Vasil Kazandzhiev is an eminent Bulgarian composer, conductor and pedagogue. He was born on 10 September 1934 in Ruse. His first teachers in composition and conducting were Konsrtantin Iliev and Dobrin Petkov. In 1952, he graduated from the secondary school, and in 1957 – from the Bulgarian State Conservatory. He studied composition in the class of prof. Pancho Vladigerov and conducting by prof. Vladi Simeonov. Still as a student at the Academy, he conquered the laureate title for his “Sinfonietta” for big orchestra at the Sixth International Youth Festival in Moscow (1957 – President of the jury Dmitri Shostakovich). He started his
career as conductor at the Sofia Opera (1957-64). In 1962, he founded the Sofia Soloists chamber ensemble and has been working as its Chief conductor till 1978. Under Kazandzhiev’s management the cast won recognition as one of the leading Bulgarian orchestra and realized many tours in Bulgaria and abroad. Between 1979 and 1993, Kazandzhiev was holding the post Chief conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio. He was dealing actively with recordings, as well as with teaching at the Conservatory. Since 1985 he has been Professor in operatic and symphonic conducting. On 12.01.2009 he was chosen as Academician in direction “Creator of art”.
He is author of many musical compositions: five symphonies and other works for symphony orchestra, instrumental concerts, film and theatre music, chorus and chamber works. Kazandzhiev succeeded to form his own, original style, imposing himself as one of the modern European classics. In the beginning of the XXI century he has been working actively as composer, presenting with great success his symphonic and chamber music at different festivals or concert forums in Bulgaria and abroad. He is also author of music for films like: “Buy Yourself Hope”, “The Boyana Master”, “The Four from the Carriage”, “Farewell, Friends”, “Shibil”, “Knight Without Armour”, “The She-wolf”, “There’s no Death”, “Tobacco” and others.
- Acad. Kazandzhiev, did you agree easily after your music and after Dimitar Nenov’s music to be staged the ballet “Bulgarian toccata” at the Sofia Opera?
- I agreed easily, because it was interesting to me what could be done of my music and how it could incarnate itself in the art of movement. Three of my works – two of which were written in my student years, are in the base of the music of the ballet “Bulgarian toccata”: “Divertimento”, “Toccata for piano” and “Scenes from Bulgaria”.
In general ballet has always been interesting to me as experience. When I was conductor of the Sofia Opera I had the chance to conduct 4 ballets: “Sleeping Beauty” by Tchaikovsky, “The Three-Cornered Hat” by Manuel de Falla, “The Wooden Prince” by Bartók and “Orpheus and the Rhodopes” by Tsvetan Tsvetanov. And the first performance, which I conducted was “Sleeping Beauty”. For the conductor of any ballet soever it is very important to work in synchronicity with the choreographer. Oft the tempi, which requires the conductor, don’t correspond to the choreographer’s tempi, and everybody suffers from that, most of all the artists of the ballet.
For me the ballet is a high art. Besides its exceptional beauty, elegance and dramatic effect, which come into expression with the technique of the movements – moreover it doesn’t have other possibilities like the word, speechless like in the mute films ballet succeeds to express the whole complexity and philosophy of life.
- Do you know the choreographer Mila Iskrenova and what do you expect from her?
- With Mila Iskrenova we know each other for a long time. She has a great talent, she masters the technique of ballet and possesses vast knowledge. I believe, that her production of “Bulgarian toccata” will conquer the spectators and will really give them aesthetical delight. And this is also the purpose of real art.
- You have worked seven years in our first opera theatre. Which artists do you remember from your time at the Opera?
- I will mention the names of Dimitar Uzunov, Katya Georgieva, Lilyana Bareva, Georgi Genov, Vera Kirova, Krasimira Koldamova. A very talented ballet dancer was Atanas Samev, but after that I heard nothing about him...
- Is it possible to explain music concretely?
- The most difficult and unexplainable question is what the composer wants to say with his music. For example this “Divertimento”, which will be performed in the spectacle, corresponds to its genre – music for amusement. In it I have used the technique of collage and inside I have quoted themes from popular compositions like the small piece “The wild rider” from Schumann’s “Album for the Young”, one quote from “Divertimento” by Pancho Vladigerov and others. In the slow part is felt Gershwin’s divertimento, and the end finishes with a quote from Sonata for solo violin by Bach. With this work I wanted to describe the influences through which could pass the young composer in his development. For me Bach is the beginning and the end of everything in music – the alpha and the omega.
- Are you going to attend the rehearsals of Bulgarian toccata?
- Yes, with pleasure, but I won‘t interfere in the work of the ballet.
