Classical and Romantical, op. 24

The great Bulgarian composer  Pancho Vladigerov (1899 – 1978) created his piano cycle Classical and Romantical op. 24 in Berlin in 1931.  In this major cultural and musical European centre he completed his music education at the Staatliche Akademische Hochschule für Musik (in the classes of  Heinrich Bart – piano and Paul Juon – composition) and the Academy of Arts with  Leonid Kreutzer  – piano, Friedrich Gernsheim and Georg Schumann – composition). As a student, he was twice awarded the prestigious Mendelssohn Prize of the University of Berlin in 1918 for the First Piano Concerto op. 6, and in 1920 for Three Impressions for Orchestra in Op. 9. It was in Berlin that he also composed his Piano Trio Op. 4, the vocal cycle Six Lyrical Songs on texts by Bulgarian poetess Dora Gabe, the Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra – all of them first specimens of the genres in Bulgarian music – as well as his most emblematic work – the Bulgarian Rhapsody Vardar, Two Bulgarian Paraphrases for violin and piano, Bulgarian Suite, Seven Bulgarian Symphonic Dances and others.

Over the course of 12 years (1920 – 32), at the invitation of illustrious stage director Max Reinhard, Vladigerov worked as composer and pianist, musical director and conductor at Deutsches Theater in Berlin. He was also involved in the preparation of incidental music for productions in other theaters where the renowned director was the main shareholder and manager (Grosse Schauspielhaus, Kammerspiele and Komödie in Berlin, and Theater in der Josefstadt in Vienna). Reinhard also engaged his twin brother Luben as a violinist in the orchestra. At their first encounter – it may sound as an anecdote but it is true – the great man of theatre jokingly said: “If you were actors, I could make a wonderful Comedy of Errors with your participation.” Shakespeare is present in their common theatrical projects, but with three other comedies: Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night.  As well as celebrity playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw (Caesar and Cleopatra), August Strindberg (A Dream Play), Klabund (The Chalk Circle), Franz Werfel (Juarez and Maximilian).

In this prolific cultural milieu, where, alongside Reinhardt’s experimental synthetic theatre, avant-garde ideas from all arts blended together, intensive musical life was in full swing, and the young composer was in communion with vibrant personalities from the intellectual elite – Richard Strauss, Stefan Zweig, Thomas Mann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, etc. The works he composed – for outside recipients as well as for the theatre – were highly valued, they were correspondent to their musical contemporaneity. Vladigerov formed his unique style and aesthetics to manifest in an original way the path of the “national” in the context of the “European”.

Much of his theatrical music for Max Reinhard’s productions was later ‘remade’ into other works – for instance, the Scandinavian suite A Dream Play, Divertisment, pieces for violin and piano op. 20, Five Songs for High Voice and Chamber Orchestra op. 19. In his cycle Classical and Romantical Vladiguerov also incorporated theatrical episodes. Originally, the piano cycle consisted of three plays in the neoclassical style – old-time dances from the Baroque suite (Rigaudon, Sarabande, Minuet) and three pieces in a romantic style (Northern Song, A Page In the Album and Small March). Rigaudon is a piece derived from the music to Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare, Sarabande and Minuet – from Pantomime (a commission from Reinhardt to Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Vladigerov for a production in the United States, which was left unfinished due to the tragic death of the playwright), Northern Song and Little March – from the play Yussik by Osip Dymov (1929). A Page From the Album is the only piece that Vladigerov composed in its own merit based on a sketch of his own song on text by Heine.

On January 15, 1933, his Shumen admirers organized the first presentation of the piano cycle in Bulgaria in the performance of the author. The same year, the cycle was published by the Universal Edition in Vienna. Later in 1940, having returned to Bulgaria, the composer made a transcription of the work for a chamber orchestra and added another classical piece, Courante, as No.4 in the cycle. It is derived from the music to the play The Fan by Carlo Goldoni, staged at the National Theater in Sofia in 1935.

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