MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Slavic roots CHAN20251
Support us financially by purchasing from

Slavic Roots
Pancho VLADIGEROV (1899-1978)
Variations for piano on a Bulgarian Folksong “Majestic Old Mountain” Op.3 (1915-6) [25:02]
Impressions Op.9 (1920) [47:45]
Dobrinka TABAKOVA (b.1980)
Modétudes (1998) [10:36]
Marina Staneva (piano)
rec. July 2021, Potton Hall, Dunwich, UK
CHANDOS CHAN20251 [83:38]

This is an impressive début album from Bulgarian pianist Marina Staneva who was awarded the title Young Steinway Artist in 2020. She first studied at the National Academy of Music in Sofia before moving to London and studying at the Guildhall School of Music with Philip Jenkins, Pamela Lidiard and Alisdair Hogarth. She has chosen music of her homeland for her recital contrasting the music of the marvellous late romantic Pancho Vladigerov with that of the contemporary composer Dobrinka Tabakova.

Though born in Zurich Pancho Vladigerov lived in Bulgaria; first in Shumen and from the age of ten, just after his father died, in Sofia where he studied composition with Dobri Hristov (1875-1941). Further studies in Berlin followed where he was taught piano by Leonid Kreutzer (1884-1953) and Karl Heinrich Barth (1847-1922) and composition by the contrasting talents of Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916) and Paul Juon (1872-1940).

It was while in Berlin that he wrote the first work here, the powerful Variations for piano on a Bulgarian Folksong, a technical tour de force for the pianist and an early example of Vladigerov's devotion to the music of his homeland. The stately, noble theme already stands out by virtue of Vladigerov's slyly chromatic harmonisation and from the outset the variations build on this; the first variation already ranges across the keyboard in terraced surges of octave and chordal movement introducing even more spice into the harmony without ever letting go of the tonal centre. The texture is notably thinner in variation two with the left hand taking the melody decorated with widely spread triplet arpeggio figures; there is no lessening of the drama however and a touch of Rachmaninov can be heard in the next variation where rolling left hand runs accompany the passionate melody. Variation 4 brings an imitation of tolling bells with the widespread thick textured chords of which Vladigerov was clearly fond. There is a change to the major for a lyrical variation that manages to almost disguise its modulation to G major by only briefly touching base with it, instead shifting its chromatic centre as the variation progresses. The triple time march that comes next is also a quasi-canon with left hand imitating the right hand at a distance of two beats. A toccata like variation leads to a grand climax that could signal the end of the work but Vladigerov instead brings us a languid, dreamy variation that grows denser as its accompanying figures sidle around the theme. A light and breezy ninth variation is almost traditionally etude like in its figurations though these take a slightly manic turn before settling down and leading directly to a freely rhapsodic variation, the left hand stern and declamatory while the right hand delights in chordal runs and cheeky arabesques. The final variation is thickly chordal – like the previous variation it is spread over three staves; it opens quietly but there is a long crescendo that runs right through to the immense climax. This is a wonderfully accomplished work for a teenager; there is no sense of feeling one's way, instead diving right into the deep end, throwing your cards on the table and saying just listen to what I can do and backing it up with a work that is solid, technically demanding and hugely inventive in terms of harmonic and texture. It should be better known.

The same can be said of the largest work on the disc, the ten Impressions written just five years later in 1920, the year he graduated from the Staatliche Akademische Hochschule für Musik. It is not a cycle and the individual pieces are not reliant on each other. This is the second recording that has come my way recently; Etsuko Hirose recorded it on an album of works by the composer (Mirare MIR600 review) and I now see that Nadejda Vlaeva has recorded them for Hyperion Records, an album I have not yet heard (Hyperion CDA68327 review review). The titles of the pieces are those seen on many a salon trifle – longing, valse caprice, confession – but these are anything but trifles. As with the variations they are often technically taxing and inhabit a wide world of dramatic moods, often within as short a span as a few bars. Langeur is as slow, sinuous and languid as the title suggests but contained within are great swathes of passion and its shifting harmonies almost defy a tonal centre. Embrace grows as passionate as the first piece – seemingly part and parcel of Vladigerov's textural language – and is based around a four note motif heard at the outset. The lilting, graceful Valse Caprice has elements of Fauré and even Liszt in his late Valses Oubliées. One might be forgiven for thinking you were hearing a Gershwin song in the achingly beautiful Carese while Elégance is another waltz though this one is from the world of Moszkowski and Godowsky with its quicksilver and finger-twisting cascades of notes. Vladigerov almost seems to poke fun at the flashy introductions often written to waltzes of this style with his introduction that finds another bar of arabesques...and another...and another...and maybe one more. Aveu – confession – is another lyrical piece that reminds me of the English romantics and York Bowen while another English composer, Billy Mayerl of all people, sprang into my mind in the central melody of the otherwise sprightly and virtuosic Laughter, a humorous scherzo. Impassioned is a word that I want to write for all these pieces and Vladigerov acknowledges this in the title of the eighth piece passion, its surging melody written into thick, repeated chordal textures. The first part of Surprise is voluptuous, inhabiting the misty, smoky world of a late Debussy Prelude, its melodies floating over syncopated chord accompaniments. It does not remain veiled however and its peaks and the final climax are as grandiloquent as anything else in this collection. The final piece is an élégie that opens with a melody over a flowing left hand accompaniment comprising three separate harmonies and in some ways is one of the more straightforward pieces here as its development tends to stay around this melody and harmonic sequence rather than flying away on tides of chromatic harmony. It brings this marvellous set to a wonderfully calm conclusion.

In stark contrast to all these grand and dense textures are the seven Modétudes by Dobrinka Tabakova, a British/Bulgarian composer who trained in Vienna and London. Each is based around a different tonal centre, the first being Dorian, the second Lydian and so on. Some of the pieces are in 5/8 and 7/8, time signatures characteristic of Bulgarian folk music and it this rhythmical as well as melodic folk element that ties in to the strong national character so important to Vladigerov. They are all brief and very engaging pieces; the first grows from a simple motif in 7/8 with melodic chords growing around it while the second has a lovely flowing melody over an almost waltz like foundation. A teasing cross between a march and a music box is next and the fourth, in the locrian mode, is the most enigmatic with its plodding beat and oddly inflected melody. Two faster pieces the fleeting fifth, phrygian, a hushed toccata and the playful limping seventh, mixolydian, with its abrupt changes of key frame the folksong-like sixth that resolutely keeps returning, phrase after phrase, to its root.

This is a very fine recital. Maria Staneva is to be congratulated on bringing these pieces to vivid life, with careful crafted rubato, splendid technique and a tone that rings through from the quietest sections to the many, many thick-textured fortissimo passages. She holds her own alongside Hirose in the Impressions; I am glad to have both versions and I am also glad to make the acquaintance of Vladigerov's early variations. I look forward to what other treasures Staneva will find after this entertaining début recital.

Rob Challinor

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount