by Geoffrey Dean

Over the last forty years, several cellists have inspired or initiated the creation of numerous pieces for cello alone by Bulgarian composers. The result is a bevy of virtuoso solo works that will in turn inspire and challenge cellists of all nationalities. Here is a brief look at some of these pieces:

Marin GOLEMINOV(1908), Bulgaria's oldest surviving composer from the famous "second generation", is still creatively active in his ninetieth year. His SONATA for cello solo is dedicated to one of the first native born cellist-pedagogues in Bulgaria, Konstanin Popov(1904-1992). This 9 to 10 minute work reaches its musical climax in an extended passage of furious barriolage that later returns, thus framing the contrasting Lento and Scherzando sections. This essentially tonal music takes its inspiration from Bulgarian folk music; it is concise, idiomatic, and effective. It has been recorded by Ventsislav Nikolov on a limited edition LP of Goleminov's music on the Balkanton label.

Peter HRISTOSKOV(1917) composed his 5 to 6 minute FANTASY, Op. 15 for Professor Zdravko Yordanov of the National Music Academy in Sofia. This piece makes the most of alternations between aggressive and lyrical playing: Its explosive opening motif on the C-string is constantly foiled by a plaintive A-string melody. Open string drones and other "rustic" effects, as well as a whirlwind conclusion in perpetual motion, help this work impress an audience without over-burdening the less-advanced player.

Hristoskov's RUCHENISTA, Op. 1, No. 6, originally for violin, is an excellent example of a stylized Bulgarian folk dance in a meter of 7. Asymmetrical rhythmic patterns, passages imitating the gadulka (Bulgaria's dance fiddle), and use of modes with the interval of an augmented second, give this 3 minute piece its characteristic and exciting sound. It was recorded in the Anthology of Bulgarian Classics for Violoncello.

The SONATA by Dimiter CHRISTOV(1933), a 10 minute work recorded on a Balkanton LP of Dr. Christov's music by its dedicatee, Zdravko Yordanov, features a theme modeled on western Bulgarian folk song. It is treated to a series of five contrasting variations culminating in a virtuoso dance. A finale in an unevenly divided meter of 8, also common in Bulgarian folk music, serves as an epilogue to the work. The composer is a leading musicologist on the faculties of the National Academy of Music and the New Bulgarian University.

In the 15-minute SONATA of Vassil KAZANDJIEV(1934), brief snippets of diatonic melody appears in an otherwise atonal sound world, where folk music is only a distant point of reference. An incredibly wide range of timbres, requiring various bowing, plucking, sliding, and knocking techniques, is found in the work's four contrasting sections, and can be heard in the recorded performance of dedicatee Ventsislav Nikolov on a Balkanton CD devoted to Prof. Kazandjiev's music. This composer is also known internationally as the founding conductor of the 13 member string ensemble, Sofia Soloists, and as the former principal conductor of the Orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio.

A similarly broad array of instrumental techniques is called for in the solo pieces of Konstantin ILIEV(1924-1988), another important figure in the Bulgarian avantgarde and for many years the music director and conductor of the Sofia Philharmonic. The CADENZA from his Tempi Concertati III for cello and three groups of instruments (mostly percussion), in which long melismas covering the cello's entire range are interspersed with more fragmentary figures, is playable as a separate piece of about 4 minutes duration. Another piece refers to its dedicatee in its playful title: VENTSICELLO, for Ventsislav Nikolov, a more loosely structured composition incorporating chance procedures, lasts about 7 minutes.

Among younger Bulgarian composers, Georgi Arnaudov(1958) and Dragomir YOSSIFOV(1966) have each composed for unaccompanied cello: Arnaudov is represented by his mystic RITUAL, and Yossifov by an ethereal two movement SONATA. Also worth exploring are several pieces dedicated to another Bulgarian cello soloist, Anatoli Krustev: the FANTASY of Emil TABAKOV (presently music director of the Sofia Philharmonic), which includes humorous quotations from famous cello concertos and the SONATA of Dimiter TUPKOV (now the artistic director of the International Sofia Music Weeks Festival). Professor Krustev has also recorded the PRELUDE AND CAPRICCIO of Bulgaria's Society for Contemporary Music president Simeon PIRONKOFF on CD for the Gega label. Several encore-length selections in Bulgarian Rhythm (to use the term that Bartok coined to describe collectively Bulgaria's assymetrical folk rhythms) include the VILLAGE DANCE of Bulgaria's first internationally recognized composer, Pancho VLADIGEROV(1899-1978) (1'30'') and the DANCE OF STOYAN by the long-time president of the Union of Bulgarian Composers, Parashkev HADJIEV(1912-1992); both are recorded in the Anthology of Bulgarian Classics for Violoncello.

For information on obtaining sheet music and recordings of the compositions mentioned above, write to the Sofia String Institute, sofstring@sf.icn.bg