The Celebratory Suites of Pancho Vladigerov

In Bulgaria, Pancho Vladigerov is almost considered the founder of classical music. Like Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak, he deftly blended his country’s folk music with Western classical traditions. And like those composers, he created music of both national and international appeal.

The characteristic odd meters of Slavic folk music gives Vladigerov’s compositions a bubbling energy. In some ways, Vladigerov’s style reminded me of Bohuslav Martinu’s.

Seven Symphonic Bulgarian Dances features some imaginative orchestration. Vladigerov seems to use the orchestra as a resource of individual sounds. He only uses as many or as few instruments as he needs to get the effect he wants.

And the overall effect is this: every dance has a very different sound. The seven-movement suite is a kaleidoscope of orchestral color that keeps the listener’s attention.

The Vardar Rhapsody was originally for violin and piano. In its orchestral form, the rhapsody became a patriotic emblem — similar to the role Sibelius’s “Finlandia” plays its country. It’s a noble-sounding work and a distinctively Bulgarian-sounding one as well.

The album closes with the Bulgarian Suite, Op. 21. Vladigerov once again returns to folk traditions for each of the four movements as he did for the Bulgarian Dances. And like the Dances, this Suite is just as appealing for all the same reasons.

Rouse Philharmonic Orchestra gives these works sympathetic readings. I suspect Bulgarian musicians have a deeper understanding of what Vladigerov intended. And they deliver.

These are lively, energetic performances that at times sound celebratory. The recorded sound is passable.

Pancho Vladigerov: Bulgarian Suite
Rousse Philharmonic Orchestra; Nayden Todorov, conductor
Naxos 8.573422

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