I reckon most people reading this have not even heard of the name Vladigerov. Well, that's okay - prior to acquiring this release, I too knew nothing of this composer.
Based on some brief research I performed, it appears Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978) was a notable composer and pianist within his home country of Bulgaria. Here we have a recording featuring three of Vladigerov's works containing folkloristic and dance themes from Bulgaria.
The program opens with the Bulgarian Rhapsody, one of the composer's best known works (according to the very detailed program notes). The work begins with a broad patriotic proclamation, but soon delves into a series of dance episodes. For me, the comparison to Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody is inescapable here, with Vladigerov's rhapsody seeming a little tepid in comparison. This probably isn't fair to Vladigerov's rhapsody though, as it does contain some bristling moments.
The six-movement 'Traumspielsuite', with its innocuous melodies and prominent parts for the woodwinds and pitched percussion, is full of fairy-tale charm. The confectionary quality of this music may appeal to some, but the music-box melodies may prove tiresome to others.
The seven Bulgarian dances were written in the same style as the above mentioned suite. I never met a nationalistic dance suite I didn't like, but these pieces lack the vitality present within the best suites of this genre. The term 'dance' seems to be loosely applied here, as it is hard to picture anyone dancing to some of the slow tempos of some of these works. Although I found some of the dances to be a bit middling, I'll indicate that I thoroughly enjoyed the final two dance pieces. The first of the two features a delightful dream-like sequence, while the final dance contains a refreshing dash of exoticism interspersed with frolicking fiddling passages that again bring to mind the music of Enescu.
I hate to throw out another unfair comparison; however for those looking to acquire a fantastic set twentieth century nationalistic dances, be sure to check out the incredibly distinctive 36 Greek Dances of Skalkottas (Nikos Skalkottas: 36 Greek Dances; The Return of Ulysses).
Everything here is well played and recorded, but the music on a whole lacks the character and distinctiveness that would garner a five star rating. Even though I didn't leave these dance pieces remembering many of themes I had just heard, I did find myself enjoying the good natured quality of the two suites, especially after repeated listenings. If you are curious, certainly give this sprightly music a shot, but be sure to manage your expectations.
The program notes did mention that Vladigerov composed five piano concertos and two violin concertos that could be interesting - if CPO continues its Vladigerov endeavor.