Concerto for violin and Orchestra in F Μinor

Vladigerov sketched out his First Concerto for violin and Orchestra in F Μinor, op. 11, in the summer of 1920 during a family holiday in Zurich with Leon Pasternak, the composer’s grandfather. The score was completed in just a few months (on 18 January 1921) and was presented as graduation work for the master class at the Berlin Academy of Arts. The dedication reads: “To my beloved brother”. The pair went in to perform the work together before the Board at the Higher school of Music in Berlin, where Lyuben had to restore his suspended rights of study due to the twins’ being summoned for military service in Bulgaria. By a fortunate chance, this impromptu premiere was attended by the famous German violinist Prof. Gustav Havemann. Captivated by the concerto of such a young author, he promised to perform it with the Berlin Philharmonic and this happened on 5 March 1921 at the Beethoven Hall under the baton of legendary Fritz Reiner. Here is what we read in press reviews: “Fresh breeze wafted over us at the concert on Saturday. We witnessed a new concerto for violin resound, “launched” with youthful enthusiasm by Bulgarian Pancho Vladigerov, who has other ten completed opuses. This violin concerto represents not only a mature work but also a genius outburst of highly impressionable fantasy, enchanting with its overflowing merriment.” (Berliner Zeitung, 7 March 1921). Another article appeared in the specialized music press – Dr. Heinz Pringsheim wrote in Algemeine Musikzeitung: “The first performance of the Violin Concerto by Pancho Vladigerov, the Bulgarian who had already made impression with his exquisite incidental music to Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra, aroused lively interest as a touchstone for his talent. The three-section, one-movement piece unfolds within a large orchestra, utilizing modern harmonic and instrumental techniques, with a very impressive introduction of purely string-wise themes. The orchestra proficiency, rhythmical energy, and the impetuous youthful courage lend to this music the essence of grape must, still bubbling boisterously, from which, however, some day one can obtain great wine.”

Two months later, the joyous news of the success of the young composer’s new creation was spreading in Bulgaria. The Sofia Echo newspaper published the report of Stefan Dechev from Berlin: “The concerto lasted 25 minutes. Upon its conclusion, the young author was called to the stage and wildly acclaimed by the audience, who kept calling both him and the performers for the duration of ten minutes. On behalf of the Bulgarian legation, two large wreaths were presented with a Bulgarian tricolour and inscription: “To artists Reiner and Havemann from the grateful Bulgarians” … This was a day of great significance to Bulgarian art. We are aware of only one Bulgarian – genius poet Pencho Slaveykov – who managed to make a favourable presentation of our literature in Western Europe. However, Pancho Vladigerov is the only Bulgarian, recognized abroad, who was able to play his works with the like of the Berlin Philharmonic and to receive such good reviews even from the most exacting German critics”. (quotations taken from the monograph study Pancho Vladigerov by Evgeni Pavlov Klosterman).

A truly impressive response to the work of the 22-year-old composer, which historically happens to be the first Bulgarian opus in the violin concerto genre! The following year saw the work published by the authoritative Universal Edition publishing house in Vienna. Still another remarkable success – it was with this concerto that Bulgarian musicians made their first appearance on the famous Salzburg Festival in 1925: Pancho Vladigerov as a composer and Lyuben Vladigerov as a soloist of the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra conducted by Bernhard Paumgartner. More performances of the brilliant Opus 11 were to follow in Vienna (1926), and Chicago (1927). It was with the Vladigerov Concerto that Sasha Popov appeared on his concert tour in Germany. He performed as soloist of the Dresden Philharmonic under the direction of Eduard Mörike and the Darmstadt Philharmonic under the direction of Karl Böhm.

For the author, this was his third work written for the violin after the Sonata (1914) and the two improvisations A Poem and In the Folk Vein. Also, his experience with writing for an orchestra was small and limited to such works as the First Piano Concerto (1918) and A Legend (1919). But how impressive his knowledge of both the violin and the orchestra! Helpful to him was the valuable advice of his brother, their mutual music making, as well as the extensive study of music by great composers. Vladigerov’s opulent invention utilized the expressive devices and the abilities of the solo instrument in a masterful balance with an active and multi-coloured orchestra. The form flows “in one breath” – the three sections of the concerto are performed without interruption, connected with orchestral interludes.

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