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.
Dimitar Nenov was a leading figure of early 20th-century Bulgarian classical music. The entire range of his solo piano works is covered on this recording, from the austere and dissonant Cinema Suite to the romantic Etudes and exquisite Theme and Variations in F sharp major. The highly charged Toccata is Nenov’s most popular work, while Fairy Tale and Dance, his last work for piano, is the most distilled example of his art.
Dimitar Nenov, composer
Dimitar Nenov (1901-1953) was among the founding members of the Contemporary Music Society (1933) and was his first secretary and cashier. He was among the leading figures of the intellectual elite of Bulgaria, emblematic not only to the Bulgarian music, but also to the Bulgarian culture as a whole due to his varied interests and his music and social activity.
Viktor Valkov, piano
Viktor Valkov, highly acclaimed by the critics as “lion of the keyboard” and “sensational”, has conquered numerous prizes at international piano competitions, including First prize at “Albert Roussel” 2006, Bulgaria; First prize at “Koeller Osbahr” 2005, Germany, and Second prize at “Tunbridge Wells” 2004, England.