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Sofia Philharmonic Director Maestro Nayden Todorov: Quality Instruments Alone Do Not Make the Music

He is among the participants in the 63rd March Music Days International Festival “March Music Days”, held in the city on the Danube until March 31, 2024.

According to Todorov, composers used to enable improvisation in the cadenza of works.

“It is no coincidence that every concert used to have its own cadenza. Today, cadenzas are written, and people perform written cadenzas – not always, but in most cases. And that’s bad. At the same time, it’s very good for me as a conductor because I know in advance what they’re going to play and there are no surprises. But in terms of the music itself, it’s bad because everything turns into pre-calculations – when, where, what will be done, how it will turn out and what the end result will be. And the idea, even of the classical composers, was to have a moment where you give the performer the opportunity to improvise, to show their skill at this moment in their life, in this state and in this mood,” the interviewee said.

He noted that improvisation is almost absent in classical music today.

“Unfortunately, it is there in jazz. And why I say unfortunately – because jazz and classical music have much fewer points of contact than I would like. There are very few composers like Gershwin and, to some extent, Bernstein who manage to bring these two styles together. We sometimes joke that if a classical piece contains too many extraneous tones, then it’s jazz. And jazz actually gives a freedom that is not there in classical music today,” the Maestro observed.

According to him, life experience has a much greater influence on the performance of musical works than we think.

“In my youth, I heard for the first time that life experience is very important for a conductor and great conductors are only perceived as such when they reach a certain age. I was outraged by this kind of statement, but today I’ve changed my mind. The reason is that I really see how differently I perceived the same works when I was 20 years old, when I was 30, 40 and now,” Todorov said.

He pointed out that the better the musical instrument, the easier it is to make beautiful music with it.

“At the same time, I want to give another example right away so that people understand that a quality instrument in itself does not make the music. There is a very famous case of the 1990s with a legendary bassoonist of the St Petersburg Philharmonic. He died and his instrument was auctioned off. I remember that the person who won the auction paid a colossal price. And it turned out that this instrument was absolute rubbish and nothing could be played with it. The bassoonist was just so good that he managed to make spectacular music with this trash,” the Maestro recalled.

He commented that it is a complicated question about what a festival needs to be successful, prestigious and maintain a high level.

“The objectives of the festival are very important. On the one hand, it should represent the best of music. On the other hand, the works should be performed by the best musicians. Unfortunately, this boils down to one word: money.”

According to him, musical life is present in a city all the time, and a festival is distinguished from the normal season by the concentration of quality in one place.

“The point of the festival is for people in this city to see something they don’t normally see. I think over the years March Music Days has been a very nice example of quality. Every year in March, people from all over the country come to Ruse to see and hear artists from Bulgaria and the world who come together for a short period of time in one place to perform interesting music,” the Director of the Sofia Philharmonic told BTA.