1. Canti dei Morti (1983) 13:17
for soprano and orchestra
on old Egyptian funeral texts
2. Canti lamentosi (1979) 11:38
for two sopranos and chamber orchestra
text by Omar Khayyam
3. Twenty-three Lines
from Emily Dickenson (1989) 7:05
for soprano and chamber orchestra
4. Three Poems by Ann Day (1982) 5:47
for soprano and chamber orchestra
5. Holy Bulgarian Liturgy (1991) 21:44
for female choir
on traditional orthodox texts
6. Songs of a Soul
Flying to Paradise (1991) 11:39
for soprano, magnetic tape
"CANTI DEI MORTI"
IVAN SPASSOV ON LABOR RECORDS: A MAJOR VOICE FROM EASTERN EUROPE
Heiner Stadler, president of Labor Records, announces the re-release in the West of Canti dei Morti (LAB 7014), the powerful, spiritual and poetic music of a major Eastern European composer, the late Ivan Spassov (1934-1996).
This recording of works for women's voices and orchestra by Bulgaria's leading composer includes a setting of the Holy Bulgarian Liturgy for women's choir as well as settings of the Egyptian Book of the Dead and poetry of Omar Khayyan, Emily Dickinson and Ann Day.
Spassov's work is characterized by a deep philosophical, meditative and even brooding strain in the Bulgarian, Slavic vein. It has a spiritual dimension closely linked with the tradition of Bulgarian choral singing, the revival of Orthodox traditions, the resurgence of non-Western and folk musics, as well as with personal tragedy. His music, which is making its way slowly but surely in Western Europe and North America (his publisher is the well-known B. Schotts Söhne in Germany), is remarkable for its intensity and economy, its blend of western and eastern elements and its reflective spirituality. It is a distinctive contribution from Slavic and Bulgarian tradition to the music of our time.
Ivan Spassov was born in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, into a musical family. His grandfather, Ivan Kyulev, was a composer and folk song collector à la Bartok and wrote the first composed setting of the Bulgarian liturgy; he was also involved in national liberation movements and was twice exiled for political activity. Ivan, the grandson, was educated at the Bulgarian State Conservatory and in Warsaw where he conducted the première of his First Symphony with the Warsaw Philharmonic. He returned to Bulgaria in 1962 where, despite the restrictions of the Communist regime, he was able to introduce a new-music vocabulary and esthetic to the country; later he was also one of the first to reintroduce authentic elements from the Balkan tradition into his music. His considerable output includes concertos, symphonies and chamber music as well as the series of vocal compositions represented here.
Although Spassov owed something to the Western European and American modernists, his compositions evolved steadily into a very distinctive area of personal expression incorporating ideas from the rich vein of Bulgarian folklore into the language and form of contemporary music. Spassov, like many Bulgarian musicians, had extensive training and experience in choral music and his work involved an increasing use of the human voice. These solo and choral works carry forward into our time the rich and ancient tradition of Bulgarian vocal music.
"The music moves back and forth between haunting stillness and frantic intensity. Like all the performers on this disc, soprano Rumyana Evrova and the Pazardjik Symphony (conducted by the composer) give a reading that is deeply felt and highly accomplished… That Spassov is a masterof modernist vocal writing is confirmed in The Holy Bulgarian Liturgy, for a cappella female choir. It is his most explicit combination of folk-tunes and modernist technique. The composer employs a wide range of choral devices-canon, unison, fragmentary repetition, clusters, etc.-to create a moving testament to his late daughter Joanna." – American Record Guide
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