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With the establishment of Communism in Bulgaria in 1944, Dimitar Nenov found himself in a highly unfavourable position. He had been born into the family of a general of the Tsar’s army. This automatically made him the object of suspicion, something further exacerbated by his educational history and the years he had spent across Europe. After his early piano studies with his mother and the renowned Bulgarian pianist Andrei Stoyanov, Nenov had studied architecture, piano, music theory and composition in Dresden, architecture and piano in Bologna, and finally with Egon Petri (a pupil of Ferruccio Busoni) in Poland. He had toured the Continent extensively as a pianist and spent years in Dresden as music director of a ballet company before returning to Bulgaria—during the period of the last Bulgarian Kingdom—to hold key positions both as musician and architect. And if these suspiciously bourgeois elements in Nenov’s biography were not enough, he did not compose a single note in praise of the Communist Party, a rare feat amongst the influential Bulgarian composers of the time. Consequences soon followed. In the pages of the official Soviet Music magazine, no less a person than Aram Khachaturian criticized Nenov and specifically his Rhapsodic Fantasy for being ‘influenced by Western modernism’ and ‘exhibiting features of Impressionism, cosmopolitanism’. Although Bulgaria was not a member of the Soviet Union, such signals from Moscow were received with a reverence sometimes greater than that accorded them in the Union itself. All recordings of Nenov at Bulgarian National Radio were destroyed on the orders of its then director Nayden Naydenov. Over at Hungarian National Radio just one recording with Nenov as soloist—Liszt’s second piano concerto—survived. The unpublished autograph score of Nenov’s oratorio Christmas was saved from being burnt at Bulgarian National Radio, but only by accident. His personal archive was ‘cleansed’, a number of surviving manuscript scores and personal documents showing signs of deliberate tampering.
After the first, most fierce period of the regime, Nenov saw something of a rehabilitation—he was even awarded the state Dimitrov Prize the year before his death. However, it is clear that years of hostility and humiliation had taken their toll, and when Nenov died in 1953 a pall of obscurity remained over both his music and his personality. To this day his compositions remain unknown outside Bulgaria.
from notes by Martin Georgiev © 2017