Nayden Todorov / Rousse Philharmonic Orchestra

Vladigerov: Bulgarian Suite; Seven Symphonic Bulgarian Dances; Vardar Rhapsody

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The composer with the unlikely name of Pancho Vladigerov is hardly known outside Bulgaria, although he is considered that country's most influential composer. Shostakovich admired Vladigerov, and at first listen, it's hard to understand why: Vladigerov's music brings to mind Khachaturian and the other Soviet ethnic composers who prospered while he, Shostakovich, was being persecuted, but listen further. For one thing, Vladigerov was evoking folk rhythms years ahead of these other composers; the works here date from the 1920s and early 1930s. Vladigerov's treatment of rhythm is as rigorous as Bartók's, although he did not make the explorations necessary to devise new tonalities to go with it. The music is never blankly nationalistic, although the Vardar Rhapsody has been called a Bulgarian counterpart to Chopin's Polonaise in A major, Op. 40, and the slow movements are quietly lyrical and not in the least sentimental. The nearest comparison might be to Turina and the other composers who extended Spanish neoclassicism, producing music that was national but not nationalistic. It is to be hoped that this recording by the Rousse Philharmonic (in the Bulgarian city of Rousse, or Ruse) under Nayden Todorov, who also served as producer, will increase this composer's international exposure; the performances have the flavor of commitment and are entirely adequate to the music.

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