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  • Vassil Kazandjiev: I imagine the orchestra brass section like an organ with soul

    Kristina Dencheva
    30 January, 2024

    2024 is very special for our new guest we are pleased to present - the year of two remarkable anniversaries: 90 years since he was born and 80 since his amazing journey in music began. Composer and conductor with an impressive career, member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Vassil Kazandjiev is an amazing, energetic and inspiring person despite his honourable age. He is among the 5 recognised innovators of Bulgarian contemporary music together with Konstantin Iliev, Lazar Nikolov, Georgi Tutev, and Ivan Spassov. A real child prodigy, at the age of 13 Kazandjiev became the private composition student of Konstantin Iliev. Courtesy of another influential Bulgarian composer Parashkev Hadjiev he started to study composition and orchestration with Pancho Vladigerov and conducting with Vladi Simeonov at the State Academy in Sofia (nowadays National Music Academy "Prof. Pancho Vladigerov").

    At the beginning the style of the young composer showed an influence of his teacher P. Vladigerov and of his favourite composer Paul Hindemith. But soon enough he found his own composition  style. In 1957 Kazandjiev won a laureate’s prize for his Sinfonietta for large orchestra at the Sixth International Youth Festival in Moscow, the USSR (the chairman of the jury was Dmitri Shostakovich).

    Vassil Kazandjiev - Complexi Sonori (1965), performed by the Tsenov Chamber Ensemble on 04.06.2016 at Lincoln Center, New York, the USA

    Vassil Kazandjiev was one of the first Bulgarian composers who wrote dodecaphonic compositions such as his First Piano Sonata (1959) and the First String Quartet (1966). 1965 marked a major change in Kazandjiev’s compositional style, especially with the introduction of aleatoric elements and graphic notation, as in Complexi sonori for strings (1965). Since the 1970s Vassil Kazandjziev has experimented by blending elements from Bulgarian orthodox and folk music with aleatoric devices. The rich history and culture of Bulgaria also helped the innovative composer’s concept on a large spectrum of orchestral, vocal, chamber and piano genres.

    Vassil Kazandjiev - Solemn Fanfars (2012), performed by the Academic Symphony Orchestra of the National Music Academy "Prof. Pancho Vladigerov" in Sofia, Bulgaria

    Vassil Kazandjiev has a special predilection to brass instruments both as composer and conductor. Among his compositions are Concerto for Trumpet (1955), Concerto for Piano and Saxophone (1957), Solemn Fanfars - dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the National Music Academy “Prof. Pancho Vladigerov” (2012), a lot of wind and string chamber pieces, Konzertstück for 10 instruments, film music and 5 symphonies. One very special and important composition, recognised not only in Bulgaria and Europe but worldwide as well, is the Sonata for trombone and piano (2011). The 4 parts masterpiece reveals the glorious palette of sounds of the trombone and the beauty of the combination between the piano and the famous brass instrument in an impressive contemporary and passionate magic.

    Vassil Kazandjiev - Sonata for trombone and piano, performed by Atanas Karafezliev (trombone) and Aneliya Gospodinova (piano), album "The Bulgarian Trombone. 22 years Later"

    Beyond his amazing career as composer that continues nowadays too, Vassil Kazandjiev is one of the most influential Bulgarian conductors of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries. Between 1957 and 1962 Kazandjiev was conductor at the Sofia Opera. In 1962 he founded the Sofia Soloists Chamber Orchestra. The ensemble achieved international acclaim, touring Europe, Asia, and the USA. V. Kazandjiev led it until 1978. Between 1979 and 1993 he served as principal conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio. Since 1985 he has been professor in conducting at the National Music Academy. In 2009 he was elected Academician in the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

    As conductor Vassil Kazandjiev combines the highest level of professionalism and broad musical culture with a bright creative intuition. His interpretations of works by different authors, styles and epochs are distinguished by depth, stylistic authenticity and pointed modern sensitivity. His art has been immortalised in many recordings of the Bulgarian National Radio, Balkanton, Harmonia Mundi - France Kibaton – Japan and other companies from different countries. He has had remarkably successful guest conductor’s tours in almost every European country, United States, Canada, Africa, Japan, South Korea, etc. In nearly 40 years teaching at the National Music Academy “Prof. Pancho Vladigerov” (1963–2002) he established his own conducting school, which produced musicians working all over the world.

    Vassil Kazandjiev - Pictures from Bulgaria: The Rila Monastery (1970), performed by the Sofia Soloists Chamber Ensemble conducted by the author

    For more music by Vassil Kazandjiev please visit his official YouTube channel.

    This article is available in Bulgarian and in Dutch

    The BRASS STORIES Project is supported by the
    National Culture Fund of the Republic of Bulgaria

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    Atanas Karafezliev

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