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  • Krassimir Taskov: Contrasts and Landscapes for the Soul

    Kristina Dencheva
    24 June, 2022

    Prof. Krassimir Taskov graduated from the National Academy of Music with piano with Prof. Julia Ganeva and Prof. Konstantin Ganev and composition with Prof. P. Stoyanov. He attended the composition courses of Ton de Leeuw and Theo Lоеvendiе in the Netherlands and Anatol Vieru in Romania. Since 1999 he has been the head of the Department of Composition at the Faculty of Theory, and since 2002 he has been a professor of composition at the National Academy of Music. He is the author of works for symphony and chamber orchestra; solo and choral songs, works for piano, for various ensembles, etc. In 1984, his “Archaic Paintings” for piano were included in the list of recommended pieces by the UNESCO International Tribune of Composers in Paris. He has won awards from the Tokyo Composition Competition for the pieces "Fantasy" 1991, "Triptych for Two Pianos" 1995, "Reciprocity" 1999 and "Ditirambi" 2002, as well as the First Prize from the Bulgarian competition "Rhapsody in 7/8" for Concert for clarinet and orchestra in 2002. His music is heard in Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Russia. In 2003, the piece "Transfiguration" II for two pianos was nominated and performed at World Music Day in Slovenia. His works have been published in Bulgaria, France, Russia. Prof. Taskov also has a remarkable career as a concert pianist with hundreds of solo and chamber concerts in the country and abroad. He has won national and international awards at piano competitions in Santander, Spain in 1978, “P. I. Tchaikovsky” in Moscow in 1978, etc.Throughout this brilliant career, a thin red thread connects his heart with wind instruments and with brass instruments. And especially with the trombone. This inspired us to invite him as a guest in our "Brass Stories". An exciting conversation about the transformation of the musical fabric in the composition, about the feeling of space in the sound of brass winds, about the spectacular combination of trombone and organ and much more…

    Tell us about the moment when you decided to create a play for brass for the first time.
    My interest in brass instruments is from a long time ago. I have an interesting memory from 1993, when I received a letter in my mail that I didn't even read right away. But it turned out to be from France from the publishing house Billaudot - a well-known Parisian publishing house. The letter asked me if I could write a piece for trombone and piano to be included in their collection of international participation with colleagues from France and Norway. Probably they had observations from my participation in competitions as a composer with pieces for wind instruments, such as my concert for oboe in two parts - this is a rarity for Bulgarian music and not only for it - in 1993 - 1994 (then it was written) was performed by a very good oboist, who is now abroad - unfortunately, his name is escaping my mind now. And the Paris invitation to play the trombone and piano inspired me to start working in this direction. As I saw later, my play “Austinato” seemed to be the most attractive, the most intense in this collection. She inspired me to write two more plays and so the cycle "Three Contrasts for Trombone and Piano" appeared - really contrasting, very different even in manner, as a way of composing.

    As far as I understand, your interest in wind instruments is constant and dates back a long time.
    That's right. I'm going back a little bit more about wind instruments. My dissertation as a composer in 1986 or 1987 was my first clarinet concerto with Rosen Idealov, who is one of the most zealous performers of Bulgarian and contemporary music in our country with a huge repertoire. And my second clarinet concert was awarded the First Prize in the unique Bulgarian competition "7/8" for new symphonic music in uniqual rhythms. The concert was performed by Ilian Iliev, a famous clarinetist who is in the US or Japan at the moment, so my interest in wind instruments is lasting. I recall a sonata for trumpet and piano, a part of which was published in a collection and performed brilliantly by two great Bulgarian artists Atanas Dyulgerov and Velislava Georgieva many years ago. And I remember a trio of sonatinas that appear and disappear from my archives - it was for trumpet, piano and another instrument that escapes my mind now. There the trumpet was very attractive, Petar Dobrinov was a performer during his lifetime. In general, many memories accumulate.

    The trombone is a consequence in a sense, but it is probably the most important thing for me, because I began to develop in this direction as a trombone author. This cycle "Contrasts" was followed by a transcription; I would even rather call it a remix for trombone and piano of two of my very early plays "Impression" and "Dance for four hands" - a very performed piece in this version. In the meantime, I made "Landscapes for the Soul" for trombone and organ, a very interesting combination. The play was performed by Atanas Karafezliev and Yanko Marinov and was also published. In general, I can say that I have a happy faith with these works for trombone.

    The latest, which I can almost publish now, because it is included in the upcoming review "New Bulgarian Music" in the fall, is "Intrada" and "Dance Fugue" for four trombones - a rare composition at least for Bulgaria. As far as I know, this is a band used especially in the groups of large orchestras abroad. 4 trombones, 4 identical timbres, but in different positions spatially and tissingly. These are again two very contrasting pieces, the fugue contrasts with "Intrada", which has a more massive, more spatial sound. My idea - so far just an idea - is to be extended in the future, perhaps to a brass quartet or quintet, by adding trumpets as instruments with higher volume.

