Composer in a Racial No Man's Land is a unique interdisciplinary project. Not only does it blur the distinction between a piano recital and an academic lecture, but also addresses topics as diverse as 20th-century piano music, and German, Jewish, and Bulgarian history and politics. It focuses on the life and music of Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978) a composer of both Bulgarian and Jewish heritage who gained considerable fame both in Weimar Germany, and in his native Bulgaria.

Vladigerov was considered a child prodigy in a country where the classical music tradition was in its infancy and thus was sent to study in Berlin on a State scholarship. A brilliant student and young musician, his works received a boost of popularity after composing the music for twelve theatre plays directed by Max Reinhardt, the most celebrated theatre director in Austria and Germany at the time.

After more than twenty years abroad Vladigerov returned to Bulgaria, but his artistic relations with Germany soon suffered a serious blow. In this part of the lecture Terziev explores the conflicting and complex policy of Nazi Germany and its reluctant ally Bulgaria towards people of mixed origin like Vladigerov, and the Nazis' surprising legal definition of “Jewishness.” Outlined are also some of the mechanisms of a totalitarian state to create opportunities for extremists to supersede governmental policy, while creating a facade of the state's non-involvement. A case in point is Vladigerov's inclusion in the notorious Dictionary of Jews in Music, without his music being explicitly banned.

Interestingly, Vladigerov's music was minimally affected by the politics of the day. Having a distinct character and an immediate emotional impact, it was admired by personalities as diverse as Richard Strauss and Dmitri Shostakovich. It has been occasionally performed by artists like David Oistrakh, Emil Gilels, Alexis Weissenberg, and Marc-André Hamelin but only a small part of his enormous body of works is available on record. Terziev will perform twelve relatively short pieces by Vladigerov written between 1925 and 1965 and will discuss their influences and possible source of inspiration –  Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Bulgarian Folk, Bartok, and others.

The lecture-recital provides a great opportunity both to those interested in discovering beautiful music by lesser-known composers and to those interested in the 20th-century European history.


Sunday, April 30th, at 7:00 pm at
Brentwood Presbyterian Church

1600 Delta Ave, Burnaby BC
Entry $20 general, $12 students, including a free CD
Tickets at the door