PIPKOV: Bulgarian Suite for Piano, Op. 2. HADJIEV: Melodic Etudes. VLADIGEROV: Bulgarian Songs and Dances, Op. 25. Victoria Terekiev, piano. Gega New GR 31. TT: 48.14
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The album's title, Wind from the East, momentarily misled me: I was expecting music from rather further east, perhaps on the order of the Yellow River Concerto (which, by the way, I still like). But the Cyrillic title next to the English one indicates otherwise, as does the soloist's Slavic name: the booklet tells us that "Victoria Terekiev is a pianist born in Milan of [a] Bulgarian father and [an] Italian-Bulgarian mother." The program comprises cycles of piano pieces by Bulgarian composers of the mid-twentieth-century, all of whom draw freely on their national folk-song and -dance traditions. All the music here is accessible, deploying a modicum of dissonance within plainly tonal frameworks.
Lyubomir Pipkov (1904-1974) was a student of Paul Dukas. The six movements of his early Bulgarian Suite are explicitly grounded in folklore. In the spare, questing opening Lento, passages of open fifths and major seconds alternate with dark, brooding Romantic moments; the spareness continues in the dancing Moderato, which introduces the first actual tune. The Allegro ritmico fleshes out dactylic rhythms with full yet light chords; the Andante à la marcia funebre juxtaposes imposing low octaves with questioning treble responses. Clear, fluid sonorities dominate the following Andante. The closing Allegro molto's folkish theme fills out on its repetitions; a passage of repeated notes punctuated by chordal accents unexpectedly suggests the flamenco guitar!
The Melodic Etudes of Parashkev Hadjiev (1912-1992) are a set of nineteen brief pieces: the longest runs 1.17 in this rendition, and several run for less than thirty seconds. They were intended for piano students, not only to develop their technique, but to "get [them] familiar with the modes and meter specifics of Bulgarian traditional music." There's a nice sense of contrast between pieces and over the cycle as a whole, although I don't hear each one as addressing some specific pianistic problem, as I expect a real étude to do.
The Bulgarian Songs and Dances of Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978) offer the most substance here. The odd-numbered movements are based on song forms, the even-numbered ones on dances; the pieces are, however, inconsistent in quality. Best are the second movement, which maintains a headlong impulse through its irregular scansions, and the Chopinesque, quasi-improvisatory melodies of the first and fourth movements. Unfortunately, that latter movement starts to feel aimless, with too many cadences. The final Gospodko horo begins with a passage of fully weighted yet melodic chords, picking up speed as it proceeds; but, based as it is on repetitions of one basic tune, it's ultimately more striking as a display of virtuosity than for any particularly musical interest.
Fortunately, Terekiev has the requisite virtuosity, and it's in this cycle that she's most impressive: her rubato has a fetching spontaneity and a Lisztian flair, with lapidary execution of the quick runs. In the Pipkov, Terekiev draws a nice, ringing sound from the fuller sections of the Allegro ritmico—at lower volume levels, her melodic projection can be reticent—and the repeated notes of the closing movement pose no audible problems for her. Her sprightly, dexterous readings of Hadjiev's Etudes offer shapely rhythmic projection, and she projects the irregular meters with assurance. If she hammers out the ominous bass octaves of Etude 14 in an unvaried way, her soft repetitions in Etude 13 are exquisitely balanced, and Etude 15 is gentle and fluid.
The sound is fine; the English translations of the program notes are bumpy but comprehensible.
Stephen Francis Vasta is a New York-based conductor, coach, and journalist.