On January 26, 2023, we held an old record listening session in the Glina Library and Reading Room, where we were welcomed and hosted by librarian Lidija Klobučar. We went to Glina to honor the memory of one of the important Croatian figures who was born in that town on June 30, 1914 – composer, pianist, music theorist, and academic Natko Devčić. Thus, the title of the session was “From the living room of Natko and Beata Devčić”.
Today, the legacy of Natko Devčić is preserved in the archives of the Department for the History of Croatian Music at HAZU. One part of the legacy are the gramophone records of Natko and his wife Beata. In addition to vinyl records, a part of preserved gramophone records are categorized as 78rpm shellac records. For the needs of the listening session in Glina, we selected and borrowed several of these records from the HAZU music archive, presenting them in Glina Library. The listening session was led by musicologist and librarian Nada Bezić and the composer’s widow Beata Devčić-Domić, ballet artist and music teacher.
“Gramophones and records were technical sensations…” (Beata Devčić-Domić)
It was a great opportunity to hear more about Glina from the first half of the 20th century, about young Natko and his family, about old records and “courting” with gramophone record albums, and all that from the “first hand”! On that occasion, Beata Devčić-Domić highlighted:
“Glina has a lot of famous people. Do not ignore them and do not abandon them. It doesn’t matter that they were famous, they were important to our history. Where there is nothing, there is no history.”
Beata also told the following about Glina:
“Glina had everything. Glina had a railway, a station, and a promenade, there was a garrison there, and the Kasina house is still there today, where little Natko played Chopin to the officers at the age of 10. There really was everything, like in a big city, a real European city.”
During the listening session, we heard some of the records at 78 rpm that belong to the private collection of Devčić couple. Many of them were part of two Elektroton albums, which were given to 15-year-old Beata by her suitor, Vid Fijan, a well-known stage manager of Zagreb’s Croatian National Theater:
“He loved me from afar, courted me, visited me all the time. It was pure Platonic love because there was a 5-year difference between us, and I was still a child. So, once, he gave me two sets of 78rpm record albums…”
We also heard about places in Zagreb where you could buy 78rpm records during the 1940s and 1950s:
“After the war, we could find them in shops called ‘posrednik’ (business intermediary services). Things found in attics and private houses were bought from such intermediaries. It was something that we would call today a flea market, or fairground. You could find just anything there. These were very sought-after shops, and you could find things that had not been in the shops for a long time. Not valuable items for collection, but something you needed for everyday consumption. So many things were bought in such an ‘intermediary’!”