Sonata No. 6 (1982)
1. Allegro moderato 6:37
2. Allegro vivace/Largo 13:07
Sonata No. 7 (1991)
3. Allegro / Grav e / Giocoso /Lento / Allegro 24:29
Sonata No. 2 (1951)
4. Moderato 4:13
5. Adagietto 4:52
6. Allegro non tanto 3:00
FIRST AMERICAN RELEASE OF PIANO MUSIC BY FATHER OF BULGARIAN AVANT-GARDE MUSIC:
Three Works of Lazar Nikolov Performed by Bulgarian Virtuosa Angela Tosheva
Lazar Nikolov (1922-2005) was the doyen of Bulgarian composers and one of the first to introduce avant-gardism into Bulgaria, is the composer of seven path-breaking piano sonatas. Three of these works have been recorded by Concord Concerto in performances by the young Bulgarian virtuoso pianist, Angela Tosheva.
Nikolov's output includes operatic, vocal, symphonic and chamber music but he is particularly known for his piano works which explore the sonic character of the instrument but also make extensive use of its virtuoso traditions. The influence of Liszt, Bartòk, Prokofiev and Messiaen is present along with the Viennese expressionists and the techniques and sonorities of modern Polish music and of European serialism, all used in a distinctive and personal manner.
Nikolov began using experimental techniques quite early in his career, meeting with substantial opposition during the Communist era when Western modernism was under deep suspicion if not an outright ban. Later, as the political winds shifted and younger composers became more interested in new ideas, Nikolov's music was perceived as pioneering work in its amalgamation of Western European modernism with a genuine Eastern European avant-garde style. His evolution has been steady and rests on the secure foundation of solid workmanship and a consistent intensity – even lyricism – of expression.
Lazar Nikolov was born on August 26, 1922 in Bourgas on the Black Sea. He studied piano, theory and composition at the State Academy of Music where his principal teachers were Dimiter Nenov and Pancho Vladigerov. Nikolov has been active in Bulgarian musical life as a composer, performer and teacher. He has taught at the Sofia High School of Music and the Bulgarian State Conservatory (later renamed State Academy of Music) in Sofia where he is now himself a full Professor. He has also served as secretary and, more recently, chairman of the Union of Bulgarian Composers.
When Nikolov, along with Konstantin Iliev (1922-1986) and, somewhat later, Dimiter Christoff (b. 1933) and Ivan Spassov (1934-1996), began to introduce avant-garde music into Bulgaria. They did so against powerful opposition from the State and the officially sanctioned artistic commissars. Since most ensemble musical performance was state controlled, the solo piano was a powerful means of expression for these composers and they formed what was virtually a school of new Bulgarian piano music.
In recent years, Nikolov's music has been recognized and widely performed not only Bulgaria but also in Europe, Russia and the United States. It has also been recorded for Bulgarian National Radio and other European radio stations as well as Balkanton, GegaNew and now Labor Records.
Nikolov's output includes operatic, vocal, symphonic and chamber music but he is particularly known for his piano works which explore the sonic character of the instrument and also make extensive use of its virtuoso traditions.
Angela Tosheva, one of the most brilliant of the younger generation of Eastern European pianists, performs the Sonatas Nos. 6 and 7 dating, respectively, from 1982 and 1991 and exploring the outer extremities of sonority and virtuosity. The Second Sonata of 1951 shows an earlier phase of Nikolov's evolution toward an innovative and highly personal style.
"These three sonatas from this Bulgarian modernist, spanning from 1951 to 1991, reveals how well the composer probes and pokes at atonality, without ever taxing our attention span. We're never sure which direction he's about to take while exploring a theme, but it almost doesn't matter. The portentous chord that opens Sonata No. 6 (1982) doesn't lead into the anticipated cavern of angst. Instead, we hear note ripples that painter Paul might have composed. This is serial composition at its best, packed with devices like rapid glissandi, wide tonal range, and dynamics that shift so suddenly we feel bewildered in a sonic hall of mirrors. The character of Sonata No. 7 (1991) retains the probing textures of No. 6 and has similar rough edges yet it is more lyrical. Nikolov makes poetic use of silence. But sometimes he is like Liszt, like when he employs tremulous interludes and lyrical swatches of color. Mercifully, he is not as long-winded as Liszt can sometimes be. His figures never belabor us, never try our patience. Whether he retreads similar territory or explores a new tonal corridor, the result is often satisfying. I expected Sonata No. 2 (1951) to differ significantly from the more recent pieces and it does, yet not overwhelmingly so. It winds around motives like a toccata and grows in intensity before descending into the contemplative Adagietto. The final movement is a spirited Allegro that starts a dance, but one that clomps across the stage like a marionette. As in Bela Bartok's chamber music, Nikolov's piano works toss melody shards about rather than produce voluptuous vases. This movement's arpeggios spurt into the still air - sometimes shocking, but never distressing. His high-register work is not showy or grating. Pianist Angela Tosheva finds the subtleties in these works and delicately presents them to us like exotic sliced fruit."
- Peter Bates / Audiophile Audition
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