Svetislav Stančić (July 7, 1895 — January 7, 1970)
Professor Svetislav Stančić has left an indelible mark on the Croatian music scene. The best practices and beliefs of his school have continued, especially high professionalism in music education. Svetislav Stančić taught his students professional honesty and at the same time was the best role model himself. His students passed on the same qualities to their students, and thus the Zagreb school of pianism was founded in the course of fifty years.
Stančić was born on 7 July 1895 in Zagreb. In 1910 he enrolled in the school of the Croatian Music Institute which he was able to finish in five years. Emilije Makanec taught him piano and Vjekoslava Rosenberga-Ružića composition. After World War One, Stančić chose Berlin, the best music centre at that time, to continue his education. He spent four years in Berlin from 1918 until 1922. H. Barth, a student of the great H. van Büllowa was his piano teacher for the first two years: Barth also taught W. Kempffa, A. Rubienstaina i H. Neuhausa. Always wishing to improve his piano playing, Stančić also worked with C. Ansorgeu, Liszt student. From him, Stančić learned ﬁrsthand the interpretation of Liszt’s pieces, especially the Sonata in B minor, as well as the late sonatas by Beethoven. At the same time, Stančić studied composition with F. Busoni from 1920. to 1922. Busoni gave masterclasses at the Prussian Arts academy. Among his students were Kurt Weill, Luc Balmer and Wladimir Vodel who all later became famous composers. In 1922 four preludes to Bach's religious cantatas were transcribed for piano in Busonis workshop. In the same year, Stančić gave a solo concert at the Beethoven-Saal in Berlin. He played the Bach and Beethoven sonatas Op. 31 number 2, Op. 57 and Op. 111. In 1922 Stančić returned to Zagreb where he gave concerts and dedicated himself to his work with students. By then he had already written a number of orchestral pieces, among them the Croatian Rapsody for symphony orchestra in 1915. the Symphony Scherzo in 1916. and the Crown Prelude in 1917. He made great efforts to revive the Croatian music heritage by publishing Pintarić and Livadić. Stančić was a very active concert pianist until 1927. He gave concerts dedicated to one composer (Beethoven, Debussy, Rameau, Busoni) or to one period in music. He especially cultivated national authors. His solo concerts were always important cultural events because they were often premieres of the works of Croatian composers. Critics pointed out his "beautiful, round tone and the highest possible clarity of detail in his performance, regardless of the period to which the piece belonged. Debussy was never imprecise or Mozart and Scarlatti deceptively breezy...".
Perhaps Stančić achieved most as a pedagogue teaching at the Music Academy in Zagreb from 1922 until 1909. In the course of nearly 50 years he taught almost all the Croatian pianists. He had 99 students, 66 graduated under his supervision and 40 among them became concert pianists. Stančić had two "golden decades" in his pedagogical work, in the thirties a generation of great pianists emerged from under his tuition: Božidar Kunc, Dora Gušić, Branka Musulin, Melita Lorković, Ćiril Ličar, Evgenij Vaulin. In the fifties more brilliant pianists followed: Zvjezdana Bašić, Darko Lukić, Jurica Murai, Ranko Filjak, Stjepan Radić, Branko Sepčić, Pavica Gvozdić, Vladimir Krpan, Sretna Meštrović...
Stančić was extremely successful in his piano teaching, approaching each of his students on a very personal level. In time his teaching became known as "the Stančić method'' and "the Zagreb school of pianism“ was born. Stančić himself never approved of his name being given to a method, saying that all it amounted to was "general principles of good pianism”. The only thing he considered worthy of the name “method” was "the carefully worked out way he taught each and every individual student how to master the fine craft of music with full artistic awareness".
In 1962 Stančić spoke about his work in an interview:
I tend to use a little bit of psychology when i approach my students, i respect their natural ability which we usually call talent. Talent, of course, consists of various qualities, such as temperament, empathy, imagination, feeling for rhythm, pace and dynamics. All ot these qualities need to be cultivated in the process of teaching and made into a harmonious and coherent whole which will enable the performer to meet the demands of any piece of music. This, after all, is what makes individual performances distinctive. I started my career as a pianist and a composer. At the same time I taught piano, soon i realised that i had too much on my plate. Something had to go - piano playing or composition or pedagogy. In 1927 i stopped performing and devoted all my time and energy to piano teaching. I think i made the right decision?