Vesselina Kasarova

Bulgarian Soul

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Vesselina Kasarova sings beautifully, with a fine balance of deep passion, soulful abandon, and technical finesse, and the Bulgarian folk songs (Kasarova also sings a few composed works) are simply gorgeous. Nevertheless, the listener must approach this disc with some caution, mainly because Kasarova, in an essay included in the liner notes, sketches an imaginative, even visionary, history of Bulgarian folk music, in which the reader looks in vain for reliable facts, finding instead a maze of legends and mythological references. For example, while many seek Bulgaria's origin in ancient Thrace, the home of Orpheus, the connection between Thrace and Bulgaria is purely geographical: scholars generally associate the birth of Bulgarian culture with the foundation of the Bulgarian state, in the seventh century A.D. True, folk music, particularly in the Balkans, retains characteristic vestiges of ancient pre-Christian traditions, but the fact remains that musicologists, who started recording Bulgaria's musical folklore in the early 20th century, cannot date the music with any certainty. In his imaginative, even daring, arrangements, Krassimir Kyurkchiyski attempts to present the songs in an altogether modern key, sometimes adding an unexpected sonic sheen, with the help of choral and orchestral accompaniment, to the music's natural simplicity. What sets this disc apart from similar compilations, however, is the supreme, soulful, deeply satisfying musicianship of Vesselina Kasarova. To take one example, in "Give Me, Oh God, the Wings of a Swan," her voice, which effortlessly leaps from quiet inwardness to operatic intensity, miraculously expresses the mysteriously vast feeling of nostalgia. Kasarova's subtle, sometimes almost imperceptible, changes of timbre illuminate her song, enabling the listener to discern the nuanced richness of feelings, a richness that words often fail to convey.

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