Bulgarian Capella Choir

Live in Japan!

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The 1977 Japanese performance documented on this album features the Bulgarian Capella Choir led by Svetoslav Obretenov; still being chomped on by the Soviet bear, Bulgarian culture was a good decade away from being sold as a snack for hungrily fascinated world music fiends. The lovely performances of Bulgarian and Russian folk songs that divide the album evenly do not come across as exotic vocal music by any means, the ethnic background of the performers a detail that may slip away completely upon relaxed, reflective listening. In these moments, the overall impression is that of a fine performance by a choir from anywhere in Europe. This blurred vision of things is quickly brought into focus by a look at the album cover, where song titles and names such as "Nani Mi, Nani Damhancho" and Blagoy Spassov overcome a few tiny blotches of Japanese. The name of Obretenov appears atop that of the choir both front and back; his exact role in this affair is not exactly described. Perhaps he is the page turner in the photograph, sitting next to pianist Erma Shineva, who, along with director Tamako Hashimoto, are the significant Japanese collaborators in this concert. Obretenov is certainly a significant block of feta cheese in the Bulgarian music scene, having fronted the most important national choirs, even having a significant annual music competition and scholarship named in his honor. The previously mentioned Spassov is a bass soloist whose appearances are album highlights. There are also a pair of excellent soprano soloists, one of whom is Stanka Markova, a Bulgarian professor who recorded a good deal of Orthodox music with the Bulgarian National Choir.

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