STA, 9 January 2019 - Composer, conductor and jazz musician Urban Koder has died, his family told the STA on Wednesday. Koder was honoured last December with the Silver Order of Merit by President Borut Pahor for leaving a notable mark on Slovenian theatre, film, radio and music.
Koder was a significant figure of the Slovenian cultural landscape, and has left a great mark on the Radio Ljubljana Dance Orchestra, the predecessor of the RTV Slovenija Big Band, said the the big band's conductor Lojze Krajnčan.
"Koder was a member of the first generation of Slovenian jazz musicians and was a pioneer as a trumpet soloist in the then Radio Ljubljana Dance Orchestra and as a long-term member of the Ljubljana Jazz Ensemble," Krajnčan said.
According to him, Koder was one of the first Slovenian jazz soloists and improvisers.
The editor for jazz music at Radio Slovenia and former art director of Big Band Hugo Šekoranja agrees that Koder was a big name in the Slovenian culture sphere.
"Despite being a doctor and the prospects of a respectable career in medicine, he listened to his heart and followed his musical muse, first as a trumpet player and then as a composer. This was definitely the right decision, because Koder is one of the most unique artists in Slovenian music history," he told the STA.
Koder was foremost an intellectual and this very much reflected in the broadness of his music work, Šekoranja added.
Born in Ljubljana, Koder turned 90 in March. He studied medicine and worked as a doctor. He joined his first music band when he was thirteen and then played the trumpet in the Dance Orchestra a few years later in 1945.
He conducted the Ljubljana Jazz Ensemble when it made the first jazz record in post-war Yugoslavia and was one of the founders of the Yugoslav Jazz Festival and later also the Ljubljana Jazz Festival.
He collaborated with music giants like Henry Mancini and Luis Armstrong and all top musicians of the region.
He wrote countless pieces of music, including some 100 chansons and music for children's theatre and radio plays. He made music for 20 feature films, four documentaries, ten TV series and 15 short animated films.
His best known work is the music for Matjaž Klopčič's 1973 cult film Cvetje v Jeseni (Blossoms in Autumn). "If Urban Koder wrote nothing but the music for Blossoms in Autumn he would have still been listed among the giants of Slovenian music," the president's office said when presenting him with the Silver Order of Merit in mid-December.
Krajnčan said that he managed to "brilliantly capture the Slovenian soul in the simple melody for the zither."
In 1992, Koder received the Fran Milčinski - Ježek Award conferred by the public broadcaster RTV Slovenia for special radio and television achievements.