Great Music on Sundays @5
August 21 @ 5:00 pm
The Bulgarian Piano: Tradition & Improvisation
a musical tour of great composers & folk melodies
John Thomas piano
with special guest
Embark on a musical tour of fascinating and diverse genres of folklore, composition, and modern styles that traverse the mountains, plains and sea of one of the most complicated countries in the European Union.
Bulgaria was virtually cloistered from the world, first during more than four centuries of Ottoman empire domination and later by more than 40 years of Communist political rule. As a result, its traditional folklore melodies, rhythms and harmonies retained the purity of their roots more than the music of any other country in the Balkans. Beginning in the latter part of the 19th century and for nearly one hundred years, Bulgaria’s “classical” composers often expanded their professional expertise through study in western European cultural centers. Their fusion of ancient village melodies and tonal sounds in nature with classical composition techniques created a unique cultural oeuvre of music that continues today in more modern and improvisatory forms.
The concert includes music by the greatest and most revered of the classical Bulgarian composers, Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978); compositions by two icons of the era, Dimitar Nenov (1901-1953) and Lyubomir Pipkov (1904-1974); Milcho Leviev (1937-2019), the internationally known pioneer of Bulgarian “music without borders” mixing traditional themes with American jazz and boogie woogie; Nedyalko Nedyalkov (b. 1970), a soulful composer and master of the flute-like kaval; a rare nostalgic tango from the café era of early 20th century Bulgarian society; and composed improvisations by John Thomas of traditional melodies from some of Bulgaria’s musical regions: Dobrudzha, Macedonia, Pleven (Milkovitsa), Rhodope (Garnati), Sandanski, and Thrace.
Pianist John Thomas, who is also the producer of the Great Music on Sundays @5 concert series, was awarded a Bulgarian Fulbright Commission grant for study, research and performance for his project “Music without Borders: Bulgaria and America in Melody, Harmony and Rhythm”. He subsequently produced the video concert series “Music without Borders”, which was featured on Mindy Todd’s NPR program “The Point”.