Album of the day: "Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vol. 1&2"

Album of the day: “Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vol. 1&2”

Various Artists
Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vol. 1&2 (2 Cd Nonesuch 97165/979210-2)

The transcendent beauty of this music proved to be a success of global proportions when these records appeared in stores in 1987. Recorded in Bulgaria by musicologist Marcel Cellier, the recordings feature the voices of the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Choir conducted by Philip Koutev and Krassimir Kyurkchiyski, who also made transcriptions of the popular songs and melodies present here, without however making them academic and preserving their entire character, often rich in harsh harmonic dissonances and very complicated interweavings of rhythm.

The success of the album (over one million copies sold, an unimaginable figure for a folk music album) is mainly due to the skill of the singers, who thanks to a particular emission without vibrato and often modified with nasalisations and alternation between “chest” singing » and «head», they manage to create a large number of different colors.

Not all the songs use only voices, sometimes instrumental insertions always of great discretion appear (with strings and percussion), which in any case do not distract attention from the skill with which the songs intertwine, distributing wonders of executive perfection by alternating asymmetrical rhythms and overwhelming with moving expressions of absolute melody (an example for all is the song “Kalimankou Denkou”, which must be counted without hesitation among the most beautiful melodies ever created). The influences of Central Asia and Ottoman culture present in all these songs (which despite being modern reconstructions seem to make the voices of peoples very distant in time resonate) nimbly overcome the easy barrier of cheap tourist exoticism, making themselves available for listening as evidence of a fruitful culture endowed with surprising expressive possibilities.

It’s a shame that the translations of the lyrics are not present on the CD; from the liner notes (signed by composer Ingram Marshall)
it can be deduced that, as expected, most of the songs deal with love and death, immutable themes present in every popular (and otherwise) tradition since the dawn of time. Born from peasant culture, these songs contain within them a large quantity of different emotions, capable of being appreciated even by those (like myself) who do not know the Bulgarian language.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.