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Bulgaria’s Vladimir Tilev is once again among the best luthiers in the ‎world ‎

The violin awarded in the USA has already been presented to prominent ‎Bulgarian violinist ‎Mincho Minchev

Photo: vladotilev.com

Every two years, the largest forum and competition in the world of luthiering, ‎organized by the Violin ‎Society of America, takes place in the USA. There are ‎five sections in the competition - violin and viola, ‎cello, double bass and ‎quartet, and the two categories are craftsmanship and sound. Each biennial ‎‎takes place in a different city between the West and East coasts. At the last 48th ‎Annual Convention and 24th International Competition in the city of ‎Anaheim, ‎Southern California (November 13-18, 2022), after a 4-year break due to the ‎pandemic and ‎with a record number of participants, the Bulgarian luthier ‎Vladimir Tilev won two awards - a silver ‎medal in "viola" section and a ‎third place (a certificate) in the "violin" section. Both are in the "sound" ‎‎category, which is the real craftsmanship in the creation of the instrument. ‎

‎"Actually, the biggest prize, even though it is third, is for the violins, because ‎‎194 instruments ‎competed there, while the violas were "only" 65," Tilev ‎himself admitted in the BNR studio. ‎

Stringed instruments have a soul, many people believe, and if you manage to ‎tame it, you become a true ‎musical virtuoso. It was the desire to touch the soul ‎of stringed instruments that was Vlado Tilev's ‎childhood dream. As the son of ‎the famous Bulgarian violinist Georgi Tilev, he was nurtured with ‎classical ‎music from an early age, which determined his path - first as a professional ‎musician, and then ‎as a luthier. Even as a cello student at the Music School in ‎Sofia, he was passionate about fixing the ‎‎"little problems" of his own cello ‎himself. After that, he began to spend more and more time in the ‎atelier of a ‎well-known master luthier at that time - Bogomil Terziev, a neighbour of his ‎family, and it was as if everything seemed to be predetermined. "Random ‎meetings often define people's lives," says ‎Vladimir Tilev.‎

‎"Every person has an attraction to one subject or another,  has some dreams ‎during childhood. And I ‎think from that early age I was sure that I was going ‎to do this thing - although more as a hobby in ‎addition to my profession as a ‎musician. Later, however, I completely replaced performance art with ‎the ‎luthier’s craft.”‎

A good master must be a musician with skillful hands is the philosophy of the ‎Bulgarian violin maker. And so while ‎studying cello at the Folkwang ‎University of the Arts (Die Folkwang ‎Universität der Künste) in the German ‎city of Essen, he did not stop visiting the studios of local luthiers and thus ‎learned the craft ‎from the source. To this day, he says that restoration is the ‎most enjoyable activity for him rather than ‎creating an entirely new instrument. ‎

Gradually, luthiery grew from a hobby to become Tilev’s main profession. ‎He created his own studio and ‎found his two assistants, with whom they ‎mainly made bows for many years, and in the last ten years, ‎entire boutique ‎instruments. ‎

Today he is one of the best in his profession at the world level and in an ‎interview for Radio Bulgaria ‎from 2017 he admits that he has unraveled some ‎of the secrets of the unsurpassed instruments of the ‎famous families of the 17th ‎and 18th century - the Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri. But for the true magic of ‎music ‎and the "soul" to come alive, there must be a symbiosis between the qualities ‎of the instrument ‎and the musician.‎
‎"It is extremely important if the performer has a good sound production ‎technique, if he or she allows the instrument to ‎develop, to vibrate correctly ‎and, from there, the sound improves more and more."‎
Vlado Tilev's two instruments with prizes from the Convention of the ‎Violin ‎Society of America are now in ‎masterful hands. He gave the viola ‎with a silver medal to Joanna Kamenarska, the concertmaster ‎of the ‎Hamburg Philharmonic, and the violin was a gift to prominent Bulgarian ‎violinist Mincho Minchev, a professor at the Folkwang University of the Arts - ‎‎"as an expression of my respect for him and his contribution to ‎Bulgarian ‎culture. This will be his personal instrument, because he plays a state-owned ‎Stradivarius," Vladimir ‎Tilev tells BNR, adding that Minchev's son, Nikolay, ‎also plays a violin made by him.‎

Among other owners of the stringed pieces of art created by Tilev are prominent Bulgarian ‎musicians Vesko Eschkenazy, concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, Dimitar Ivanov - ‎concertmaster of the Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra (Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester), and Svetosar Anatchkov, first concertmaster of the Gärtnerplatztheater in Munich. And also Daniel Bell, the concertmaster of the Essener Philharmoniker, and Kai Gleusteen ‎‎(Orchestra Liceu, Barcelona).‎

In 2016, the Bulgarian master luthier founded the Vlado Tilev foundation which aims to inspire ‎and motivate talented children. Every year a competition is held in which the best performing ‎young musician is awarded a brand new instrument in Tilev's studio.‎

Photos: vladotilev.com, private archive, BGNES

English version Rositsa Petkova

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