Bulgarian Virtuosity

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We brought together traditional Bulgarian music and gave the US Premiere of works by Pancho Vladiguerov in a concert at Roulette Intermedium

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In 2019, we invited Bulgarika to perform alongside EXO in a celebration of the virtuosic musical tradition of Bulgaria, including the traditional ensemble consisting of tambura, gadulka, gaida, kaval, and tapan. We celebrated the Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladiguerov, performing the US Premiere of his Five Pieces for String Orchestra, and commissioned composers to write arrangements or settings of traditional Bulgarian melodies, including Patrick Castillo, Lainie Fefferman, Brad Balliett, Doug Balliett, Kate Ettinger, Michi Wiancko, and James Blachly.


The world-première recording of “The Prison,” a choral symphony written in 1930 by the English composer Ethel Smyth, arrives as demands for a more representative, equitable canon are mounting. For too long, Smyth has been relegated to footnote status: an ardent suffragist who was jailed for her efforts and a prominent lesbian, she wrote what was, until 2016, the only work by a female composer to be staged at the Metropolitan Opera (“Der Wald,” in 1903). “The Prison” exerts a metaphysical gravity, not just because of the text by Henry Brewster but also because Smyth’s music calls to mind Brahms, Elgar, and even Mahler at their most visionary and searching. The conductor James Blachly elicits splendid work from the vocal soloists, Sarah Brailey and Dashon Burton, and from the Experiential Orchestra and Chorus.

Steve Smith, The New Yorker