Countess Maria Theodora Paulina (Dora) Pejačević (Hungarian: Gróf verőczei Pejácsevich Mária Theodóra Paulina "Dóra", 10 September 1885 – 5 March 1923) was a Croatian composer and a member of the Pejačević noble family. She was one of the composers to introduce the orchestral song to Croatian music and her Symphony in F-sharp minor is considered by scholars to be the first modern symphony in Croatian music.
Dora Pejačević (in old documents also Pejacsevich) was born in Budapest, Kingdom of Hungary, the daughter of a Croatian ban, Hungarian-Croatian Count Teodor Pejačević of Virovitica and Hungarian Baroness Elisabeth Josepha Vay de Vaya (1860–1941), herself a fine pianist. Her mother was the first to give her piano lessons. Paternally, she descended from the old Croatian noble Pejačević family, one of the most distinguished noble families in Slavonia, the eastern region of Croatia. Her maternal family was, for centuries intermarried with Counts Teleki de Szék, which gave them political and economical importance within the region of Budapest. Much of her mother’s prominence led to Dora veering towards music rather than the aristocratic lifestyle that was impressed upon her.
Pejačević began to compose when she was 12. She studied music privately in Zagreb, Dresden and Munich and received lessons in instrumentation (from Dragutin Kaiser [ru] and Walter Courvoisier), composition (from Percy Sherwood) and violin (from Henri Petri in Munich). She was largely self-taught, however.
In 1913, Pejačević composed a piano concerto, her first orchestral work, marking her as the first ever Croatian composer to write a concerto. Pejačević’s earlier compositions mostly consisted of piano pieces, sonatas, and songs and were considered elite in their nature. Many of her pieces premiered in Germany, played by major soloists of the era. When her Symphony in F-sharp minor, Op. 41, premiered in the Great Hall of Vienna's Musikverein, a critic was surprised when a woman came up on stage, which shows how her excellence contributed to her importance as a composer, specifically a woman composer, in the early twentieth century. Throughout her lifetime, Pejačević's compositions were performed in Budapest, Vienna, Prague, München, Dresden, and her town of Nasice.
On 14 September 1921 she married Ottomar Otto, Ritter von Lumbe (1892–1978), son of Franz, Ritter von Lumbe (1848-1920), great-great son of Count Franz von Thun und Hohenstein (1786-1873) and his wife, Countess Theresia Anna Maria von Brühl. They didn't have children. Although Pejačević led a lonely life, she met many prominent musicians and writers, and befriended Austrian journalist and writer Karl Kraus and Czech aristocrat and patroness of arts, Countess Sidonie von Thun und Hohenstein.
Pejačević died in Munich in 1923. Multiple sources have described her passing in contradicting manners. One source claims the cause of Pejačević's death was kidney failure, taking place four weeks after her son, Theo's birth. Another source mentions her passing taking place as a result from complications during childbirth. Her tombstone, per her request, has her name written solely as “Dora” with the short phrase "Rest Now". She is buried at the cemetery in Našice, Croatia.
Pejačević is considered a major Croatian composer. She left behind a considerable catalogue of 58 opuses (106 compositions), mostly in late Romantic style, including songs, piano works, chamber music, and several compositions for large orchestra, arguably her best. Her Symphony in F-sharp minor is considered by scholars the first modern symphony in Croatian music. Most of her music has yet to be published and released on compact disc, although concerted efforts have been made recently to rectify this situation. For example, the Croatian Music Information Centre has published some of her scores, including three of her orchestral works (Piano Concerto, Symphony, and Phantasie Concertante). In 2008, the Center also published a bilingual monograph (in English and Croatian), written by the Pejačević scholar Koraljka Kos, accompanied by a first all-Pejačević CD of piano and chamber music.
Her life is the subject of the fictionalized Croatian biographical film Countess Dora (1993), directed by Zvonimir Berković and starring Alma Prica and Rade Šerbedžija.
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