    From your words I understand that you are actually recreating the same music for different instruments with different sonority and features.
    Exactly. The "Impression" (in this case) for trombone, which I consider very successful, is based on a song I made in 1976 as a student. With very beautiful text, it was performed, but not so much. Then I made it for cello, and after a while I decided that the trombone would be quite suitable as a sound. This tool always connects me with some idea of ​​space, with a specific atmosphere. And as for "Impression" and "Dance", these are two much shorter plays compared to those in "Three Contrasts". And they are much more affordable to perform than trombonists.

    Krassimir Taskov "Impression" - Atanas Karafezliev (trombone), Anelia Gospodinova (piano)

    When I came here for the interview, I thought that in fact the trombone through its very construction and sound extraction is a conduit of the soul, through this mechanism it is perhaps most directly connected with the soul of the performer. Only singing, vocals are something like that. Everything else is indirect, through other mechanisms. But it is precisely the trombone - its very location, its very sound as a volume, as an overtone - obviously in the history of music this is one of the "hit" areas of musical production. It is no coincidence that in contemporary music in this case, as well as in baroque - in Romanticism music not so much as a solo instrument - most of the works for this instrument. And the least are for the horn - perhaps because it is a delicate, fine instrument and composers are not always willing to rush to do something bolder as a technical solution.

    What would you tell us about your work on trombone and organ?
    It is no coincidence that I wrote "Landscapes of the Soul" for trombone and organ, connecting this sound combination with the poetic idea I mentioned above. The idea for these landscapes came from the collection of poems of a truly ingenious, relatively early deceased Bulgarian poet Ivan Metodiev with his "Nava" poems - short but incredible in concentration. The trombone quite directly introduces us to a different atmosphere, to other dimensions of thought, of feeling. It transports us to another reality, another reality, coexisting around us.

    Krassimir Taskov "Landscapes for the Soul" - Atanas Karafezliev (trombone), Yanko Marinov (organ)

    The way you talk about the trombone seems to show that this instrument occupies a special place in your soul not only as a composer.
    Yes, that's right. There is no doubt that the conversations with my dear father-in-law Mano Ralev - a longtime teacher at the Burgas Music School and the first trombone in the Burgas Philharmonic - inspired my interest in the trombone. Mano Ralev was an exceptional master of the instrument, of thinking in this direction. In our conversations about music, about the trombone as an orchestral instrument, and not only, he gave me a wealth of information and brought me as close as possible to this instrument. Of course, I hope this is not the limit of my compositional focus on the trombone. Since my dear colleague Filip Pavlov has two concerts, I think I can try to give my word in this direction with at least one, but this future will show. I think I have other suitable material too…

    Tell us a little more about the transformation of the musical material and the ways in which your pieces sound performed by different instruments.
    In fact, the Three Contrasts for trombone and piano is a very interesting example in this regard. After the first version I made "Austinato" for a completely different composition of copper - a big band with 12 brass instruments and a piano. It turned out to be one of the most valuable and attractive pieces I made for copper instruments. There, of course, the compositional form and orchestration is a completely different solution. It is not a copied version, it is deployed in a completely different way.

    Krassimir Taskov - Austinato for Big band

    And the three contrasts have become Three Contrasts for tenor saxophone and the third part is not "Austinato", but a "Game". The first play "Ivocation" has been preserved, the second - "Crypt" - has expanded with a different message – close to the trombone sound, but with a different direction ... But in the beginning remains "Austinato" and that mysterious little letter from France summertime, which I did not even pay attention to immediately and remained unopened for several days.

    Krassimir Taskov "Austinato" - Atanas Karafezliev (trombon), Markrit Berberyan (piano)

    You have a lot of symphonic music. How do you see the place of the brass winds in it?
    Continuing the conversation so far, even my symphonic works have been inspired by the opportunity to apply these brass instruments more as a section.

    It sounds very Wagnerian to me. Wonderful!
    Yes, what sounds like climaxes in the brass gave me a reason to start writing symphonic music. I just feel the brass. And percussion too, but mostly brass as the most important instruments possible. Because in contemporary music there is a tendency for the priority of wind instruments, and then there are the strings. I mean the strings are no longer in this plan as they were in Romanticism or the Classics.

    One of my works, in which the brass is very much affected, is "Transfiguration" I. I have a total of 4 works with this name and the fourth is already for a relatively large orchestra, where there are really many brass instruments. The first "Transfiguration" is for 14 instruments - only piano and harp are missing. All other instruments have one, especially the wind instruments - both wooden and copper. This is a work that was suggested to me and subsequently ordered at the time by Kamen Goleminov for performance in France. It was performed there first and then in Bulgaria. It is also recorded in an incredible performance by the Slovenian Philharmonic - a large ensemble with conductor Marko Letonja. Really valuable performance, because I heard the possibilities of all these instruments in this work, which is difficult to perform. I am happy with its performances abroad, but I would like them to be more here - in Bulgaria.

