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CD Review

Pancho Vladigerov

Orchestral Works

  • Vardar (Bulgarian Rhapsody), Op. 16
  • Traumspielsuite
  • Bulgarian Dances, Op. 23
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Horia Andreescu
CPO 777125-2 DDD 79:49
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Apart from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, most of us in the West don't know much about Bulgarian music. Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978) is possibly the most famous Bulgarian composer (although he was born in Switzerland, and spent much of his young adulthood in Berlin), but even his name is relatively unfamiliar outside of Europe. Lots of people, however, know the name of his most famous pupil – Alexis Weissenberg. Vladigerov also worked extensively with theatrical director Max Reinhardt, before Reinhardt left Berlin for Hollywood.

Eckhardt van den Hoogen's typically comprehensive booklet notes propose that Vladigerov was more effective as a miniaturist than as a composer of large-scale works. If that is true, then this CD plays to Vladigerov's strengths. In the seven Bulgarian Dances (1931), Vladigerov eschews the role played by Bartók and Kodály (for example) of a serious, faithful collector of folk melodies and instead, charts a more populist course. As van den Hoogen writes, it is almost as if Vladigerov is serving as a sort of missing link between George Gershwin and Aram Khachaturian!

The Bulgarian rhapsody Vardar probably is the composer's most famous work. It began life as a work for violin and piano, but it was such a success that the composer subsequently orchestrated it, and also arranged it for several other combinations of instruments. Colorful and straightforward, it fulfills a similar function as nationalistic rhapsodies by George Enescu and Hugo Alfvén.

Vladigerov's more cosmopolitan incidental music for a Reinhardt production of Strindberg's A Dream Play later became his six-movement Traumspielsuite. The music alternates between the otherworldly and the touchingly mundane. Reinhardt's association with Erich Wolfgang Korngold is well-known, and in parts of the Traumspielsuite, one's nose captures, coincidentally or not, a pleasing whiff of Korngold.

Rumanian conductor Horia Andreescu has served as permanent guest conductor of the Berlin Radio Symphony for a number of years. This is a first-rate ensemble, and Andreescu gets colorful and refined playing out of it, particularly in the charming, evocative Traumspielsuite. This CD, expertly recorded in the atmospheric Jesus-Christus Kirche, is a co-production of CPO and Deutschlandradio Kultur.

Copyright © 2007, Raymond Tuttle