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Bulgarian Soul - Kasarova - Kyurkchiyski
Dilmano, Dilbero
Kalimanku, Denku
Day mi, Bozhe, krila lebedovi (Give me, oh God, the wings of a swan)
Zablyalo mi e agantse (A little lamb was bleating)
Polegnala e Tudora * (Fair Tudora is dozing)
Rofinka bolna lezhi (Rufinka lies ill)
Slantse ogreyalo (The sun is shining)
Se ma yad, mamo (I'm so angry, mother)
Malkata tsvetarka ╣ (The flowergirl)
Mama Rada dumashe (Mama was telling Rada)
Proshetna se Momchilitsa (Momchil's young wife)
Ya kazhi mi, oblache le byalo (Tell me, little white cloud)
(All traditional songs, arranged Kyurkchiyski, except * (Variations on a traditional song, composed by Kyurkchiyski) and ╣ (words by Smirnenski, music by Kyurkchiyski).)
Vesselina Kasarova, mezzo-soprano
Ermila Schweizer-Sekulinova, piano
Cosmic Voices from Bulgaria (Vania Moneva, chorus master)
"Sofia Soloists" Chamber Orchestra
Tzanko Dimitrov Delibozov, conductor
Recorded at the Bulgaria Concert Hall, Sofia, July 5th-9th 2002.
BMG-RCA Red Seal 74321936582 [59.43]


In 1986, the visionary but, until then, rather stereotyped independent label 4AD licensed the release of the original Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares from ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier's catalogue of extensive "field" recordings and set in train a whole plethora of recordings celebrating the Bulgarian a capella choral tradition. As an indication of how far this music has reached out from its specific local origins, a recent Desert Island Discs saw South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela set it alongside Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis in his personal pantheon. The traditional element here is provided by Cosmic Voices, an ensemble to stand, on this evidence, with the best that has gone before. What is new, in this obvious labour of love for Bulgarian mezzo Kasarova, is the addition, to a greater, lesser or, in a few cases, almost non-existent extent of art/operatic vocals and orchestral arrangements/accompaniments.

As an introduction to the uninitiated, I can only fault it in the sense that it provides a more urbane, cosmopolitan, and therefore slightly artificial take on what, in essence, is a pure folk tradition, albeit one of almost incomparable quality and beauty. In relation to the aforementioned Cellier recordings and subsequent similar ones, I have to conclude that in the main, as is often the case (Constant Lambert's famous words, although I only selectively agree with them, about embellishment of folk music, spring to mind!), here more most definitely means less. As a result the most successful tracks, in other words the ones that retain the most of the purity and rawness/naturalness of the traditional choral sound are the most moving, affecting and effective. Polegnala e Tudora is a song that appears on both the groundbreaking 4AD disc and this one (there is not that much actual overlap otherwise) and unfortunately also, to these ears, represents the low point of this issue. As anyone who has read my previous reviews for this site will know, I am absolutely not someone who is against the idea of "crossover" per se, in fact I enjoy (and have reviewed) many items of this nature. However, arranger Kyurkchiyski, in his only "original" composition manages to turn a lovely piece into some sort of artsong cum impressionist/improv workout. I don't, however, want to be seen to be churlish about this important disc - the packaging, notes and, especially, the images (artefacts/reminders of past cultures in the region) included are superb and, in fact, may actually make the listening an anti-climax (although only if you are familiar with the genre already, I would suspect). The references to the Thracian Orphic tradition are welcome and entirely appropriate and, despite the reservations of an initiate/connoisseur(?) outlined above, I can only see a purchaser of this recording being enlightened and stimulated by it. A conduit, like the mythic River Styx, between two worlds, which are, I like to think being brought closer together.

Neil Horner

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