Dimitar Nenov (1901-1953): Etudes 1&2; Toccata; Miniatures; Cinema Suite / Viktor Valkov, piano


The music on this Grand Piano CD traverses twenty-three years from the career of Bulgarian composer Dimitar Nenov (1902-1953), a period that saw enormous changes to his compositional style. This of itself is not unusual; the fascinating thing is that he progressed backwards, as it were. Taking us on a roughly chronological journey through this music is pianist Viktor Valkov, a Bulgarian pianist who delivers thoroughly convincing performances.

Nenov's music can be divided into three periods, each roughly corresponding to the decades beginning 1920, 1930 and 1940. His earliest pieces are his most dissonant, often marked by close harmonies, driving rhythms and a massive dynamic range. His middle period is a transitional one. Here his music became quite romantic, in many regards evocative of Chopin, Brahms and Rachmaninov, but retaining his own unique harmonic and expressive essence. Nenov's third period is marked by clarity and simplicity; it produced his most harmonically tonal and alluring music.

The program opens with Theme and Variations in F sharp major (1932) from his middle period. Nenov believed that harmony must be borne of the melody, and this piece is the best illustration of that principle. You can hear in each variation the presence of the theme being worked harmonically, rather than through variations in the melody as is the norm. It's a fascinating piece. After this we hear his final composition for piano, the sparsely beautiful Fairytale and Dance (1947) which completed the composers journey to a style characterized by "an almost deliberate lack of virtuosity for its own sake" (Viktor Valkov). From here, the program moves predominately backwards in time, concluding with the earliest work on the album, Nenov's imposing Cinema Suite (1924-25), a section of which you can hear in the album sample provided in the sidebar. In the video below, you can listen to Miniatures (1945) from towards the end of Nenov's career (not performed by Mr. Valkov).

So much of this music is originally and profoundly beautiful. As different as these works are from one another, the one thing that always held me fascinated were Nenov's harmonies, in many places, like nothing I've ever heard before.