David Nice
BBC Music Magazine
August 2021

Not every European country’s leading composer is well known here in the UK. You’d be forgiven for not knowing Bulgaria’s Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978), who has special pleading here from compatriot Nadejda Vlaeva. There’s no point in tackling these dense, intricate works at all if you’re not a virtuoso in the profoundest sense, as Vlaeva is and Vladigerov clearly was. The Lisztian tradition is floridly served in these 16 pieces, though pianists searching for numbers to include in concert programmes would be more selective.

Of the Exotic Preludes, their flavour derived from the ‘oriental’ interval of the augmented second, ‘Exotic Dance’ is the apogee of luminous complexity, perfectly contrasted with the tolling (post-Ravel ‘Gallows’?) of ‘Elegy’. The ten Impressions depend more upon the exoticism of the whole-tone scale, and a little goes a long way here; I’d plump for the bizarreries of ‘Laughter’ followed by the big statement of ‘Passion’ and maybe the hypnotic repetitions of ‘Resignation’. All these works date from the 1920s, when Vladigerov completed his training in Germany, and there are so many influences in music that doesn’t really assert an individual identity; the one missed in the notes is Scriabin, and when Vladigerov drops his harmonic roving for clear tonality, you might even think of Gershwin (who of course studied with Ravel). I’m glad to have heard the effortless transcendental pianism of Vlaeva, though, and want to hear more from her.