Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble

Magical Voices of Bulgaria

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After the unexpected popularity of 1988's Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares ignited a brief passion for Bulgarian folk music in the United States, many small labels licensed similar records from Bulgarian ensembles such as the Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble. Though this group, under the artistic director of composer and conductor Kiril Stefanov, is no cash in -- the Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble was founded in 1954, and is one of the most respected ensembles in the country -- there's a hint of calculation in the less-than-subtle title of this album. Combined with the skimpy liner notes and unattractive packaging, The Magical Voices of Bulgaria might feel like a rip-off. But the music, thankfully, is a different story. Like Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, the Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble is not particularly interested in authenticity over accessibility, but there's a refreshing lack of crossover attempts or watered-down facsimiles of true Bulgarian folk here. The blending of male and female voices on several tracks (a relative rarity in Bulgarian folk) gives the group a unique sound, and the musicianship is superb throughout. The Magical Voices of Bulgaria transcends its tacky presentation, and is well-worth seeking out.

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