Konstantin Kostov about his teachers, music and his latest project with Bulgarian musicians

Photo: courtesy of Konstantin Kostov

Konstantin Kostov is a concertizing jazz pianist and professor at Hochschule fur Musik und Theater in Munich, Germany. He has given concerts in many cities in Germany and Japan, as well as in Russia, Italy and Bulgaria. He speaks German, English, Polish, Russian, Serbian, a little bit of Japanese and one more language that we will mention below.

At the end of April Konstantin joined the concert project Jazz Migrations presenting Bulgarian pianists who live abroad. In the recent years he has been working in Poland and has teamed up with a few Polish jazz musicians. With two of them Konstantin was on stage during the Jazz Forum Festival in the southern Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora a few days ago. There he partnered with Agnieszka Hekiert and Cezary Konrad (percussions) and with Radoslav Slavchev (bass). He tells us he that he prefers modern jazz, crossover jazz, folk jazz, the uneven beats and eastern melodies.

Konstantin Kostov was born in Vratsa, Northwestern Bulgaria, to a family that gave him their very best for a good start in life. As a young man his father was trained in trumpet at the Music Academy in Sofia but later graduated law. Konstantin Kostov received piano training in his home town where he was taught by Petar Karagenov, and later continued his education in the northern Bulgarian city of Pleven.

There were specialists who were touring the music training centers in Bulgaria, held auditions and selected the children they would work with,” he says. “In charge of Vratsa was Eleonora Karamisheva, a long-standing piano teacher at the Pleven Music School. She started giving me lessons and I later went to that school and to her class. But even before going to Pleven, I discovered jazz. In the aftermath of the democratic changes in Bulgaria in 1989, Milcho Leviev was back from the United States and gave a series of concerts. One of them was in Vratsa. He performed Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin with the Vratsa Philharmonic. The tickets were sold out but my piano teacher gave his own ticket to me – a great gesture I will always remember. For the first time I listened to a pianist playing jazz live and I fell in love with this music. Later on, at the Academy in Sofia, I was trained in the class of Professor Julia Tsenova – a very artistic person, an interesting composer – and someone with whom I had very good communication. Then I went to Munich and my dream was to study with Leonid Chizhik– a great name in jazz piano. It was hard to get selected for his class and I was very happy that he admitted me. I have a special relationship with him, he is like my father. To this very day we see each other, talk and play.”

After he graduated the Academy in Munich, Konstantin Kostov applied for a faculty job and today leads a class in piano. “I also lead combo, trio and various groups but the focus is modern jazz and uneven beats,” says he. He has a soft spot for Bulgarian classic composers and his compositions are often based on themes borrowed from their works.

To me jazz is the most freedom-loving art – any kind of music can be made into good jazz. One of my works is based on a Pancho Vladigerov’s piece and another one on Dilmano Dilbero Variations by his son, Alexander Vladigerov. In 2010, with the trio that I led then, we joined a very famous competition – Terem Crossover Competition in St. Petersburg, along with 86 groups from across the world. We won the second place plus a special audience prize with Dilmano Dilbero.”

One of Konstantin Kostov’s projects is entitled Consolation. It features nine pieces dedicated to his two children who live thousands of kilometers away from their dad.

They are half-Japanese and half-Roma, because I am Roma. They are not aware of this, because they have lived away from me since early age. So, I decided to tell them about it with a special piece I wrote – Shukar. In my mother tongue it means ‘good’, ‘nice’.”

Konstantin Kostov is convinced that the style of playing music is telltale about a man, his ways with people, his philosophy and aesthetic views. For the project Jazz Migrations in April he chose to play with Hristo Yotsov (drums) and Dimitar Karamfilov (double bass). “To me Hirsto is an incredible musician – apart from an accomplished instrumentalist he is also a very good composer. I think he is the finest drummer in Bulgaria. With him and with Dimitar we had really good communication and I am sure that we are going to play together again.”

English Daniela Konstantinova

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