The personal and professional life of Pancho Vladigerov is presented in six major periods, marked by specific events in his life. The focus is on the more important stages connected to the artist’s growth and to the works which were more significant for the particular period. His performances were noted as a pianist and teacher – a long-time Piano and Composition Professor at the National Music Academy in Sofia, which now bears his name.
1899-1912 Childhood years
1899 – The Vladigerov twins, Pancho and Lyuben, were born in Zurich on 13 March
Mother – Eliza Pasternak-Vladigerova, a gynaecologist
Father – Haralan Vladigerov, lawyer, Doctor of Law
18 July in Shumen – Pancho and Lyuben were baptised in the Holy Ascension Church
1906 – first piano lessons with the famous teacher Pavla Weissman-Zhekova in Shumen
1907 – first performance at a concert along with his brother Lyuben, who practised the violin, on the stage of the Saint Archangel Michael Community Centre in Shumen
1908 – his father Haralan Vladigerov died
1909 – finished his primary education at the Exemplary National Primary School in Shumen. In the same year, he visited Odessa, his mother’s home town, to participate in a concert
1910 – the family moved to Sofia.
Pancho enrolled as a student in the Private Music School in Sofia, in the class of the piano pedagogue Henrich Wisner. He took his first lessons in music theory and composition with Dobri Hristov. Tried composing for the first time and registered his first compositions in a music album.
1912 – his first published composition – The Song of the Girl from Shtip in the Artist Journal
The brothers Pancho and Lyuben left for Berlin to study with the help of a scholarship by the state.
1913-1920 Study in Germany
1914 – composed the Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Major, which he placed under Opus Number 1
1914-1918 – Vladigerov attended the University of Music in Berlin, studying: Piano with Professor Heinrich Bart and Theory and Composition with Paul Juon.
1915 – enrolled in the piano and composition master classes in the Academy of Arts in Berlin. His teachers were Prof. Georg Schuman and Prof. Leonid Kreuzer. Composed his first Opus works.
1918 – he was granted the prestigious Mendelssohn Scholarship of Berlin University for his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 1, Opus 6
1918-1920 – performed his regular military service in Bulgaria as a soldier in the Bulgarian Leib-Guard (National Guard) Regiment.
The Vladigerov brothers performed many charity concerts throughout the country.
1920 – he was granted the Mendelssohn Scholarship for the second time for Three Impressions for Orchestra from Opus 9. He returned to Germany to continue his education in the master classes of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.
1920-1932 Deutsches Theater – Berlin
1920 – started working as a composer and musical director at Deutsches Theater in Berlin, invited by the famous German director Max Reinhardt. The same year he composed his first theatre score to the play Caesar and Cleopatra by Bernard Shaw. Vladigerov composed the music to thirteen plays for Reinhardt.
1921 – the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performed the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No 1, written the same year and dedicated to his brother, Lyuben. The soloist was Gustav Havemann, while the conductor was Fritz Reiner.
1922 – concluded a contract for the publishing of his works with the renowned Vienna Universal Edition Publishing House.
Composed the Vardar Rhapsody for piano and violin. This work became the highlight of Vladigerov’s career, it turned into the most popular, most performed and most published work of the composer. This is also Vladigerov’s most transcribed work, by the composer himself, for various instruments and orchestras.
1923 – the first performance of the Vardar Rhapsody in Bulgaria was in January
1926 – Vladigerov was one of the organisers of the First Bulgarian Music Celebrations in Varna. He also participated with a concert he composed. Made his debut as a conductor.
1927 – composed the Bulgarian Suite dedicated to his homeland (“А ma patrie”). He was awarded the Order of Saint Alexander, V grade, for his contributions.
1928 – the Orchestra version of the Vardar Rhapsody was performed for the first time at the Festival of Bulgarian Music in Prague. This became a more popular version for the public.
1929 – first gramophone records of the Vardar Rhapsody and Bulgarian Suite with Deutche Grammophon.
1931 – composed the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 2, which premièred in Dresden on 28 February 1931. He was the soloist.
1931 – composed the Seven Symphonic Bulgarian Dances
1932-1945 Return and establishment in Bulgaria
1932 – Vladigerov made his permanent return to Bulgaria and dedicated to his return his Concert Overture “Land” for large symphonic orchestra. Married the pianist Ekaterina Zhekova – daughter of his first piano teacher.
Became a part-time teacher – a Professor in Piano, Composition and Chamber Music at the Music Academy in Sofia.
1933 – his son, Alexander, was born. Vladigerov dedicated his Piano Miniatures “Shumen” to him. The same year the young composer was invited to be a member of the jury of the International Song and Music Competition in Vienna. He was co-founder of the Contemporary Music Society and the Young Composers’ Association in Bulgaria.
1936 – on 20 April – the première of Vladigerov’s only opera, Tsar Kaloyan, with the libretto by Fani Popova-Mutafova and Nikolay Liliev, production of the Sofia National Opera.
1937 – European première of the opera Tsar Kaloyan on the opera stages in Bratislava and Ljubljana.
On 9 October the same year, Vladigerov took part in the gala concert for the opening of the new large concert hall Bulgaria in Sofia, as a soloist, with his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 3, dedicated to the remarkable event.
