Lyubomir Pipkov - Symphony No. 4 / Tsenov Chamber Ensemble

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Lyubomir Pipkov - Symphony No. 4, Op. 74 for String Orchestra (1970)

Guerguan Tsenov, music director
Lincoln Center, New York, May 29, 2015

Lyubomir Pipkov (1904-1974) was one of the most important representatives of the second generation of Bulgarian composers, along with composers such as Dimitar Nenov, Pancho Vladigerov and Petko Staynov. In the early 1920s (still as a student at the Sofia State Music Academy) Pipkov made his début with chamber pieces in the style of Chopin, Schumann, Debussy and Ravel, while in the First String Quartet (1928), having mastered the principles and forms of the European tradition, he moved to embrace Bulgarian folk music. Later he continued his musical training at École Normale in Paris (1926-32), studying composition with Paul Dukas, piano with Yvonne Léfébure, and music history with Nadia Boulanger. During these Paris years he took on board new genres while endorsing a typically Bulgarian epic sense of drama, an example being Jana's Nine Brothers (Янините девет братя,1932), a work that was in effect the first Bulgarian classical opera. His vocal-orchestral Wedding (Сватба,1935), marks the beginning of the cantata in Bulgarian music, while the equally innovative First Symphony (1940) served to summarize the achievements of his first period.

The second phase in his output spans the 1940s and the first half of the 50s. His epic dramatic style is developed and perfected, particularly in the opera Momchil (Момчил,1943), and in Symphony no.2 (1955) this gives rise to his most accomplished orchestral writing yet. At this juncture in his career Pipkov extended his teaching activities and assumed a higher public profile, and as an adjudicator and representative of the Union of Bulgarian Composers he travelled extensively throughout Europe.

In addition to their expressiveness and strong sense of drama, the works from the mid-1950s onwards convey the spirit of optimism. This is particularly true of Oratorio for our Time (Оратория на нашето време,1959) and Muted Songs (Приглушени песни,1972). The Fourth Symphony (1970) is highly individual, while the piano piece Spring Caprices (Пролетни приумици,1972) revisits compositional ideas from earlier works.

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