Concert dedicated to Bulgaria’s Apostle of Freedom


This evening a solemn concert in the Bulgarian capital city will mark the 180th anniversary since the birth of Bulgarian Apostle of Freedom Vasil Levski. At the open stage in the park of the Georgi Rakovski Military Academy in Sofia guests will hear an almost unknown work – “Oratory-Requiem to Vasil Levski” for choir, three soloists, orchestra and a reader by composer Boyan Ikonomov. The text for the oratory was written by poet Dimitar Tochev. The idea for the performance belongs to academician Plamen Kartalov, head of the Sofia National Opera and Ballet.

Composer Boyan Ikonomov (1900-1973) was a graduate of the Free University in Sofia and later studied in Schola Cantorum in Paris. He studied composing, viola and organ and lived and worked there as a composer and conductor until 1937. He established a male choir of Bulgarian immigrants that performed Bulgarian music only. He conducted symphony concerts with Bulgarian works in Paris, Lyon, Lausanne, Rome, Vienna and Wroclaw. After his return to Bulgaria he was music director at Radio Sofia for ten years.

The first recording of the work was made in Levski’s hometown of Karlovo in 1973 – a month before the composer passed away. Soloists were Sabin Markov (baritone), Stefka Popangelova (soprano) and Reni Penkova (mezzo-soprano). Conductor was Vasil Stefanov. The choir part is performed by the Folk Song Ensemble of the BNR that does not exist anymore. The orchestra is the Plovdiv Philharmonic. At the end of the same year a studio recording was realized with the Symphony Orchestra of the BNR. Reader of the poetry is Vasil Stoichev.

“Pilgrims go to God’s grave and want a piece of His cross next to their icons. I have put a piece of your gallows in the flame of my heart…”

Two more works are included In the concert dedicated to the anniversary. These are “Zhertva Vechernya” by Pavel Chesnokosov and a fragment of “Improvisation” by Pancho Vladigerov. The music by the Bulgarian composer was used in a ballet performance, in which characters are Saint Sophia and her three daughters – Hope, Faith and Charity. Let us recall that Saint Sophia is the heavenly protector of the Bulgarian capital city and the day of the city is marked on September 17 – the feast day of the saint. According to Plamen Kartalov, the theme is in harmony with Levski’s birth anniversary and the capital city.

A song by composer Dimitar Penev with lyrics by Alexander Kalchev is of different style. The song is performed by actor Anton Radichev. It has collected the bitterness of human flaws and the problems that have been plaguing Bulgarian society in the past decades as lyrics come in the form of a letter to Levski.

The number of music works dedicated to Vasil Levski is small. Two of the modern works dedicated to the Apostle of Freedom are the work of Stoyan Babekov- composer and choir conductor. In the 1980s a recording of a cantata entitled “Oath to Levski” and performed by the Petko Stainov Choir was recorded for BNR’s audio fund.

“Troparion to Saint Monk Ignatius - Levski” is another work by Stoyan Babekov, recorded in 2014 by the mixed choir at BNR with conductor Rumen Raichev. The

word “saint” in the title is a decision of the author. Levski has not been canonized for saint despite a mass social campaign some years ago.

English: Alexander Markov

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