Ivan Padovec was born in Varaždin, Croatia in 1800. He was among the first professional Yugoslav guitarist/composers with an international reputation. He gave successful concerts both at home and abroad, and composed over 200 compositions, instrumental (mostly for one and two guitars) and vocal (songs for different voices accompanied by guitar or piano). Many of his compositions were published during his lifetime, by well-known publishers in Vienna, Prague, etc. But some of his works were kept in his, or his friends’ handwriting, like “Polonaise in La-major”, one of the most famous short Padovec pieces. In addition to his concerts, Ivan Padovec wrote a great number of works, despite his poor eyesight. Paramount among his works is his 31-page pedagogic book Teoretische-practische Guitar-Schule which was awarded a First Prize of 40 ducats in a competition bearing the name of a Russian guitarist (probably Makarov). The guitar method was published in 1842 by the Viennese publisher Werner. Its eight chapters contain general musical instructions on the technique of playing the six-stringed guitar. The second part of the book consists of melodious pieces for practising, and the third part deals with playing the ten-stringed guitar.
The ten-stringed guitar invented by Padovec had in addition to the usual six strings, four basses (D, C, B, and A) fastened by separate pegs, by which each string could be raised a semitone. The guitar was made for him by the famous Viennese luthier Stauffer. In 1837 Padovec performed in various towns in Poland. By then his eyesight was steadily weakening and he was obliged to abandon his tour to Russia, returning to Vienna. On the advice of his doctors, who were unable to cure him, he soon returned to his native Varaždin, where he stopped writing and reading for a while. By this means he begin to recover. His eyesight improved enough that he was able to start giving lessons and occasionally to perform in Varaždin and nearby towns. After one of his great concerts in Zagreb in 1840, the magazine Danica recorded on January 18th:
Our particular attention was caught by our countryman Mr. Padovec, the composer and the best guitar virtuoso, who was not deprived of praise even by the severe critics in Vienna. He performed two concerts in the city theatre and showed that even on such an instrument, it was possible to play tenderly and skillfully, thus surpassing everyone else. All the pieces he played were very successful, but his own variations on the folk song “Nek se hrusti” were most appreciated.
In 1848 Padovec lived in the family house of his sister, facing financial problems. As he was now completely blind, he could neither compose nor teach. Despite this he still tried to make some music, which was dictated to his friends. Later, the scores were checked, corrected or rewritten by Ivan Udl, an organist from Varaždin, and Padovec’s friend. At the end of his life Padovec lived in great poverty. He did receive some financial support, but this was insufficient.
In 1871, Padovec gave his last performance in the Varaždin theatre. A journalist commented on this in the magazine Vienac: “Just like a candle which gathers its strength and flames up, before finally going out, the weak, vulnerable old man gathered all his strength and gave his final concert last year in the Varaždin Theatre.” On November 4, 1873 Ivan Padovec died, leaving no children, for he never married. His humble funeral was attended by the youth from the country school, and a few singers. Later, his admirers erected a monument to him in the city of Varaždin.