Thracian bands dedicate concert to Petko Radev, a legend in folk music and in the art of the clarinet

Photo: library

As a token of gratitude to the man, teacher and musician Petko Radev who died a few months ago his friends and colleagues jointly with the Municipality of Chirpan organize a concert on 13 April. The event is on the occasion of his 85th birth anniversary. The bands Kanarite, Slavyani and Konush will take part in the concert.

Only few musicians boast equally great accomplishments in both classical music and music based on folklore. The career of world-acclaimed clarinetist Petko Radev is a rare example of this combination. During his lifetime he worked to promote the prestige of folk musicians. He advised them how to manage their repertoire, encouraged them to respect the purity of Thracian folklore and to stick to the sound of clarinetists from the past. For many years he was a special guest at all folklore events and festivals in Thrace (Trakiya).

He was born in the village of Svoboda, Chirpan region, and inherited the musicality genes from his father. As a child he learned to play his dad’s clarinet. Young Petko was fascinated by wedding music when he first listened to the Parvomay band and its clarinetist Stoycho Kuzmov. His decision to choose the clarinet took him to the High School of Music in Sofia, and he later continued his studies at the National Academy of Music “Pancho Vladigerov” in the class of prof. Sava Dimitrov. As a student (1957) Petko Radev won the First Prize at the International music competition for wind instruments in Geneva. He worked as first clarinetist in leading symphony orchestras – the Symphony Orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio, the Sofia Philharmonic and others. In the course of eleven years he was soloist in the orchestra of Teatro alla Scala in Milan under the baton of great conductors – Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti and Leonard Bernstein. However, he always gave time to his beloved Thracian music. Petko Radev founded a band for which he arranged and recorded his folklore-based instrumental music and songs for celebrated folk singers like Penka Pavlova, Gruycho Dochev and others. He spent a lot of time teaching as clarinet professor in the Sofia and Plovdiv music academies.

Commemorating the great clarinetist, academician Petko Radev, here is one of his disciples, Nikola Iliev leader of the Konush band:

My entire creative life is associated with Petko Radev. I was a pupil in Sadovo when I started playing the clarinet. I heard some of his recordings on the radio and was so impressed that I wanted to imitate him. Apart from a brilliant technique he also produced a wonderful sound playing the instrument. He heard about me and came to the technical school in Sadovo. I played the clarinet for him and this was the beginning of our friendship. He told me that I had to study music and develop my skills. His advice was that I should not limit myself to folklore-based music. I enrolled in the High School of Music in Plovdiv and then in the National Academy of Music in Sofia under his leadership. I am very happy with everything that I learned there. Petko Radev was my teacher not only in music but in life as well. He used to say that there should be an ongoing friendly competition and fellow-feeling; that one should opt for lifelong learning expending one’s scope in music. In fact he gave me an instrument as a present.

I cannot find the right words to describe this wonderful man. I am very sorry he is no longer with us. Both my sons graduated the Academy in Sofia in his class and went for post-graduate studies to Juilliard School, New York. Regarding my compositions he advised me to arrange the motifs in a way that would make the work melodious and pleasant to the ear of listeners; to avoid blabbering. Instead of five pieces, compose one, he would say, but good enough to remain in history. Everything should be worthy and meaningful. A musician should not get detached from the style of his or her native region and his or her music should be an expression of his or her soul. This was precious advice from my teacher and friend Petko Radev.”

English Daniela Konstantinova

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