Young cellist Michael Petrov with New Symphony Orchestra in Bulgaria Hall
The opening 2018 concert given by the New Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Petko Dimitrov on 24 February 2018, drew into Bulgaria Hall both admirers of the Orchestra and professionals, lured into coming by rarely performed or even Bulgarian premieres of some of the pieces on the programme. The event was dedicated to the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and held under the auspices of Ms Ekateriana Zakharieva, Deputy Prime Minister for Judicial Reform and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria. In this context, opting for works by composers from various national cultures and a young Bulgarian soloist making a successful international career was a very wise choice. Conductor Petko Dimitrov designed the second part as a triptych of a kind of pieces by Jean Sibelius, Arvo Pärt и Bedřich Smetana. The idea the three orchestral opuses––Lemminkäinen’s Return (from Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22), the Silouan’s Song and Blanik from Má Vlast (My Fatherland)––to be performed at one sitting, without intervals between them, had its dramaturgic grounds, seeking in all likelihood to make a soft culmination of a kind of the Bulgarian premiere of Silouan’s Song composed in 1991.
As a whole, we were involved in a concert brimming over with emotionality and content, where every member of the audience found a meaningful and emotional point of their own. I though choose here to accentuate an anticipated comeback on Bulgarian stage made by the young but confidently appearing on international stages cellist Michael Petrov, both as a soloist and member of the Isimsiz Trio. In 2016, he received an Artist Diploma in Performance from Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, winning at the same time prestigious competitions both in Bulgaria and abroad. For his performance of Concerto No. 1 for Cello and Orchestra by Shostakovich in 2014, Michael Petrov was awarded the School’s premier music prize Guildhall Gold Medal by Sir Andrew Parmley, Lord Mayor of the City of London in November 2017. He has given concerts under the Rising Stars programme STARS of the European Concert Hall Organisation and the Young Concert Artists Trust (YCAT), London.
I have heard him perform at the outset of his career of a promising student at Prof. Pancho Vladigerov National School of Music and my expectations of him coming back to Sofia with a nontraditional cello repertoire proved right. Michael Petrov is an interesting, sensitive musician, living up to his own interpretational concept, but listening to the orchestra and responsive to conductorial gestures. The combination of deep emotionality and virtuosity renders him a special charm captivating the audiences. This goes true for the Bulgarian premiere of Cello Concerto, Op. 22 by Samuel Barber. Written in 1945 for brilliant Raya Garbousova and commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky, the dedicated to John and Anne Brown work is rarely performed due to its specific technical difficulty and the redaction designed for Garbousova’s individual specifics. Michael Petrov easily met the challenges and in a near-perfect synchrony with the orchestra, succeeded in rendering the special lyricism of the Concerto and suggesting its plentiful emotional and image content.
Judging by what he said after the concert, meeting Sofia audiences was long-awaited and exciting to the young cellist: ‘It was an exclusive privilege to play Samuel Barber’s Concerto with the New Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Petko Dimitrov in Bulgaria Hall. This work is rarely performed due perhaps to its great difficulty both for the soloist and the orchestra. New Symphony Orchestra were terrific, and it is up to the audience to judge me! I fancy Barber’s Concerto. It is interesting since its very beginning, with a unique second part and abounds in dreamy melodies and unceasing rhythms. I was really happy when maestro Dimitrov agreed to perform it in Bulgaria Hall. Bulgarian audiences have always been among the warmest and the most intelligent. It gave me even greater pleasure to have the chance to meet with many of my teachers of the days when I studied at the National School of Music; with renowned musician, artists and persons; with my friends and relations, and with my classmates, who are now my worthy colleagues! I was very happy, indeed, for I have had the opportunity to love this stage ever since my childhood. I hope to meet oftener Bulgarian music and culture and to have the chance to play again in my country, for it is like nowhere else!’
 Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958); Cello Concerto, Op. 22 (Bulgarian premiere) by Samuel Barber (1910–1981); Lemminkäinen’s Return (from Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22) by Sibelius (1865–1957), the Silouan’s Song (dedicated to Archimandrite Sophrony, Bulgarian premiere) by Pärt (b. 1935), Blanik from Má Vlast (My Fatherland) by Smetana (1824–1884).