Elisaveta Valchinova-Chendova, Senior Research Associate, PhD

* The main ideas of the text are explained in detail in the study: Valchinova-Chendova, Å. Genre Models in the Bulgarian Composers’ Works During the Last Three Decades ". // "Bulgarian Musicology", 2002, ¹ 2, p. 16-63.

ÊEY WORDS: contemporary music, bulgarian music, bulgarian composers, genre, model, orchestra music, instrumental ensembles, chamber music, encyclopaedic


The genre approaches within the analysis of the Bulgarian composers’ works and their descriptions are tasks producing a number of problems for the researcher. The presence of the tradition is supported by creative consciousness through a conscious approach of continuity, where the genre system takes its central place and reflects the “projection” of the composers’ works to the past and to the present day. (see the formulation of Maria Boyadzhieva about the music of Lazar Nikolov – Boyadzhieva, Ì. Lazar Nikolov in the Mirror of the Bulgarian Music. // Bulgarian Musicology, 1998, ¹ 2, p. 55).

Structuring the works after a genre characteristics presupposes an established theoretical model, where the approved genre characteristics are combined with those new specifications revealing the individual creative expression.

After the end of the 40-ies of the 20th century the situation of the Bulgarian music is regarded justifiably by many musicologists as a borderline situation, where a “synthetic tendency”, as we may call it, emerges in the musical thinking, tightly binding the present with the past, and the national with the trans-national. The central idea is the new attitude towards tradition. And if for the Bulgarian composers of the 30-ies and 40-ies the tradition in aesthetically stylistic sense, in terms of an organically conceived and realised concept, is related mainly to the national-folklore principle, the tradition of the 60-ies and 70-ies encompasses and sometimes is thoroughly based on the trans-national principle. (see Karanlakov, L. Stylistic Characteristics in the Works of Simeon Pironkoff. (In the Light of Some Topical Problems of the Contemporary Bulgarian Musical Work) // Bulgarian Music, 1976, ¹ 9, p. 7-13; ¹ 10, p. 34-42.)

In the orchestra and the chamber instrumental music the chamber tendency is very typical for the symphonic thinking, which turns upside down the view on orchestra forms well-established in the tradition of the Bulgarian music, especially in the Bulgarian musical culture (interpretation, listeners’ reflection, etc.).

An expression of the new ideas is the establishment of genres like the chamber symphonism in the 60-ies. (see Karanlakov, L. The Chamber Symphonism and Some of Its Problems in the Works of the Contemporary Bulgarian Composers. // Musicology, 1978, ¹ 2, p. 21-23.)

The chamber tendency affects not only the younger generation of authors, but serves as an indication of a musical language of composers like Lyubomir Pipkov and Marin Goleminov: in 1970 L. Pipkov accomplishes his last symphony, the Fourth Symphony for string orchestra, and in 1977-78 Ì. Goleminov writes his fourth three-part symphony for string orchestra, “Shopophonia”.

In many cases the lines between the symphonic and the chamber works vanish. The chamber tendency (in the broadest sense of the word) leads to a change in the means of expression and to rethinking of the different creative genres. Symphonies for a chamber, string or brass orchestra, a concert for an orchestra become genre models preferred by many Bulgarian composers. In some works tough, it is difficult to point out an exact genre formulation, despite the fact that their titles refer to a certain genre definition.

The authors’ nominations (the title of an opus) are significant for the relativity of the genre formulation, where the titles on a symbolic level are just a free interpretation of the genre idea (see also Dicheva, V. Subjects of the Genre Causality in the Bulgarian Professional Music. // Bulgarian Musicology, 1997, ¹ 1-2, p. 71-85). The article covers a number of contradictory views regarding the assessment of processes and works resulting from the general pathos connected with the IC [ideological conjuncture] in the composers’ works. Generally speaking, the contradiction between the “traditional” and the “original” at different levels erases characteristic features of the connection of the Bulgarian music with processes of the second half of the European 20th century.

