General impressions of the Festival after the final chord
Despite the strong competition offered by other musical events staged simultaneously in Sofia, the 49th edition of Sofia Music Weeks International Festival held on an annual basis ever since 1970 offered intriguing meetings with performers, authors and works. Though spread over several months (from 2 March to 6 July), most of the Festival concerts took place as usually late in May and all throughout June. The festival opened with a Slavonic programme and the Bulgarian emblematic song dedicated to the Day of Bulgarian Culture, Education and Letters, 24 May, with the participation of Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Mark Kadin and the terrific soloists Mintcho Mintchev, Liliana Kehayova, and the rarely performed (due also to its massive performer requirements) Symphony No. 8 by Gustav Mahler was the stately close. Bringing together orchestras и choruses of Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bulgarian National Radio with eight soloists from Austria, the concert given on 27 June in Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture was the official end of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Sofia audiences witnessed for the second time the formidable Symphony of a Thousand in the impressive directorial rendition of Emil Tabakov. There was also another memorable close of the Festival, a concert in the parallel programme, a Bulgarian premiere of Symphony No. 13 by Dmitri Schostakovich in the original version for soloist, male chorus and two grand pianos.
In conformity with the principles underlying the very foundation of the Festival and adhered to over the years of its existence, anniversaries of composers, choruses and orchestras were marked and floor was given to favoured by Bulgarian audiences world-famous instrumentalists (Mintcho Mintchev, Jenny Zaharieva, Atanas Kourtev, Mila Georgieva, etc.), but also to young hopefuls, achieving a rich genre diversity and among the concerts given by symphonic and chamber orchestras and choruses, rarely performed works were highlighted, including premieres and a block of contemporary music works.
Georgita Boyadzhieva (cello) and Rossen Idealov (clarinet) in a wonderful collaboration with Alexander Vassilenko (piano) enjoyed once again on 30 May, in Bulgaria Chamber Hall the audience’s enchantment, outlining and expanding the sound spaces of contemporary music through presenting new works in a phenomenal interpretation. These are spaces where they have sought and successfully found for decades now their true performative realisation in significant works and premieres, many of which dedicated to them with affection by famous composers. The well structured substantial programme combined various style movements, including a world/Bulgarian premiere of a piece in homage to a renowned Bulgarian performer, Trio for clarinet, cello & piano (1973) by Nino Rota (Bulgarian premiere); Sonata for cello & piano (2017) by Vasil Kazandjiev (dedicated to Georgita Boyadzhieva, world premiere); ‘…sed tibi gloria in vitam aeternam…’ (Hommage a G. BADEV/F) for clarinet, cello & piano (2017) by Yordan Dafov, Domains by Pierre Boulez (version for solo clarinet) and Trio in D Minor for Clarinet, Cello & Piano by Alexander Zemlinsky.
The concert given on 12 June in Bulgaria Chamber Hall presented The Choice of String Quartet Frosch, a selection of repertoire works, the preserve of the quartet (Negina Stoianova, violin; Petia Dimitrova, violin; Maria Valchonova, viola; Atanas Krastev, cello). Expectedly, being a wonderfully welded together ensemble, their performance was marked by their inherent high professionalism, mastery and flair for style. With a lot of charge and positive energy, which they conveyed to the audience, they played the String Quartet No. 7 by Vasil Kazandjiev, dedicated to them last year; Three Pieces and Tango by Igor Stravinsky, ‘… van’ by Dragomir Yosifov; String Quartet No. 1 by Ligeti.
Crossing Points of Sofia Soloists Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Plamen Djouroff (16 June, Bulgaria Hall) was preceded by a moving meeting with the based in the UK and enjoying international popularity composer Dobrinka Tabakova on the occasion of the Bulgarian premiere of her Concerto for Cello & Strings (2008), which had its world premiere a decade ago at the Cello Biënnale Amsterdam performed by Kristina Blauman with Amsterdam Sinfonietta.
The Soloists, as has always been the case, fascinated the audience with their masterly performance and the interesting combination of works and timbres, giving together with the brilliant Krasimir Shterev (bandoneon); Georgi Vasilev (guitar); Atanas Krastev (violoncello) a very strong concert, which was a cross point of various styles and periods: Introduction and Fandango by Boccherini, Concerto for Bandoneon, Guitar and String Orchestra by Astor Piazzolla, String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op 27 (version for a string orchestra arranged by Plamen Djouroff) by Grieg (on the occasion of the composer’s 175th anniversary) and Dobrinka Tabakova’s Concerto for Cello & Strings.
The rich parallel programme included exhibitions; talks with composers; presentations of CD albums and books: Alexander Tanev: Spirit and Word exhibition; Rositsa Becheva’s book In the World of Simo Lazarov’s Electronic Music and Bozhana Dimitrova’s Ivelin Dimitrov and Polyphony. Songs at the Altar of Time, etc.
The festival events or at least those of them, which I attended, were held at a good performative level picking the audiences’ interest. The flexibility, experience, good taste and managerial skills of the organizers in the person of Prof. Plamen Djouroff, Director of Sofia Music Weeks and of Assoc. Prof. Momchil Georgiev, Programme Manager, succeeded, despite the limited budget of the Festival, thanks to sponsors and in a number of collaborations with various institutions, for which they deserve admiration, in making Sofia a meeting point for the East and the West, the North and the South, for performers, authors and works, for various styles and periods, opening new sound spaces…
 The Festival is a member of the European Festivals Association and is included in Sofia Municipality’s Major Cultural Events Calendar 2018. The event is mounted by Sofia Music Weeks Foundation. Co-organizers of the Weeks are Sofia Municipality, Ministry of Culture, National Palace of Culture, Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra..
 The Symphony has been performed twice earlier: in 1984 under the baton of Konstantin Iliev and in 1991, conducted by Emil Tabakov.