You can’t easily miss the composer Ferdo Livadic if you visit the Croatian town of Samobor, just a dozen kilometres west of Zagreb, close to the Slovenian border. The family, Austrian in origin, into which he was born owned an estate there, which he inherited in 1809, and he himself -although it was in Celje, in Slovenia, that he was born, in 1799 – studied in Samobor in his youth and spent most of his life there. The main street of the town is named after him, and so is the principal hotel, as well as the music school; and there is a bas-relief plaque commemorating him on the town hall, which isn’t surprising as he was mayor, a member of parliament, head of the school and city judge. His anniversary is celebrated in Samobor in the Dani Ferde Livadica (‘Ferdo Livadic days’). He died there on 8 January 1879. There is a bust by his grave and another by his house.
His native Austrian name was Ferdinand Wiesner, but during his time Croatian national consciousness was growing – he was a leading member of the group of composers associated with the Illyrian movement, composing patriotic and revolutionary songs and the movement’s unofficial anthem – and he preferred the Croatian form of his name. The house in which he lived, close to the centre of the town, was built in 1772, as a kind of miniature castle (Samobor also possesses an ancient, ruined one). It became the local museum in 1949. It serves as an art gallery, and also has displays of local archaeology and geology. But one of its rooms is devoted to Livadic. The prize item there is his Aloys Graff piano of 1820, partly because it was probably played by Liszt when he visited Livadic in Samobor. Among the other objects displayed are an 1809 watercolour of the ‘little castle’ and charming gold and black silhouettes of Livadic and his wife. In the showcases there are a selection of artefacts connected with him, as well as documents and examples of his music from the archive held in the museum, both printed and autograph (written in his tiny but very precise and clear hand). The museum is in effect the centre of local cultural life and is used for small-scale concerts.