In memoriam: Composer Toncho Rusev

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Photo: Kircho Stoichkov

We lost Toncho Rusev – one of the foremost Bulgarian pop music composers. As his family announced he died yesterday, 10 April, after a short illness.

Toncho Rusev is the author of thousands of songs, dozens of them genuine hits. For decades he was one of the most prolific, most sought after composers, whose songs were sung most frequently.

He was born on 20 April, 1932 in Bourgas on the Black Sea. His parents worked for Bulgarian railways but his home was filled with music. He himself played the trumpet since his school years. After graduating secondary school, Toncho Rusev started as a mechanic at the railway carriage factory in his home town, where he founded a 60-member workers’ brass band. But parallel with his work at the factory Toncho Rusev continued with his trumpet lessons and continued to develop his music skills. He had made up his mind to study chemistry, but musicians from Bourgas persuaded him to apply at the Music Academy and he graduated in the class of Prof. Petar Karparov. For some time afterwards he worked with symphony orchestras. What decided his musical career was his meeting with Maurice Aladjem – at the time a celebrated saxophone player, composer and music arranger who invited him in his pop music orchestra.


Toncho Rusev wrote his first songs almost in jest, with no high expectations. But even his early songs bear the hallmarks of his style – a catchy tune, an organic bond with the lyrics and the knack of rendering different emotional states in depth and with great insight. There is positively not a single Bulgarian singer of the age who did not dream of having Toncho Rusev write a song for them. He has worked together with singers of the stature of Lili Ivanova, Vasil Naydenov, Rositsa Kirilova. Songs of his have been performed by singers from other countries as well – Sofia Rotaru, Philipp Kirkorov, Dagmar Frederic, Farah Maria etc. For his work the composer has been awarded dozens of prestigious awards – his songs have received many prizes at the “Golden Orpheus” pop song festival, “Melody of the year” etc. In 2007 he was awarded the Stara Planina order for exceptional merit to the Republic of Bulgaria in the sphere of culture, and in 2017 he became the first master of the “Silver Cross of St. Nicholas” of Bourgas municipality.


English version: Milena Daynova


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