One hundred and twenty years years ago, on 13 March 1899, in a Zurich clinic, Switzerland, Pancho Vladigerov was born. The happy parents Haralan and Eliza Vladigerov were visited with a double joy – 18 hours before Panko-Danilo (such were his baptismal names), on 12 March, his twin brother Lyuben-Raphael was born. Both of them were endowed with musical talents: Lyuben would become a violinist and Pancho – a pianist and composer, a high-ranking figure, cited by history as a classic of Bulgarian music. Initially, he studied piano with Henrich Wisner and composition with Dobri Hristov at the Private School of Music in Sofia. Between 1912 and 1915, he studied at the State Higher School of Music in Berlin in the classes of Heinrich Bart – piano and Paul Juon – composition. In 1922, Vladigerov graduated with distinction from the Berlin Academy of Arts where he majored in piano under Leonid Kreutzer and composition under Friedrich Gernsheim and Georg Schumann. Even as a student, he was awarded twice the Mendelssohn Prize (1918 and 1920). At the invitation of theatre director Max Reinhard, Vladigerov worked as a pianist and composer at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin (1920-32). In 1932, he returned to Bulgaria and for four decades served as professor of piano, chamber music and composition at the National Academy of Music in Sofia, which is nowadays named after him. Winner of many international and Bulgarian awards, including the prestigious Herder Award (1968). After the great artist are named a Sofia boulevard and a street in Shumen, in his honour grateful Bulgarians named Vladigerov Passage in the Biscoe Islands in Antarctica. The family home in Shumen where he grew up and his house in Sofia have been converted into museums, and the International Pancho Vladigerov Competition in Shumen has been established since 1986.
Pancho Vladigerov’s famous Vardar Rhapsody is a national musical emblem, while the significance of his oeuvre, rich and unique, from the early years of his Berlin education to the later opuses is commensurable with great European music – a fact which was noted by his first mentor in the “craft”, Dobri Hristov following the successes of his early works. Numerous recordings have captured his artistry as remarkable piano virtuoso and conductor. The great musician was the Teacher of an entire generation of Bulgarian composers – Lazar Nikolov, Konstantin Iliev, Alexander Raychev, Vassil Kazandzhiev, Ivan Spassov, Pencho Stoyanov, Krassimir Kyurkchiysky, Milcho Leviev, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Julia Tsenova, etc. The Master’s numerous opuses reveal his versatile talent: he created concertos for piano and for violin, two symphonies, the opera Tsar Kaloyan and the ballet A Legend of the Lake, works for piano and various chamber ensembles, pieces and suites for orchestra, theatre music, solo songs.