Influential Croatian Women- Dora Pejačević- a talent gone too soon

Let us tell you the life story of Dora Pejačević, one of the “Influential Croatian Women” .

Dora Pejačević is the first female Croatian composer from an era that hardly knew and embraced female composers.

Born on September 10, 1885, in Budapest, Dora Pejačević grew up in a noble family house in Našice, Slavonia. Her mother was a Hungarian Baroness, and her father, the descendant of the old Croatian nobility, Count Teodor Pejačević, was a Croatian “ban” (a political title similar to the prime minister today) for several years. A lot of talent, especially for music, Dora owed to her mother, a well-trained singer, who has quickly begun to care for Dora’s music education.

Her first music teacher was the Hungarian musician Karoly Noszeda, who would come to Našice in the summer. When the family moved to Zagreb for the damning duty of Count Teodor, Dora continued to study privately with the teachers of the Music School of the Croatian Music Institute. She early learned to play piano and violin and her deep relationship with these instruments undoubtedly influenced her musical creation.

She wrote some of her first works at the age of only twelve and at the age of fourteen, she began to be seriously engaged in music.  In the very first years of the 20th century, young Dora started composing smaller piano opusions, such as Canzonette op. 8, Life of Flowers op. 19, Six Piano, and Fantasy Instruments. But it wasn’t only music that Dora was interested in. She loved reading books, studying all kinds of sciences, and widening her knowledge. In terms of that era, she was definitely lucky as she grew in a noble household and had access to an enormous number of books. Taking into consideration that in these times, even noble girls were mostly married at the young age of 18, Dora’s parents were liberal enough to support her in education.

A decisive step in her further musical and educational grew when she went to study abroad. At that time,  she started composing larger musical forms such as her Concert for Piano and Orchestra which is known in music literature as the first musical work of that kind. One of the greatest culmination of her international success, after the premiere of two symphonic streaks in Vienna, was the premiere for the entire symphony in Dresden. The Dresden premiere, as well as the Vienna performance, was a real triumph, both for the audience and the critics.


Everything in her life seemed like a bright future was knocking on her door. A young, educated, independent young woman, living her artistic dream and taking big steps to the big world outside.
She even got engaged to an Austrian nobleman Ottomar von Lumbe, a friend of a mutual friend. The couple soon moved to Munich and were expecting a baby on the way.
A dark cloud of misfortune came above the young family. Having a baby at a quite risky age (especially at that time) took a toll on the life of Dora Pejačević.
She died in March 1923 while giving birth to her son, Theo.

In an eerie way, she seemed to predict her death just months prior to her due date which resulted in a letter she left to her husband, telling him to take care of their child no matter if it was a girl or a boy. She also wrote:  „Let him travel his paths and do not prevent him from experiencing suffering that enhances the soul. Let him develop like a plant, and if he had great talent, give him everything he needs to serve his encouragement; Above all, give him the freedom whenever he needs it because of dependence on parents, relatives, many talents get wasted.“
After Dora’s death, she was temporarily buried in Munich and after two months (according to her wishes) her remains were transferred to Našice.

The untimely death of the first female Croatian composer meant an end to the enormous talent and many potential music pieces we never had a chance to hear, but her works have left an indispensable mark in Croatian and European music literature and are now known as an extremely valuable part of our cultural heritage. In her hometown of Našice, the elementary and music school hold her name and she also got a memorial room in the Heritage Museum of Našice.


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