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Dimitar Lavchev: The gadulka is a way to express my soul

Photo: Viliana Shopova

There is so much feeling in Dimitar Lavchev’s gadulka-playing art, the noble voice of his instrument, the gadulka (or rebec) reaches out to listeners at such an emotional level, that he has come to be called Mitko Lavchev – the weeping gadulka.

Born in Harmanli in Southern Bulgaria, as a child he followed the musical talent he had inherited from his family. He acquired his gadulka-playing skills during his studies at the National School of Folk Arts in Kotel, with his tutor Mincho Nedlaykov, who proudly named him his best student. Dimitar Lavchev went on to study at the Prof. Assen Diamandiev Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv, and while he was there earned his first prize – at the young talents contest in Chirpan in 1977. Dimitar Lavchev then went on to hone his artistic skills by playing at concerts, even at weddings in partnership with clarinet-player Ivo Papazov and musicians from renowned orchestras from the Thracian folklore region of Bulgaria, with musicians from Plovdiv’s Trakia (Thrace) folk song and dance ensemble. He is the author of folklore works and arrangements, and he made his first recordings at BNR-Plovdiv. He founded and is leader of a chamber formation – Harmanliyska Troika – and plays the gadulka with the instrumental group Bulgari, with which he has been touring the world. He was also soloist of the Bulgarian National Radio’s Folk Music Orchestra for many years.

As Dimitar Lavchev recently turned 70, he has been turning back to times long gone by, starting with his teachers:

“They have done so much for me. I remember my teachers with respect – Vladimir Vladimirov, who was headmaster of the school in Kotel. Later, a school was set up in Shiroka Luka as well, talents have unfolded, but we were the pioneers. The most important role in my career was played by Mincho Nedyalkov. He gave me my technical potential, but also the tone of the instrument. His gadulka “tells stories”, and a sweeter tone I have never heard. A musician must first acquire a sense of his own soul, then of the instrument, and taken together, they “tell stories” to the world with a flair. That is how mastery is acquired.”

When Dimitar Lavchev joined the Folk Music Orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio in 1983, where he was concertmaster until his retirement, it was a dream come true for him. He has conducted the orchestra many times for studio recordings The sound-recording repertoire he has left the Bulgarian National Radio as soloist and composer is truly an accomplishment of the highest order.

“For me that was a conquest – being able to join an orchestra made up of such acclaimed musicians, who, with the help of Kosta Kolev and other prominent names, grew to become a magnificent orchestra. Now I am rather impressed by the different schools with superb students who have a great future ahead of them. I am open to all young people and I would be glad to be able to share everything I have learnt with them. My own advice to them is to open up their souls to music. To look beyond the money, to know there is nothing bigger than the feeling of “speaking” to your soul, of “painting a picture” with your music.”

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