A telling example of the mentioned genre relativity are two chamber instrumental works titled: Requiem for an Unknown Young Man by Simeon Pironkoff and Symphonies for 13 String Instruments by Lazar Nikolov.

Interesting as a genre approach and prospects regarding the use of various ensemble combinations are the seven concert pieces “Tempi Concertati” by Konstantin Iliev written in the period 1968-85: ¹ 1 (1968) for 13 string instruments or for a string quartet and string orchestra; ¹ 2 (1975) for a flute, cemballo and 12 string instruments; ¹ 3 (1977) for violoncello and three groups of percussion instruments; ¹ 4 (1980) for violin, violoncello, two groups of percussion instruments and celesta; ¹ 5 (1981) for 14 wind instruments, ¹ 6 (1985) for flute, violoncello and harp; ¹ 7 (1988, not completed) for piano, clarinet and orchestra.

Ivan Spassov usually interprets the genres quite freely. The works written in the period 70-ies – 90-ies including orchestra, instrumental concerts for violoncello, piano, violin, and chamber instrumental pieces, as well as vocal-instrumental, chorus, etc. represent concrete genre solutions and ensemble combinations ( programme connected in some of them with their dedications): Symphony ¹ 2 (1975) consists of two parts, Symphony ¹ 3 is for string and treble wind instruments dedicated to Konstantin Iliev (1978); Symphony ¹ 4 is for baritone and orchestra (1981); the Concert for orchestra in two parts is also dedicated to Konstantin Iliev (1989); Inauguration of the Heavenly Home is for a chamber orchestra (1994), etc.

The principles of the dodecaphony and the sonorous effects define the character of the global symphonism in the Second Symphony of Georgi Tutev (1968-74) built on an extended cycle – a prologue, 6 variations and an epilogue.

In the traditions of the great orchestra forms many composers see also possibilities of expressing the contemporary sensitivity without losing their interest for the smaller chamber forms. Their works bear the pathos of the “great” dramatic symphonism, of the “great symphony”. (This is the formulation of Mazel’ regarding the symphonies of Shostakovich. In: The Musical Theoretical Problems of the Soviet Music. Ì., 1963, p. 60). In the most cases this is a reflection of phenomena of the beginning and the first half of the 20th century, as for example the classical purity, the lyric and the scherzo, the “symphonic epos” (Slonimsky) by Prokofiev; the monumentalism of Mahler and Shostakovich and their individual time-space solutions, which defines the respective choice of themes and their interpretation in the symphonic cycle, etc. There is a specific feature of the Bulgarian music, and this is the already mentioned pathos being absorbed as established sign formula and intonations used by Alexander Raychev (especially characteristic for his Second Symphony, The New Prometheus, 1958), which have already become emblematic and thus are being processed on a secondary reflective level as a specific genre model of stylistics in the orchestra works of several generations including the younger contemporary Bulgarian composers.

Of course, the individual creative expression suggests varied interesting art solutions within the “big symphony”, within the symphonism as such, and within the concertism. One of these solutions is the “loosing” of symphonism/the orchestra sound through redirecting it to smaller or bigger interesting sound ensembles leading to varied interesting solutions regarding the rethinking of the genre forms without in principle to destroy their dramaturgic essence. This is another kind of freedom “renewing” and at the same time “preserving” the tradition. For example, the symphonies of Velislav Zaimov: ¹1 for double strength, ¹ 2 for double strength with solo violin, ¹ 3 for 13 string instruments, ¹ 4 for 2 pianos, organ, percussion and string instruments, ¹5, ¹6 and ¹ 7 for big symphonic (three-fourfold) orchestra, ¹ 8 for soprano, bass and double strength, ¹ 9 for big symphonic / three-fourfold orchestra, ¹ 10 for vibraphone, harp and string instruments.

