“Aishinka” – Two Bulgarian Female Choirs A Cappella
Bulgarian composer IVAN SPASSOV takes the distinctive Bulgarian choral sound, made famous by the Grammy-winning musical phenomenon known as Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, to an entirely new level of sophistication.
Labor Records is proud to reintroduce Aishinka, the seminal recording by IVAN SPASSOV, one of Bulgaria’s most prominent composers, who at the time set his sights on choral singing, his country’s best-known musical export.
Featuring two choruses, the Women’s Folk Choir and the classically trained Women’s Chamber Choir (both of the Plovdiv Academy), the recording balances two strikingly different musical worlds and traditions.
The musical phenomenon known as Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, with its sold-out performances and Grammy-winning recording on the British pop charts, made Bulgarian women choristers unlikely musical stars. Their singular sound and emotional richness won avid fans among such diverse arbiters of artistic quality as George Harrison, David Byrne, Bobby McFerrin and the Kronos Quartet.
That Bulgarian sound, with its straight-toned power, tucked traditional folk roots into carefully notated contemporary arrangements. The result was ancient yet modern, simple yet sophisticated. The classical music critic of the Boston Globe cited the “beauty snd individuality of the sound,” and “the connections of that music to universal feelings and experiences,” while the pop critic of the Los Angeles Weekly called it “the hippest show on earth.”
Having introduced Western contemporary compositional styles to his country in his orchestral and chamber works, Spassov takes that distinctive choral sound to an entirely new level of sophistication. The ancient rhythmic complexity and polyphonic richness meet tone clusters, chance elements and a full range of 20th Century sonorities. From their very different perspectives, the two choruses find the common ground between folkloric freedom and Western classical expression.
REVIEW / Amazon.com
Better than “Le Mystere”
After “Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares” made a Bulgarian a cappella woman's choir an international favorite "sound" about fifteen years ago, it has been hard to sift through all of the sequels and imitations. Luckily, this CD is neither. "Aishinka" features two female choirs, one a folk choir and the other a classical choir, performing original songs by Ivan Spassov, one of Bulgaria's most important composers of the 2nd half of the 20th century. The sound is recognizably Bulgarian and the music is very close in spirit and content to the arranged Bulgarian folk music of the "Le Mystere" collections. But these are songs found on no other CD, and the choirs both worked closely with the composer at the Plovdiv Academy to make this definitive CD of his most hauntingly beautiful music.
--Dean Georgiev (Berlin) / Amazon.com
***** (highest rating)
REVIEW / Miami New Times
National Public Radio named Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (Nonesuch) the best CD of the 1980’s, and once you’ve heard it, you know why: the pungent, nasal tones of the women’s chorus cut deep and permanent scratches into your mind’s ear, and the women’s fearless and dead-accurate negotiation of impossible, non-traditional harmonies would leave even classical choirs scratching their heads in wonder.
“Aishinka” is cut from the same rough cloth, but, if anything, it makes an even deeper impression. Not strictly authentic, these songs were composed by Spassov in the style of different varieties of Bulgarian folk music. (Director/composer/arranger Philip Koutev did the same on the Nonesuch disc.) Two women’s choirs from the Plovdiv Academy are featured: the Women’s Folk Choir and the smoother-toned, more classical Female Chamber Choir. Spassov asks them to do things most Western composers would never dream of, from note clusters to canine yips, and they comply with home-style strictness. At once prehistoric and daringly modern, this CD is the musical equivalent of bondage and discipline.
– Ramond Tuttle / Miami New Times
REVIEW / The Riverfront Times
“…In all respects – performance, arrangements, recording – this music is the equal of the
Mystère sessions. And what otherworldly music it is: droning, piercing yet ethereal, with unusual meters and beautiful (but not conventionally pretty) harmony. For this listener, no other music this side of Bach and Mozart has such power to transport.”
– Tom McDermott / The Riverfront Times
Born in 1934, the Bulgarian composer Ivan Spassov studied at the Sofia Musical Academy and with members of the Polish musical avant-garde in Warsaw. Returning to Bulgaria in 1962, he became music director of the orchestras of Plovdiv and Pazardjik, and professor and rector of the Musical Academy of Plovdiv. His compositions, though largely rooted in the Bulgarian folk tradition, developed into a distinctly personal idiom. Having introduced most of the major techniques of Western contemporary music to Bulgaria, including serialism, chance, graphic notation, and free rhythm coordination, Spassov carried the rich and ancient folk traditions of his country into the music of our times. He died in 1996.