Petko Staynov

Petko Staynov was born on Dec 1, 1896 in Kazanlak. At the age of 11, he lost his eyesight after an injury and an unsuccessful medical treatment. Everything that happened after this unfortunate accident was a series of proofs about the power of a human spirit and the unbreakable determination of an artist.

Initially he studied at the Institute for the Blind in Sofia; he mastered Braille for the Blind in Bulgarian and German, which he used for his entire life. After graduation from the Institute, in 1915 he returned to his native town of Kazanlak, organized and conducted a choir, performed as a pianist ,and wrote his first works. He received his musical education at the Institute for the Blind in Sofia, followed by studies in Germany – a private music lyceum in Braunschweig and later on at Dresden Conservatory. The individuals who have greatly influenced his artistic formation are the piano professor Andrey Stoyanov (Sofia), Ernst Munch and the (music) composition under professor Alexander Wolf (both from Dresden).  In 1924 he returned to Kazanlak and organized an amateur operetta theatre. He became a member of the Society of Bulgarian Blind People (later renamed to Union of Blind People in Bulgaria), toured as a pianist all over the country, joined the Music Society in the town and formed a choir and orchestra, which played under his baton. In 1924 he returned to Kazanlak, where he created an amateur theatre, and became a member of the Society of Bulgarian Blind People (later the Union of Blind People in Bulgaria). During the period 1923-1930 he was active as a pianist in his native city and in the country and was recognized as one of the best interpreters of Beethoven in Bulgaria. He joined the Kazanlak Musical Society and organized a choir and orchestra, which he conducted. In 1927 he settled in Sofia and began working as a piano lecturer at the Institute of Blindness (until 1941). He was also chairman of the Gusla and Rodna Pesen choirs in the Bulgarian capital.

The professional path of Petko Staynov includes also the management of institutions of national significance: Director of the National Opera (1941-1944) and a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Science(since 1941). In 1948 Staynov founded the Institute of Music (Institute of Musicology) at the Bulgarian Academy of Science of which he was a director until the end of his life. Under his guidance and management more than 100 000 folk songs and 3 000 folkdances were recorded. For his artistic, scientific and administrative contributions Petko Staynov was honoured with numerous national prices and awards. The composer passed away on 25 June, 1977.

Having accepted the idea for creating a Bulgarian national musical style for his personal mission (he was also the first chairman of Contemporary Music – the first Association of Bulgarian Composers), Petko Staynov created some of the most emblematic for the Bulgarian symphonic school works, such as: the symphonic suite Thracian dances (1925 – 1926), defined by the Acad. Dobri Hristov as “the beginning of the Bulgarian national symphonic music”, the symphonic poem Thrace(1937), the two symphonies (1945 and 1949), the symphonic poem Legend (1927), the symphonic suite Fairy Tale (1930), the concert overture Balkan Symphonic Scherzo (1938), Youth Overture (1953), etc. With the choral ballads The Secret of Struma, Urvich, The Horsemen, One Hundred and Twenty Souls, and Kum German, a genre movement in Bulgarian musical culture was formed, and the dozens of a capella choral songs composed and arranged by him are among the most beloved and frequently performed Bulgarian choral works.

Since the fall of 1928 Petko Staynov’s music has been performed in concert halls around the world. Vienna, Prague, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Budapest, Zagreb, Belgrade, Ljubljana, Warsaw, Munich, Frankfurt, Lyon, Tunis, New York, Washington are among the cities where the music of the great Bulgarian composer has been receiving zealous applauds. Recordings of his music are present on a regular basis in radio broadcasts in Great Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Hungary.

The choral works of Petko Staynov are among the most outstanding examples of Bulgarian compositional creativity. They were composed over a long period of more than fifty years. His early choral works were written before his studies in Germany, and his last work in his complete oeuvre, the poem for mixed choir My Motherland, based on a text by Ivan Bonev, was composed in 1961.

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