s characters. Pupils should be certain that they would have good lessons.
Music school will provide wide education for its pupils. Pupils will not only learn how to play the instrument, but they will also be educated how to understand and enjoy music as a science, by learning theory of music scientific disciplines. In music school, pupils will have the opportunity to get familiarized with music literature. Acquiring music education in a school is much cheaper than in any other way.
Music school is a cultural institution that has a very serious task and has public responsibility for fulfilling it successfully.”
Novi Sad, 1909
The name of Isidor Bajić was a synonym of its time for the rapid branching out of creative spirit in numerous fields of Novi Sad and Voyvodina music life at the turn of the 20th century: he was an important pedagogue, organizer of musical life, music writer, publisher, collector of folk songs, and composer (famous as the author of the choral compositions “Serbian Girl”, “Ay, Who Bought It For You”, etc.).
He was born in Kula on August 16, 1878. He completed grammar school in Novi Sad, where as a student he helped Professor Jovan Grčić in activities related to music. While in the sixth grade, he began to compose, and in the eighth he conducted the students choir. Upon his return from Budapest, where he had first studied law before becoming a student at the Academy of Music, he was appointed as a teacher of singing and church singing in the Big Serbian Orthodox Lyceum in Novi Sad (today known as High School “Jovan Jovanović Zmaj”), and remained at that position from 1901 to 1915. During this time, he was also active as a violin, piano, and tamburitza teacher, established string and tamburitza orchestras, conducted a choir of students, and helped many talented students take their first steps into composition. The official concerts he prepared, especially those sermons in the Lyceum for the occasion of Saint Sava Day, exceeded greatly the level and frame of the amateur school performances.
As a result of his pedagogical work, the Project for Making Changes in Teaching Singing and Church Singing in Big Serbian Orthodox Lyceum in Novi Sad soon evolved (1912). In 1909, he founded the Music School in Novi Sad – the first institution of its kind to be established in the area since the foundation of the Singing School by Aleksandar Mortifidis-Nisis.
As a music writer, he published articles about music and music pedagogy (Singing as Pedagogical Mean and Its Usefulness; Serbian Church, Folk and Dance Music; How To Preserve and Cherish Voice; How Music Should Be Taught in Teachers’ School and Seminary; Our Church Singing, etc.) in almost all of the periodicals and daily newspapers printed in his time (Branko’s Ring, Chronicle of Matica Srpska, Flag, and Union). His series of articles on the Association of Serbian Singing Groups caused a harsh public debate with Petar Konjovic. Isidor Bajić also started the Serbian Music Library, an edition of printed music, as well as the Serbian Music Magazine (chronologically recognized as only the third music magazine in the history of the Serbian publishing industry). He also wrote and published two textbooks: Piano and Piano Teaching (1901) and Theory of Correct Singing from Notes (1904) – the first two books of their kind in Serbian music history.
As a collector of folk music, he wrote down folk melodies and Serbian church songs. He also used folk melodies abundantly in his compositions for piano, choral works, pieces with singing elements, and the opera „Prince Ivo from Semberija“. In the summer of 1911, while he was travelling to the Hilandar monastery with a choir of theology students from Sremski Karlovci, he began comparing Serbian church singing with the church singing of other nations. He contacted directly Reverend Lukijan Bogdanović, the Serbian orthodox bishop in Budim, regarding a proposal for making changes in Serbian church singing (1907).
In his work as a composer, Bajić experimented in all genres that could be considered pursuant of the general music taste and level of performance possible in his time: songs (cycle “Songs of Love”, “Collection of Songs in the Spirit of Serbian Folk Songs”, “Serbian Folk Songs in ‘Collection of Folk Songs’ by Mokranjac”, “Peasant Girls”, “Autumn Comes, My Quince”), piano character pieces (“Collection of Pieces for Piano”, “For Kosovo-Kumanovo, For Slivnica-Bregalnica”, „Serbian Rhapsody“), chamber pieces (“Song With No Words”, “Pizzicato Polka”, “Romance”), orchestral works (“Mist Fell”, “Elegy”, “Farewell to Draga Ružicki”), choral songs (for mixed, male or female choruses: “Song About Song”, “Hunters Gathering”, “Divine Liturgy”, “Death of Gusla Player”, “From My Schooldays”, “From My Backyard”); pieces with singing (“Djido”, “Brandy”, “Change”, “Divljusa”); and the Opera “Prince Ivo from Semberija”, which was, chronologically, the fifth composed in Serbia, and only the second Serbian romantic opera performed with national motives. It was based on a historical drama by Branislava Nušić, and had its premier showing January 6 – 19, 1911.
Isidor Bajić died in Novi Sad on September 16, 1915. He was only 37 years old.
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A few notable quotations regarding Isidor Bajić:
“In him we saw a higher being, for us he was the incarnation of a certain mystical beauty we longed for, but had not seen yet: from his spritely smile, a magical sound of music we adored murmured, which is why we adored him, Isidor Bajić, as well.”
“Objections that critics usually make can be summarized in a question: Why did he not become Mozart, but remained instead Isidor Bajić? I reply: this was because Kula in Bačka, where he was born, was not Salzburg, nor could have Novi Sad, where he worked, be compared to Vienna. Actually, we love Bajić precisely and foremost for the fact that he adapted to his surroundings, just like Mozart did, and because nobody except him could compose a melody that we all know as a folk dance ‘Oy Serbian Girl, Be Willing’ as well.”
“His muse fell silent in the most ominous times, when our people were whimpering under the pressure of Austro-Hungarian and German soldiery, and tiny Serbia was on the brink of evacuation. His hopes where mowed down one autumn day, while the sound of cannon shots from Belgrade reached the walls of the city of Petrovaradin. In place of bells and church songs these shots were what walked him towards Almaško graveyard. That was his death march.”
Father Stevan Popović