|Petko STAYNOV, the prominent composer and musical
figure, enriched the Bulgarian musical culture and contributed considerably
to its development. A composer of great creative talent, of wide
musical and general culture, possessing a keen sense for the topical
ideas of modern time, he dedicated his entire life and all his abilities
to Bulgarian music and musical culture, and to the Bulgarian Academy
Born on December 1, 1896, in Kazanluk, at the age of 6 he injured
one of his eyes; as a result, the other eye was also infected. At
11 he lost his sight completely. Staynov graduated from the Institute
for the Blind in Sofia (1915), where his talent for music showed
for the first time. Later he studied music with Andrei Stoyanov
and made his initial attempts at composing.
In 1920 he left for Germany for a year of studies at the Private
Musical Lyceum in Braunschweig. In 1923 he graduated from the Dresden
Musical Conservatory, majoring in composition under Alexander Wolf
and in piano under Ernst Munch. Having returned to Kazanluk in 1925,
he created his first major work: the Thracian Dances symphonic suite
in three movements. He later added an additional movement to the
suite, Mechkarsko (The Bear Warder's Dance, 1926).
In 1927 he moved to Sofia and began teaching piano at the Institute
for the Blind.
Petko Staynov worked mainly in the genres of symphonic and choral
music. Being equally talented in both, he generalised some trends
in Bulgarian musical creativity and opened new vistas to its development.
He adapted the European musical tradition to the Bulgarian way of
thinking, to the abilities of both performers and listeners, to
the natural process of advancement of the national music. From European
music Staynov adopted some expressive devices and forms, the resources
of the symphony orchestra, the construction of a well-engineered
structure. What characterises him as a markedly Bulgarian musical
creative artist is the introduction of a Bulgarian musical style
of his own. This style was expressed to its fullest in the completely
independent melody (without direct quoting of folk music) and in
the harmonic language of his work. The idea of his compositions
is clarified through the lyrics of his choral songs and ballads
and through the programmatic titles of most of his symphonic works.
Staynov's symphonic output includes the suites Thracian Dances (1925,
1926) and A Fairy Tale (1930), the symphonic poems A Legend (1927)
and Thrace (1937), Symphonic Scherzo (1930), the concert overtures
Balkan and Youth Overture (1936 and 1953), two symphonies (1945
and 1949). They reveal the beauty of his native land, the fervour
of folk dances, and evoke fairy-tale images. His two symphonies
are marked by deeply felt philosophic generalisations.
Staynov's symphonic works breathe powerful philosophic suggestions,
while some of them, like, for example, Thracian Dances and Thrace,
have become symbolic for Bulgarian music.
Petko Staynov's choral songs reveal features of the Bulgarian people's
character (A Fir Tree Is Bending; A Bright Sun Has Risen; Hey, Ivan;
Play a Tune, Dimo; Oh, That Man Dimo; Hey, Dimo). Till the early
1930s, he followed the traditions of choral art laid by the first
composers in the genre, introducing at the same time elements of
his own style.
With his choral ballads Staynov laid the foundation of a whole new
field in Bulgarian music. In them he recreated mainly dramatic events
from Bulgaria's older and new history and thus achieved a national
ballad sound (e.g. The Secret of Struma River, 1931; Urvich for
mixed choir on lyrics by N. Rakitin, 1933; Horsemen, 1932; One Hundred
and Twenty Men for male choir on lyrics by P.P. Slaveykov, 1935;
A Maiden's Lament for mixed choir on lyrics by T. Kunev. 1936; Comrade
Anton for mixed choir on lyrics by I. Radoev, 1954; Godfather German
for mixed choir on lyrics by D. Panteleev, 1955). For his ballads,
the composer employed elements from the national intonation fund,
but the strictly folk sounding would have impeded his creative fervour
in achieving effective dramatic narration. Staynov's ballads pose
technical difficulties to their performers and have remained to
the present day a touchstone for the performing mastery of Bulgarian
His overall work in both the symphonic and the choral genres contributed
to some neglected stages in the development of Bulgarian music and
thus further established his status as an outstanding figure in
Bulgarian musical culture.
Petko Staynov's activity as a musical and public figure is also
worth noting. He held the chair of the Union of Folk Choirs in Bulgaria
(the Bulgarian Singing Union) and of the Contemporary Music Association
of Bulgarian Composers (1933-44), and served as Director of the
National Opera (1941-44). In 1941 he was elected Regular Member
(Academician) of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and in 1948 he
became Director of the newly founded Institute for Music with Museum
(later Institute of Musicology) with the Academy; held this position
to the end of his days. He was also member of the Presidium of the
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Academician-Secretary of the Department
of Arts and Culture at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences was among
the other positions he held. Under his wise and competent direction,
these institutions, unions, associations and other organizations
reached the highest levels of their achievements.
Petko Staynov's ideas about the social functions of music, about
the significance of folk music for the creativity of Bulgarian composers,
about the creation of a Bulgarian musical style, choral singing,
choirs, school musical education, composers and their works, performers
and events in the country's musical life were laid down in numerous
Most of them were published in the collection Petko Staynov: On
Bulgarian Musical Culture, 1967.
He held numerous high state awards.
Petko Staynov died on June 26, 1977.