Although led by cellist/conductor Antonio Janigro in its early years, I Solisti di Zagreb went on to become one of a few chamber ensembles to achieve international acclaim without the leadership of a regular conductor.
Consisting of about 11 core members, it is best known for interpretations of Baroque music, particularly the works of J.S. Bach and Vivaldi. But its repertory is inclusive of considerably more, taking in compositions of Mozart, Bartók, Shostakovich, and contemporary Croatian composers like Andelko Klobucar and Milko Kelemen. The ISZ's regular-season concerts are given at the Croatian Music Institute concert hall and often present world premieres, as with the James deMars Violin Concerto (2009). The ISZ has performed under guest conductors and gives regular concert tours across, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and more remote parts of the globe. It has made numerous recordings over the years, most of them available from Vanguard, RCA, and Sony Classics.
I Solisti di Zagreb was founded in 1953 by Antonio Janigro, with the aid of Zagreb Radio and Television. He served as the ensemble's music director and conductor until 1968. In its early years the ISZ occasionally appeared on budget recordings, but with notable success, as evidenced by the 1966 Vox LP of Mozart Piano Concertos No. 9 & No. 14, with then up-and-coming pianist Alfred Brendel. Following Janigro's departure, the ISZ began performing without a conductor in concert, with only the concertmaster giving a cue to start performances.
From 1968, Dragotin Hrdjok served as concertmaster, and he would be succeeded by Tonko Ninic, who also became the ensemble's artistic director. By the mid-'70s the ISZ was internationally acclaimed and able to attract many world-class soloists. James Galway often performed with the ISZ and recorded a flute version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons with it on an acclaimed RCA LP in 1976. He went on to make several more successful recordings with the ISZ.
Ninic departed in 1997 and was succeeded by Andelko Krpan, who served until 2002. By this time the ensemble had given more than 3,000 concerts worldwide and remained a major presence on the recording scene. From 2002-2006 Karlo Slobodan Fio served as concertmaster and artistic director. In 2006 Borivoj Martinic-Jercic was appointed his successor and remains in the post. Among the ISZ's later recordings is the 2006 EMI CD of J.S. Bach oboe concertos, with oboist Han de Vries.