Bulgaria’s music families: The Stoyanovs

One of the renowned and influential music families in Bulgaria are the Stoyanovs from the Northeastern town of Shumen. The first professional musician in the family was Anastas Stoyanov who was born in 1854 and was educated in the prestigious Robert College in Istanbul. His uncle on the mother’s side was the leading playwright Dobry Voynikov. He supported Anastas both morally and financially and he soon emerged as a key figure in Bulgaria’s post-Liberation music life. He worked and lived in his native Shumen and was active as teacher, musician, composer and public figure. He released songbooks with urban folk songs and school songs, and composed small piano pieces – the first-ever created in Bulgaria. Anastas Stoyanov was a pioneer in collecting and harmonizing folk songs, predominantly in uneven beats, and he drew attention on their potential and role for professional art. This would later emerge in the works of his famous sons, Andrey and Vesselin.

Andrey Stoyanov was the founder of the Bulgarian piano school. He was in fact the first pianist in the early 20 c. known both at home and abroad.
Anastas Stoyanov’s firstborn son was born in Shumen. He was trained to play the piano by his father and later graduated the Robert College in Istanbul. Already there he made obvious his intellect and talent. In 1910 he was awarded a state scholarship and enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Music in Vienna where in the course of four years he mastered the piano. He later specialized in the Berlin Music Academy. Andrey Stoyanov has been recognized as the first outstanding Bulgarian interpreter of works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Debussy. In 1914 he launched a career that combined work as pianist and pedagogue. In 1922 he joined the Music Academy in Sofia as professor in piano. In this capacity he trained a few internationally acclaimed Bulgarian pianists including Prof. Panka Pelishek, Prof. Dimitar Nenov, Prof. Tamara Yankova, Yuri Bukov and others. In the course of four decades Andrey Stoyanov was the leader and main theoretician of the Bulgarian piano school. He wrote a few monographs, more than 300 articles and reviews on the music life in this country. In the meantime he composed piano and chamber music that stood out for its refined lyricism. Andrey Stoyanov also embedded in a subtle way a few folklore intonations in otherwise academically structured works.

Vesselin Stoyanov, Andrey Stoyanov’s younger brother, was born in 1902.
He graduated the Music Academy in Sofia where he was trained by his brother. From 1926 to 1930 he studied at the Academy for Music and Drama in Vienna. There, apart from piano, he was also trained in composition by Franz Schmidt and Joseph Marx, famous Viennese composers of that time. In the 1930s he concertized, gave piano lessons and conducted operettas. At that time he wrote his first operas: the comic one, Women’s Kingdom and the music drama Salammbô, as well as chamber music and operettas.


In 1941 Vesselin Stoyanov wrote his celebrated symphony suite Bai Ganyo and after that his marvelous Concerto for Piano and Orchestra which has been performed with great success in Bulgaria but also in Germany, Romania, Hungary and the Soviet Union. After WW 2 Vesselin Stoyanov became professor and later rector of the Music Academy in Sofia. For a short while he worked as Director of the Sofia Opera House. He wrote another comic opera, Hitar Petar, the ballet Pope Joan, concertos for piano, cello and violin, cantatas, choir works and others. All these works displayed an original talent rich with the skill for melodious invention. Vesselin Stoyanov is a great master of psychological characteristics and of orchestration. His works have not lost their appeal today, and full of vivacity and passion are often performed and staged.

Translated by Daniela Konstantinova


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