Symphony No.1

The Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 33 was written in 1938-39. It was a time when only a few Bulgarian composers created works in this genre: Nikola Atanasov (the author of the First Bulgarian symphony – 1912 and the Second – 1922), Dimitar Nenov (Symphony No. 1 – 1922, Symphony No. 3 – 1923) and Boyan Ikonomov (1937). Vladigerov was already an internationally renowned composer of symphonic music, and the opening of the new Bulgaria Concert Hall with organ in 1937 prompted him to include his First Symphony and organ (ad libitum – at will and opportunity) in the large orchestra. The completion of the work brought no joy to the composer.

Sasha Popov, conductor of the Royal Military Symphony Orchestra, rejected it because it could not be performed in the planned season. It was only abroad, however, that it gained recognition. Vladigerov offered the score to the conductor Mihajlo Vukdragovich, who gave the first performance of the First Symphony in Yugoslavia – on April 12th,  1940 with the Belgrade Philharmonic. The Sofia daily Dnevnik reported: A great production by Pancho Vladigerov, rejected in Bulgaria, was a brilliant success in Belgrade. The work of our eminent composer was broadcast on Radio Belgrade and Radio Sofia.  The next performance (on  June 25th ) was in Bucharest, conducted by the composer himself and the Bucharest Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Bulgarian premiere took place five years later – on June 7th,  1945 at the National Theatre in an original concert conducted by Vladigerov with the State Symphony Orchestra of the Radio Directorate.     Maestro Vladigerov dedicated the First Symphony to his friend, the Austrian composer and critic Dr Josef Marx. A lush orchestral texture with prominent instrumental solo voices, polyphonic harmonic language and vivid thematic development make up the large traditional four-movement form. The first and last movements begin with imposing introductions followed by dramatic developments. The themes in the Sonata Allegro of Part I are composed of two original contrasting themes in the folk spirit, and in the remaining movements he uses motifs from folk models with inexhaustible imagination and inventiveness. It’s not important which theme you take, what’s important is what you do with it, how you develop it, how you build the whole work dramaturgically, says Vladigerov.

He builds the Adagio masterfully with the richly ornamented folk song “Razbolyala se hubava Yanka” (Pretty Yanka Got Sick). The scherzo is dominated by characteristically Bulgarian irregular rhythms – the first and third movements are in 7/8 with the song “Kogato Byah Moma pri Mayka” (When I was a Maid at Mother’s), and the middle movement is based on the popular “Trugnala Rumyana” in 5/8. The main theme of the finale is the choral song “Ovchar po Bryag Hodi” (Shepherd Walking by the Shore), transformed into a march-like melody; the second theme is a folk tune in unequal 9/8. Vladigerov frames the cycle – the main theme of the first movement sounds like a summing epilogue in the symphony’s final coda.


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