1938 – Vladigerov was invited to become a member of the Permanent Council for International Cooperation between Composers, whose chairman was Richard Strauss. He was the only representative of Bulgaria on this forum up to 1942. In 1938, he participated as a member of the jury of the international competitions in Brussels and Stuttgart. The same year he composed his Symphony No 1 in D Minor for Large Symphonic Orchestra, dedicated to the Austrian composer and theoretician Joseph Marx.
1939 – first performance of Symphony No 1 by Vladigerov in Belgrade, by the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor M. Vukdragovic.
1940 – Vladigerov became a full-time teacher – a Professor in Piano, Composition and Chamber Music at the Music Academy in Sofia
1941 – the Encyclopaedia of Jews in Music was published in Berlin. Vladigerov was entered in it as a half-Jewish musician.
By 1944, because of the Second World War, Vladigerov limited his contacts and travels to the Balkan region. His works were performed in the concert halls in Bucharest, Athens, Belgrade, Ljubljana and Zagreb. He composed his Romanian Opuses – Four Romanian Symphonic Dances and Two Romanian Symphonic Sketches.
1945-1969 Period of creative maturity
1946 – composed the ballet Legend of the Lake in three acts, based on the libretto by Ivan Genov and choreography by Nina Anisimova. The ballet premièred in 1962.
1947 – created Suite No 1 for Orchestra based on the music to the ballet Legend of the Lake. He wrote Suite No 2 in 1953.
1948 – Vladigerov made his first big tour in Scandinavia and Russia.
1949 – Composed his Symphony No 2 “May” for String Orchestra.
Participated as a member of the Bulgarian cultural delegation for the World Peace Council in Paris.
1950 – 11 February – the big anniversary concert and celebrations for the composer’s 50th anniversary took place.
1952 – Vladigerov composed Jewish Poem dedicated to his grandfather, Leon Pasternak. He was re-hired as a full-time Composition Professor in the Music Academy in Sofia.
1954 – composed the music to Orlin Vasilev’s play „Happiness”, a production of the Sofia Youth Theatre.
1956 – member of the jury at the Ferenz Liszt Competition in Budapest.
1957 – member of the jury at the piano competition of the World Youth Festival in Moscow.
1959 – 9 April – the formal celebrations of Vladigerov’s 60th anniversary took place.
The composer’s first wife – Ekaterina – died.
The same year Vladigerov was invited as jury of the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano.
At the end of the year, he married Elka Vladigerova – pianist and teacher. She became his true life partner.
1963 – composed Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 5, dedicated to his wife, Elka.
The same year, the Sofia National Opera staged the ballet Legend of the Lake in Barcelona.
1968 – finished his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No 2, dedicated to the famous violinist Dina Schneidermann. Received the prestigious international Gottfried von Herder Prize, also known as the Herder Prize, for outstanding contribution to the development of Eastern-European art and cultural heritage.
1969 – official celebrations for Vladigerov’s 70th anniversary in Sofia, Shumen, Ruse.
The same year he stopped working as a full-time Professor in the Music Academy. He has taught a camaraderie of gifted composers, top theoreticians and musicians.
1970-1978 Final years
1972 – composed the symphonic suite Lyulin Impressions.
1973 – he was awarded the Sofia Award for Lyulin Impressions.
1974 – official celebrations for his 75th anniversary with a concert of the Bulgarian National Radio Symphonic Orchestra with conductor Alexander Vladigerov.
For the first time, Vladigerov was recognised as one of the classics of Bulgarian music history. The anniversary was celebrated again in Shumen, Ruse, Vienna and Moscow. Vladigerov was announced honorary citizen of Sofia, Shumen and Gabrovo.
1975 – new production of the opera Tsar Kaloyan on the stage of the Sofia National Opera.
1976-1977 – Inspired by the interest to this type of music making and the success of the pianist duo Julia and Konstantin Ganevi, Vladigerov dedicated himself to working on the transcriptions for two pianos of some of his most famous works. He created 13 transcriptions.
1972-1978 – Vladigerov composed six short piano opuses, which he dedicated to his beloved students and interpreters. The composer finished the last cycle, Three Bagatelles, on 14 July 1978, under Opus 70. That was also the last Opus number in Vladigerov’s career.
1978 – performance of the opera Tsar Kaloyan in Varna. It premièred on 22 July 1978. Vladigerov was made an honorary citizen of Varna.
He died unexpectedly on 8 September from acute cardiovascular insufficiency. He was buried on 11 September in the Golgotha alley of the Central Sofia Cemetery.
Throughout his entire life, Pancho Vladigerov has many times been awarded high honours by the state institutions both of the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. He was awarded the Order of Saint Alexander, V degree, awarded to him by His Highness Tsar Boris III, and after the political changes in Bulgaria in 1944, Vladigerov was awarded the highest honour in culture – the Dimitrov Prize – twice, as well as the following Orders: the Order of Saints Cyril and Methodius I degree, the Order Of The People’s Republic of Bulgaria I degree, the Order of Georgi Dimitrov, Order of Civil Merit III Class, as well as the title People’s Artist and the silver medal For Science and Art. He is an honorary citizen of Sofia, Varna, Shumen and Gabrovo.