Pancho Vladigerov Orchestral Songs deserve better

This installment of Capriccio reissues presents orchestral songs by Pancho Vladigerov. Vladigerov has become the leading figure in Bulgarian classical music. He blended classical forms and techniques with Bulgarian folk music. And in the process, created some truly exciting music.

Although I’ve enjoyed the other volumes immensely, I felt a little let down with this release. Vladigerov’s musical imagination was in top form.

He sets the Bulgarian texts in a way that retains the natural speech patterns of the language. He also references distinctive traits of Bulgarian folk music, particularly in his motifs.

The Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestras perform with energy and enthusiasm. They’re led by the composer’s son in works they have deep empathy for.

The original recordings were made in the early 1970s, so the sound is a little muddy. It was true with the other volumes, and that didn’t bother me.

No, what let me down here was the quality of the singing. The artists, all native Bulgarians, were probably the best choices for these recordings. Most professional singers can sing in French, German, and Italian with credibility. Most operas use one of those three languages.

Bulgarian, though, is a South Slavic language. It has a unique set of pronunciation challenges. The meaning of a word or phrase varies greatly depending on inflection and tone. Using native-speaking singers ensures the text is communicated accurately. But it also limits the pool of qualified singers.

In this case, I felt the singers were very good regional artists, but not more. Pavel Gerdijikov sang beautifully, with a rich, resonant bass. And all three sopranos delivered when it came to the intricacies of the language.

But at the same time, particularly with Roumania Valcheva-Evrova, I didn’t hear a lot of polish. The upper register had a bit of an edge, and at times the voice sounded (to me) underpowered.

For those of us who want to continue exploring Vladigerov’s music, this release is a must-have. But for folks new to Vladigerov, I recommend starting with Volume One or Two of his orchestral music.

Pancho Vladigerov: Orchestral Songs
Roumiana Valcheva-Evrova, Maria Ventsislavova, Evelina Stoitseva, soprano
Pavel Gerdijikov, bass
Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra; Alexander Vladigerov, conductor
Capriccio

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