The freedom of the genre approaches presupposes some more radical creative solutions. For example the orchestra works of Dimiter Christoff. Most of his works written in the 60-ies are for a symphonic orchestra. In the subsequent works there are tendencies of enlarging the orchestra. The Concert for piano ¹ 2 is very interesting having the biggest brass symphonic orchestra, with a version for a lesser number of wind instruments (for the sake of a greater mobility at the performance) (1982). Both his orchestra works and his solo instrument concerts are for a big symphonic orchestra. The “freedom” in the concrete compositional solutions is inherent in the relativity of their “programness” and reveals new radical forms of expressing and rethinking of the genre with regard to its theatricalisation.


The two main approaches for structuring the composers’ works are the chronological and the genre approaches. They complement one another, and the accent on either of them depends on the researcher’s task, whether it will be a historical or a theoretical research. Each of the two approaches has its own logic and scientific value. A more complicated and simultaneously more representative task is the attempt to combine the two of them.

The information massifs structured according to the mentioned principles represent the authors’ preferences and the activity in the different genre forms, and trace the movement of the genres during the decades. But even if we achieve the highest degree of comprehensive information, we will get only a general notion about the composers’ work. The interference between the classical ideas and the individual interpretation of the different creative genre forms like symphony, concert, etc. in a number of cases are a point of departure only on the concept level, and in some works they are treated very relatively.

The most effective indications of the orchestra music are the lists of the instrumental ensembles employed: a symphonic orchestra (two-, three-, fourfold), a chamber orchestra (including different ensemble combinations), a string orchestra, a brass orchestra – as well as the key word leading to a genre definition like symphony, concert, overture, suite, piece, etc. The contemporary convention requires the necessity of applying such an approach, because it is full of relativity and original solutions: “symphonies” can have nothing in common with the symphony, a “requiem” can be just an orchestra lamento of one part; the concertism manifests itself on different levels – from a concert for separate or groups of solo instruments to a concert for an orchestra; genres like the symphony develop towards their chamberness, etc.

In the chamber music (personalities and chronologically) there can be defined two main approaches with the view of the interpretation of the genre models. Like the orchestra music, the first one is related to implementing the established historical genre forms like the sonata, the quartet, the quintet, the partita, etc. The choice of the “classical version” imposes its imprint, sets up certain genre frames for the author’s freedom and fantasy. The genre’s renewal happens through a kind of an inner explosion; the individual prospects break the “classical” entity, rethink the well-known structures, introduce new musical material; the repeatedly mentioned recreation is realised, the rethinking of the musical content happens irrespective of the fact whether the genre frames are observed or the genre remains as such only on a conceptual level because of the destruction of the genre frames.

The second approach is related to the use of a figurative title, which rather refers to an idea, condition, than to a specific plot and which presupposes full freedom of recreating the author’s idea, outgrowing all conventions and existing limits. This is why the pieces of a free associative type prevail in the composers’ works.

And also here, led by this variety the classification of the kind of the performing personnel is the best indicator: from works for a solo instrument, duos (in all their varieties)… to the chamber ensembles. (In 2001 the Union of the Bulgarian Composers realised few printed catalogues of chamber music providing information for lecturers and students at the universities and the libraries, etc.) in the printed editions the genre indicator – sonata, partita, etc. is an additional information, which can be organised in internal massifs. The opportunities of an electronic data base provide the possibility of employing the key role of both indicators.

In the today’s boom of information editions also in Bulgaria and of the broad access to them via the Internet the professional selection and the correctness of the information become more and more important, as well as the working out of new broader criteria and working methods, the “reformulation” of the own scientific research in their scientifically applied assimilation. This parallel activity is stimulation in both directions, regarding the establishment of theoretical models (including genre models) structuring the necessary information, and regarding the establishment of a real, broad and concrete view on the contemporary Bulgarian music, where the theoretical and empirical approaches shall complement one another in rationalising the genre models and their specific expressions. The approbation of the introduced scientific approaches onto specific material is the basis for the work on the contemporary encyclopaedic editions dedicated to the Bulgarian composers’ works.