Stoika Milanova is rarely mentioned among the most prominent violinists from the latter 20th century, but from the early '70s her career skyrocketed with a major competition victory, a busy schedule of concerts, and several critically acclaimed recordings. For more than a decade she was one of the most highly sought-after violinists from Eastern Europe, but her career gradually cooled and she turned to teaching, while still maintaining a busy schedule on the concert stage. Most of her recordings were made for the Balkanton label in Bulgaria, but often issued in the west by Monitor Records.
Stoika Milanova was born into a musical family in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, on August 5, 1945. Her father was Trendafil Milanov, violinist, teacher, and developer of the Milanov method, used in instructing violin students. Milanova first studied with her father and later enrolled at the Sofia State School. She had later studies at the Moscow Conservatory with David Oistrakh. Her first competition success came in 1967 at the Queen Elizabeth Competition where she captured second prize.
In 1970 Milanova won the City of London International Competition. Thereafter, she made regular appearances with major orchestras in the U.K. In 1972 she received a Grand Prix of the Charles Cros Academy for her recording of the two Prokofiev violin concertos on the Balkanton label.
Milanova toured throughout Europe in the 1970s and went on to score critical success with her 1975 appearances in Japan with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra. She made a highly successful tour of Australia in 1976 and gave her U.S. and Canadian debuts in 1978.
From around that time Milanova made numerous appearances with pianists Radu Lupu and Malcolm Frager, making a notable recording with the latter of the first violin sonatas of Schumann and Brahms. Milanova's scorching performance of the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto at a 1984 concert in Sofia, with the Bulgarian RTVO, was issued on Balkanton to critical acclaim.
From the early '80s Milanova often appeared in concert with her daughter, Yova, also a noted violinist. The two made a distinguished recording of the Vivaldi Concerto Grosso for two violins, cello, and strings, Op. 3/1. In the new century Milanova has maintained a busy schedule of concerts while teaching at the Bulgarian National Conservatory. Among her later recordings is the 2009 Balkanton CD of the Mozart Fifth Concerto and Mendelssohn Concerto in D minor for violin, piano, and strings.