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Between classical music and jazz: A vivid and unorthodox blend

The Pleven Philharmonic celebrates its 70th anniversary with three premieres of works by Hristo Yotsov

| updated on 2/20/23 1:38 PM
Photo: courtesy of the organisers

In 2023 the Pleven Philharmonic is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a series of concerts, the first of which, conducted by Borislav Yotsov, setting the stage for a superb string of festive events. The programme is an event in itself, as it features three interesting and somewhat unorthodox works by Hristo Yotsov, a prominent jazz musician with a solid classical education, a professor at the Pancho Vladigerov National Academy of Music, a musician with a prodigious reputation among fellow musicians.  

“The premiere of this “grand adventure” we undertook with the director of the Pleven Philharmonic Lubomir Dyakovski was on 17 February,” Prof. Yotsov says. “We presented, for the first time, my works Concerto for Trumpet, Trombone and Orchestra, with soloists Mihail Yossifov and Velislav Stoyanovand Pictures of Two Worlds – concerto for marimba and orchestra, written for Vassilena Serafimova, an incredible musician who is pursuing a successful career in Europe and the world.”

“I wrote the concerto for trumpet and trombone 2-3 years ago for Mihail Yossifov (trumpet) and Velislav Stopyanov (trombone),” Prof. Yotsov says. “The idea was to place these musicians of enormous talent, experience and instrumental potential in jazz in a different environment, the environment of symphony music with a tinge of jazz. A forgotten tradition in classical music is reinstated in this work – that of improvisation, parallel with the written lyrics. They are masters of their trade, and I think they implant jazz improvisation into the classical texture organically. Vassilena is a musician with an incredible flair on stage, she is magnetic in the way she extracts the timbre from the instrument marimba. It is highly unusual for an orchestra to hand the entire musical programme over to one composer. That is what makes me so happy and grateful. I am looking forward to the concert on 21 February at Bulgaria Hall - the sanctum sanctoruma of classical music in Sofia,” Hristo Yotsov says.

For Vassilena Serafimova being part of these concerts is especially thrilling, and a chance to tear herself away from Paris, where she has been living and working these past few years, and to travel to Pleven where she can perform with, as she herself puts it, the orchestra she grew up with.

“It all began when I met Prof. Hristo Yotsov during the celebrations of the birth anniversary of Prof. Dobri Paliev, the man who fathered the percussion school in Bulgaria an outstanding celebration, full of love,” the young percussionist remembers. “I was premiering the Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra by Roumen Boyadjieff Jr. and Hristo Yotsov performed his Concerto for Drums and Orchestra. It was then that he said he wanted to write a concert for the two of us to perform. In a delicate and intriguing way the work combines classical with improvisational music. There are “open elements” in which we improvise together, inspiring one another on the spur of the moment.

It is intrinsically classical, with the influence of Bulgarian folklore, of Balkan music. The music of both concerts is colourful, vivid, and never repeats itself. I am sure audiences in Sofia are going to enjoy them, and together with us, will enjoy the music by Hristo Yotsov on Tuesday, 21st February, when we shall mark the 70th anniversary of the Pleven Philharmonic. I grew up with this orchestra, and it will give me immense pleasure to see how they have advanced music-wise,” says in conclusion Vassilena Serafimova.  

Photos courtesy of the organisers

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