Grotesque Symphony Suite Bai Ganyu

After his opera Women’s Kingdom (1935), Vesselin Stoyanov turned once again to the comic genre but in an even more challenging way – creating in 1941 his most famous work the Grotesque Symphony Suite Bay Ganiо based on the immortal literary work of Aleko Konstantinov, whose satirical feature stories about Bay Ganio were published in April 1894 in the Misul (‘Thought’) magazine. Through this collective image, the eminent writer satirized the mentality and values of Bulgarian middle class–parvenu. In Europe, with his low culture, arrogant self–presumption and mean slyness, Bay Ganio is a manifestly comic character, whereas in his own land and society, the awareness that his joining the political circles might be a vehicle of his enrichment, combined with his unscrupulousness, turns him into public nuisance. Whether Bay Ganio is a national or social type, a Balkan or a global character are all debatable questions.  His inconceivable character has been re–created in various works of art, but in music his only “portrait” was painted by Vesselin Stoyanov.

The story–line in the first three movements of the suite follows the narrative of the first chapter in Aleko’s book.  The composer’s work opens with Bay Ganio on Travel (where we see him intent on seeing and conquering “the Eve–raw–pah”). It is here that the thematic motifs and techniques depicting the character are stated: deliberate clumsiness and gross motoric rhythm, caricature effects with jazz elements in the harmony. The same motifs undergo deformation and are reintroduced in the work’s cyclical structure.  The second movement Bay Ganio in Vienna, is built on two imagery fields: the musical opposition of the “regionality” (the uncouth ruchenitsa of the protagonist) and the “European” (the exquisite Waltz of the charming Viennese woman, whom he met and begins to woo in a loutish way). The pictorial elements, conveyed by the orchestration, saturate the jolly amusements of the unceremonious oil merchant in the third movement – Bay Ganio in the Bathroom. And the pastoral fourth movement (In the Country) is a kind of idyllic apotheosis of the Bulgarian, the valued, which combined with the purifying power of humour, acts as a cure for personal and public infirmities. The Grotesque Suite had its premiere in January 1942 with the Sofia Philharmonic under the direction of Lyubomir Romansky. That same year, Vesselin Stoyanov’s piece was awarded the prize of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

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