- What is your impression today of the young composers?
- Today my young colleagues have the full freedom to create what they want and the way they want it. The difficult, as always, is to achieve a clear logical thought, orderly form of the composition, and this requires a deep knowledge of the classic and responsibility.
- Does modern music devaluate itself?
- Yes, devaluation of modern music exists and this process has started long time ago. I shall give you an example. In 1953 John Cage wrote a composition for piano called “4`33” (“4 minutes and 33 seconds”). The pianist went in, he bowed and took off his watch and put it on the piano. After that he put it again on his hand, he bowed and he went out. This was his appearance. With it Cage wanted to say: “In silence is the truth”. Then I watched him at the Warsaw Autumn Concerts. This time Cage conducted 3 short ballets. Sound came from no instrument. After that there was a concert for piano. No key was touched at it. He drank slowly and for long soda, so that the audience could hear how the sips of water enter into his gullet, and then slowly he belched. In the end, after I went out of the hall, a colleague of mine cried out enthusiastically: “А, а... this is a real, absolute break off with tradition! Avant-gardist!” And I objected to him with the words: “This is devaluation of music”. And this process continues already for 60 years!
- Is this process present everywhere?
- I have been in many countries in the world and I had the possibility to see how youth amuses itself there. It is true, young people are enjoying themselves on their own, but after that I have seen all these people at the age of 16, 17 and 18, with jeans and sneakers in Notre Dame. They were listening with attention, with rapture all 3 hours long the lecture and the concert of one organist. In our country this second moment is missing.
- Why do the young people in Bulgaria stay aside from classical music, from classical art?
- Everything is reduced to education. In our country, in Bulgaria there are long periods of time, in which everything gets profaned, and art turned into making of money – various false authors of the so called “modern” music, outrageous texts and performances in different dens. How can we today make these Bulgarian young people – with grubby jeans, with ear-rings on the years and with grown dull looks enter the church and listen to the organ or an opera – in Bulgaria Hall, or at the Sofia Opera – we cannot do it. When the education is reduced to zero, we cannot expect from these people to make miracles and cross the threshold of a cultural institution. And in order not to lose the next generations, in the schools must be introduced again education in music. Today it is missing there.
- Please, tell us, who was the first one who introduced you into the world of music?
- I am from Ruse. My father – Ivan Kazandzhiev was engineer. He created at that time the famous factory for heavy machinery construction “Georgi Dimitrov”. He took us regularly with my mother to opera and ballet spectacles, to concerts. My mother was playing five instruments and adored music. She even had contribution in composition and was conducting a chorus. Perhaps I have inherited from my both parents my love to the art of music. At the age of 5-6, I was playing the guitar, and later I started composing. At the age of 9, I sat behind the piano and was composing again. Ruse is a town with old musical traditions, with many cultural people, with intellectuals, who worship music. Let‘s not forget that the March Musical Days International Festival was founded in 1961 in Ruse. It is the festival with modern program strategy and high social rating. On its stage guests were eminent artists and casts, among which D. Shostakovich, S. Richter, K. Masur, G. Rozhdestvensky, V. Neumann, I. Oistrach, Sir N. Mariner, R. Bachmet, the Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lithuania Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Youth Orchestra, Bruckner Orchestra – Linz and many others.
Besides, my great chance in life were two famous musicians – Konstantin Iliev and Dobrin Petkov. Iliev arrived to work at the Ruse Opera, when I was 13-year old. After one year to work in Ruse came also Dobrin Petkov. The tandem Konstantin – Dobrin was of great significance for the flourishing of Ruse as musical town and especially important for me as stimulus in my musical education and development.
- You are the founder of “Sofia Soloists”. How do you directed yourself to this chamber formation?
- I founded this formation in 1962. I worked for and in it till 1978. After me conductors of the soloists were Emil Tabakov and Plamen Dzhurov. Since its foundation the ensemble invariably maintains its name of an elite formation with exceptionally rich repertoire of works, created in a period of about 400 years. Not a small part of it are works by Bulgarian composers.
- On what are you working at the moment?
- The work of a composer is continuously in his head and has no end, as long as he is alive. The more exact would be to say about what I am excited at the moment?
I think about how could be saved the young generation from the pseudo culture, which is spreading in our country, from the reluctance of the young people to enter the opera and the concert halls, to become more familiar with true art. This is my pain. Today in our Conservatory enrol people mainly for instruments like the guitar, synthesizers, kavals and bagpipe, because this is what is sought at the market. In short, there are no candidates for the classical music instruments. And I don‘t know what kind of messenger of God could save us?