Filip Kutev - Pearls of Bulgarian music culture

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In the history of Bulgarian music the name of Filip Kutev has been written down as a composer of splendid choral songs and arrangements of dozens of folk songs, as well as of symphony and chamber-instrumental works. However he is above all credited with creating the first Bulgarian ensemble for folk songs and dances. The ensemble has gained great popularity and international acclaim and is today named after its founder Filip Kutev. He had remarkable, in-depth knowledge of Bulgarian folklore and was a talented administrator and pedagogue. Above all, however, Kutev was a personality dedicated to the great patriotic idea to preserve and present – both nationally and internationally – the beauty of the Bulgarian music heritage.

A boy born in the town of Aitos, near the Black Sea caost Filip Kutev grew up with the folk songs of his mother, of his region and with the magnificent Thracian broad singing. Until age 17 the only instrument that he knew was the wooden whistle. It was sheer luck that in 1920 Filip was given a violin that fascinated him and motivated him for study in the capital Sofia. There he graduated the High School of Music and then the Music Academy. He had to work to make a living, played the violin with various orchestras. This was invaluable experience for Filip Kutev. He started composing and entered the grand world of music. Scherzo for Symphony Orchestra was his first major work that was premiered at the Military Club in 1928. Filip Kutev went on composing serious music.

In 1930 Filip Kutev was appointed bandmaster of 24th infantry regiment in the Black Sea city of Burgas. He remained on that position for five years and emerged – owing to his energy and enthusiasm coupled with great talent – into one of the influential intellectuals in the city. Kutev conducted amateur bands and invited famous musicians to guest-perform in Burgas. He had little time to compose music but still, his works from that time include a Bulgarian Rhapsody, choral works, vocal suites with orchestras and other works. In 1940 Kutev created one of his major works, the Symphony Poem Guerman based on an ancient Bulgarian ritual for rain. This work along with Sakar Suite, Pastoral for Flute and Chamber Orchestra and Youth Symphony were landmark works in Bulgarian serious music in the mid-20 c.
The early 1950s gave a new direction in Filip Kutev’s career. He took off the uniform of colonel and military musician to come at the helm of an extraordinary ensemble, the State Ensemble for Folk Songs and Dances. Until his death in 1982 Filip Kutev invested a lot of love, professionalism, talent and perseverance to promote the Ensemble. It gradually grew into a large choir, a band with various folk instruments and an impressive dance company. Its main creative purpose was in stylizing, harmonizing and arrangement of authentic folklore, its preservation and presentation. Following the model of the Kutev Ensemble a few very good folk ensembles such as Trakiya (Southern Bulgarian folklore), Severnyashki (Northern Bulgarian folklore), Pirin (Southwestern Bulgarian folklore) and others, emerged. For his Ensemble Kutev made hundreds of arrangements and also wrote songs on lyrics from folklore. Some of them are Todora Has Lied Down, Are you a Tulip or Hyacinth, Dimianinka etc. They are already classics and other composers have used them to create their own works.

For longer than a quarter century Filip Kutev was in the leadership of the Union of Bulgarian Composers and since 1972 till his death was elected as its chairman. He worked hard to promote the organization’s prestige, the Bulgarian music legacy and music studies. In the year of the 110th birth anniversary of Filip Kutev we should point to his great contribution into the Bulgarian culture, the example he left and the messages in his music. This truly patriotic personality was fully dedicated to music and to his nation! 

Translated by Daniela Konstantinova

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