100 years since the birth of Konstantin Iliev – composer, conductor, lecturer, theorist, music critic
08 Mar 2024Sofia Opera and Ballet

100 years since the birth of Konstantin Iliev – composer, conductor, lecturer, theorist, music critic

Already in 1944 he founded the Club of Young Bulgarian Composers.

In 1947 he founded the Ruse Symphony Orchestra. From 1948-49 he was conductor of the Sofia Opera Ballet. He was specially invited and was one of the founders of the Ruse Opera, remaining its artistic director and chief conductor until 1952, conducting the first spectacle – "La traviata" by Giuseppe Verdi. This was followed by the Varna period from 1952 to 1956 as chief conductor of the Varna Symphony Orchestra. Konstantin Iliev's name is also associated with the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he was chief conductor for several periods: from 1956 with interruptions until 1984.

Between 1972 and 1978, he settled in Dobrich, where he founded the Chamber Music Festival, which now bears his name, and directed the Chamber Orchestra.

His last concert was in Ruse in 1988.

Throughout his career as a conductor, he gave many premiere performances of various works by foreign and national composers.

Operas: "The Master of Boyana" staged at the Sofia Opera in 1962 and "Deer Kingdom" from 1974 premiered in Ruse; six Symphonies; 7 Tempi concertati for various instrumental ensembles; the oratorio "An Eulogy for Constantine the Philosopher, Called Cyril"; cantatas; chamber and solo works such as four string quartets, songs and choral pieces; film scores: "Our Land" (1952), "Adam's Rib" (1956), "The Gerak Family" (1957), "Poor Man's Joy" (1958), "Roads" (novella "The Other Happiness") (1959) and "The Golden Tooth" (1962), "Beyond the Horizon" (1959).

On 3 October 31962 the Sofia Opera premiered the opera "The Master of Boyana" by Konstantin Iliev with libretto by Mihail Hadzhimishev. The basis of the libretto was the novella "A Feast in Boyana" by Stoyan Zagorchinov and its dramatization "The Hand of Ilia". Staging team: Vasil Kazandzhiev, Mihail Hadzhimishev and Ana Hadzhimisheva. Participants: Yordan Znamenov, Georgi Genov, Assen Selimski, Pavel Gerdzhikov, Dimitar Kozhuharov, Lili Yordanova, Boyka Koseva, Ivan Mihaylov, Ana Aleksieva, Nadya Sharkova.

Konstantin Iliev dedicated the opera to Lyubomir Pipkov.

Since 1967 he has been a professor of conducting at Prof. Pancho Vladigerov National Academy of Music. His students include Vassil Kazandjiev, Yordan Dafov, Aleksey Izmirliev, Milko Kolarov, Plamen Djurov, Veselin Baychev, Andrey Andreev.

He is the author of articles, monographs on Lyubomir Pipkov and Lazar Nikolov, as well as the autobiographical book "Word and Deed".

As Konstantin Iliev himself said, he was born among scientists and "the atmosphere in his family is serious". Family friends are artists, writers, cultural activists. He graduated from the first male high school. He became passionate about literature and painting – he drew a lot, wrote poems and made his first attempts in composing. He received his first lessons in singing from his father. His first violin teachers were Ivan Peev, and then Kamen Popdimitrov, with whom he studied solfege, piano, and music theory. Next, he met Parashkev Hadjiev and had his first lessons in harmony and composition. At the Academy of Music, besides Vladigerov, his teachers were Vladimir Avramov in violin and Marin Goleminov in conducting. He specialised in composition and conducting at the Prague Academy of Music – composition with Alois Haba and conducting with Václav Talich.

Memory for Konstantin Iliev
In the new season 2024-2025, on 6 December the Sofia Opera will perform the oratory "Christmas" for female and male choir, tenor, bass, speaking voice, 2 pianos and percussion composed in 1984 and "Fragments" from 1968.

Konstantin Iliev was born in Sofia on 9 March 1924 and died on 6 March 1988 in Vidin.

Photo Vasilka Balevska