    Another very valuable memory for me is the Grand Prize "Earth and People" for Three Contrasts for trombone and piano performed by Krassimir Stefanov - a fact that suggests that in this work there are many opportunities for show off the performers. As far as I know, it was also performed by the British trombonist John Kenny. Many memories return. But now I am on brass wave for 4 trombones with "Intrada" and "Dancing Fugue".

    Let's talk about the compositional forms and specifics of the process of creating a piece, in which there are some characteristic and easily recognizable Bulgarian elements…
    Trombone music is very suitable for folklore elements, for characteristic rhythms. In fact, in "Dance" they are very pronounced: these rhythms with this sharpness, accentuation and sound are very close to the original Bulgarian sense of rhythm. And "Impression" is rather inspired by the beauties of Bulgarian music as space and intonational connections. So, this work is quite close to the Bulgarian national style and traditions. And it is dedicated to Prof. Dimitar Momchilov - the first trombone professor in Bulgaria.

    Krassimir Taskov "Dance" - Atanas Karafezliev (trombone), Aneliya Gospodinova (piano)

    To what extent the Bulgarian rhythms and intonations, borrowed from our folklore, can be an identification for every Bulgarian composer. Do you think it is necessary to invest such elements in contemporary music in order to be recognizable as national?
    Yes, the topic of national writing and pattern is interesting. I have a very wide range of Bulgarian intonations and intonational construction - so it is in "Impression", so it is in "Landscapes of the Soul". This is a decision of the authors, but especially for brass Bulgarian elements such as rhythms and intonations are very appropriate and give a great direction. But, listening to other world contemporary music, I see many common features - for example, gliding can be heard by many authors in different ways. Also, the diaphony, which I have been using for years, I see it in many works by Korean and Japanese authors, felt differently - somewhere more organic as it is with us, elsewhere more constructive, but still exists as a way of expression especially in wind instruments, but also in the strings - as, for example, in the music of Lyutoslavsky and the school around him.

    The composer must be recognizable not only as a Bulgarian, but also as a world feeling, as a sense of music. This national narrowness is not helpful, it could only be the basis for a starting point. I try different ways myself and the most universal one I use is the closest to the feeling of other musicians in the world who already have their own models of thinking. It is good for us to adapt in some form, and for them, listening to our music, to understand the other kind, the other way of transmitting individual thinking. In fact, the most important thing is to find the individual approach, the individual decision and the creative realization of what you want to say. The time of so-called schools that work according to a certain model or system is over. The systems have already disappeared in the form we knew them before. Rather, there are individual systems and solutions - where successful, where not so successful - but this may depend on the talent of the author and his awareness. Things are more complicated at this stage. And a lot of geniuses have gone through music, so everyone must find their niche nowadays ...

    Krassimir Taskov "Festival" - BNR Symphony Orchestra with conductor Mark Kadin

    And as you mentioned awareness, tell us about your edition of Mendelssohn's Zero Concert.
    Yes, this is a piano and orchestra concerto that I enjoy performing in the newsroom I have made. Zero, because it precedes the well-known First and Second Concerto. A youth concert, Mendelssohn wrote it when he was 13 years old. I edited it from the saved autograph - it is available on the Internet. Then I realized that there was an edition, but anyway I "touched" it as notes and I performed it, everything is done. I took it out, composed it as a text, I even saw some small mistakes in the other editions afterwards, because it is difficult to get an autographed musical text. This is a delicate matter, and Mendelssohn's writing was then almost childish. So, I did it in my office and I am the first and only pianist in our country who has performed it. Otherwise, there are other pianists and there are recordings of virtuoso performances, because the concert itself is quite virtuoso. Mendelssohn was only 13 - one of his first jobs. Even Mozart does not have such works at this age - 35 minutes of piano and string concerto. In fact, this is the only Romantic concert of the 19th century for such an orchestra…

    Can we reveal some little secret about the upcoming premiere of "Intrada" and "Dance Fugue" for 4 trombones in the fall of 2022?
    The secret is that it all started with a piano piece: "Intrada", which I had dedicated to Rostislav Yovchev, and now is in his memory and has a special character, with special bells, spatial sensations and somehow timeless. Then I did another edit for a quartet with clarinet, bass clarinet, harp and piano. But I think that the edit 4 trombones best and most accurately recreates the creative material. And what happened, we'll hear soon ...

    Translation in English: Tsvetelina V. Georgieva
    The article is available in Bulgarian and in Dutch
    Translation in Dutch: Ruben Vermeulen

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

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