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In our day words like “unique” are frequently used without much thought of their true meaning. But these words, along with all of their synonyms are applicable to Eolina quartet because it is truly an exceptional phenomenon in Bulgarian music. Flute, harp, viola and harpsichord (or piano) – all of them instruments that are very different. Having once started to play together, the bizarre combination of sounds fell into place in perfect harmony, taking listeners back to times gone by.
The Eolina quartet was named after the ancient Greek god of the winds – Aeolus – and the music it makes is gentle, but impetuous, delicate but emotional. The quartet was set up in 1969, when harp-player Vessela Zheleva was specializing abroad. There she got to know many works of chamber music. Gradually, together with a good friend and colleague, they came up with the idea of creating an unconventional ensemble.
“I was very much into chamber music. To this day flute player Prof. Lydia Oshavkova is a good friend of mine and a partner" Vessela Zheleva explains. "As it happened we had to find her a replacement because she won a contest for flute player for the Sofia Philharmonic with flying colours. But through the years, Lydia has remained a true friend to the quartet. Our interest in ancient music is the reason why we invited Stefan Trayanov who plays the harpsichord, the organ and the piano. He possessed a profound knowledge of the music from the age of Johann Sebastian Bach and even earlier. So that provided the key to the creation of Eolina. We started the long trek in search of authors whose works had never before been performed in Bulgaria; some critics say this is what the quartet is all about. In their manuscripts the old masters give no indication which part should be played by which instrument and that gave us a free hand. However artistic expectations meant including other styles in our repertoire as well. The singularity of the ensemble instruments aroused the interest of composers in Bulgaria and abroad who started composing works expressly for Eolina.”
Vladislav Andonov has been playing the viola in Eolina for more than thirty years. “When I was a student I was really keen on joining this ensemble,” he says. A little later he became a member of Eolina as he had to replace Emil Lavrenov on an important concert tour. Here is Vladislav Andonov about his first steps and impressions of his work with the ensemble:
“Stefan Trayanov rearranged many of the baroque pieces for Eolina. When I joined the ensemble already had a substantial repertoire of Bulgarian works,” he says and adds: “That was the time when Eolina was beginning to carve a name for itself as a formation playing ancient as well as modern music.”
The Eolina quartet will mark its 45th anniversary with an anthology – a double album. It will feature Nikolay Koev, flute and Bogdan Stanev, piano but also former members of the quartet. Five records with some of the ensemble’s best recordings will be transferred to a contemporary carrier. The harp – the emblematic instrument of impressionism – makes the style all the more suited to the ensemble.
The Eolina quartet has made a name for itself on a world scale. Everywhere they may go across Europe audiences appreciate their music. Vessela Zheleva remembers:
“Remote destinations are really our thing – we have been to so many places; it was only recently that we realized we had not performed in countries that are Bulgaria’s neighbours. So, a few years ago we visited Romania, then Turkey. The warm reception we got from the audience in Macedonia this season was really overwhelming. There was a wonderful music-performer-audience symbiosis.”
Vessela Zheleva and Vladislav Andonov are optimistic about the future of the formation: “We can only hope Eolina will have at least one more heir. We shall leave our successors a repertoire of more than 300 works.”
The audio file features the following works:
-Epilogue for flute, viola, harp and harpsichord by Dimitar Tapkoff;
-Rondo from Suite No. 1 by Jean-Philippe Rameau;
-Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy;
-Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolay Rimski-Kortsakoff.