Ivan Spassov

composer, conductor, pedagogue

Иван Спасов

17.01.1934 – 22.12.1996Sofia – Bulgaria

Ivan Spassov graduated from the State Academy of Music in 1957 majoring in Composition under Professor Pancho Vladigerov and Choral Conducting under Professor Georgi Dimitrov. He specialised in composition with Kazimierz Sikorski and Stanislaw Wislocki at the Warsaw Conservatoire (1960-62). At his graduation concert Spassov conducted the Warsaw Philharmonic premiering his First symphony. Upon his return he was appointed symphony conductor. He founded the Plovdiv Chamber Orchestra and the Plovdiv Musical Youth Society. This gave him the opportunity to premiere works by Penderecki and other modern authors. In 1967 he took part in the summer courses for new music in Darmstadt, where in 1968 the Orchestra of Radio Frankfurt conducted by Gilen performed his Episodes for Four Timbral Groups. From 1970 to 1991 he was Main Artistic Director of the Pazardzhik Symphony Orchestra, with which he toured and recorded in Bulgaria and abroad. Since 1989 to the end of his life he served as professor and rector of the Academy of Music and Dance Art. He lectured in the USA (1982, 1989, 1990). In 1989 he conducted the Symphony Orchestra of Garden Grove (Los Angeles) in New York, where he performed his work 20th Century Mankind, dedicated to the ONU, before the General Secretary of the ONU Xavier Perez de Cuellar. As a conductor, he also premiered a number of works by contemporary Bulgarian and foreign composers.

He was among the instigators and leading figures of the vanguard tendencies in modern Bulgarian music. He composed a mono opera and an opera (unfinished); 4 symphonies; 4 concertos; cantatas; orchestral, instrumental, vocal music; choral and solo songs; music scores to 50 theatre performances and 3 films, etc. In his music the traditional Bulgarian melody and its rich ornamentation and rhythmical diversity are subject to individual rethinking by means of vanguard techniques such as aleatory, improvisation, etc. His choral songs are well established in the repertoire of the most eminent Bulgarian choral ensembles and are internationally acclaimed. His vocal-orchestral works from 1980s and 1990s are marked by a deeply felt spirituality.

His works were performed in a number of European countries, the USA, Japan and Australia. He recorded for Bulgarian and foreign radio stations and released his music on LP and CD.

He also authored three books and a few critical articles.


Stage music:

Mono opera:

Monologues for a Lonely Woman (from the theatre diptych Coordinates of Frozen Space and Stopped Time) (1975, Sofia).


The Death and Resurrection of Jesus, to his libretto (1996, unfinished).



A Poem-poster (October 1917) for reader, mixed choir and orchestra (1959);
Anti Requiem (The Song of a Sentenced Person) for bass, reader, mixed choir and orchestra (1963);
20th Century Mankind for soprano, bass, mixed choir and orchestra (1987).


Cantata for the Fatherland and the Revolution for female voices choir, chamber orchestra and reader (1970);
Peasant Cantata for female voices choir, two oboes and two French horns (1972);
Four Nocturnes for female voices choir and chamber orchestra on poems by Theodor Trayanov (1988).

Monologues for a Lonely Woman – monodrama for solo soprano, 12-voiced women’s choir, chamber orchestra and tape, after Gabriela Mistral (1975);

Bulgarian Passion for soprano, baritone, evangelist, mixed choir and orchestra (1990);
Songs of a Soul Flying to Paradise for soprano, tape and orchestra (1991);
Mass for soloists, choir and orchestra after a Latin canonical text (1993);
Paschal Music about the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus for soprano, bass-baritone, evangelist, female voices choir and organ (1994);
Miserere for soloists, female voices choir and orchestra (1955);
Otche nash (Lord’s Prayer) for two mixed choirs and orchestra (1995).

For voice and symphony orchestra:

Canti Dei Morti for soprano and symphony orchestra after ancient Egyptian funeral texts (1983).

For symphony orchestra:


Symphony N1 (1962);
Symphony N2 (1975);
Symphony N3 (for strings and triple winds) (1978);
Symphony N4 (for baritone and orchestra) (1981).

Games divertimento (1964);
Fireworks (1979).

Concerto for orchestra (1989).


Concerto for violoncello and orchestra N1 (1974);
Concerto for violoncello and orchestra N2 (1984);
Concerto for piano and orchestra (1976);
Concerto for violin and orchestra (1980).

Sonata concertante for clarinet and orchestra (1960).

For voice and chamber orchestra:

Four Polish Lyric Songs for soprano and chamber orchestra (1961);
Canti lamentosi for two sopranos and chamber orchestra after Omar Hayam (1979).

For chamber orchestra:

Micro-suite (1963);
Episodes for Four Timbral Groups (1965);
Gathering-overplaying for 22 wind instruments (1969);
Dedication of the Heavenly House (1994).

Chamber music:

Movements for 12 strings (1967);
Pieta for 12 violoncellos (1991);
Music for Friends for string quartet and jazz quartet (1966).

Wind quartets:

Quartet N1 (1977);
Quartet N2 Games (1988).

String Quartet (1972).

Piano Trio (1981);
Coordinates of Sound and Motion for three double basses and percussion (1977);
Fragments for flute, guitar and violoncello (1995);
Sonata for viola and piano (1960);
Bagatelles “Contrasts” for flute and piano (1964);
Sonata quasi variazione for violoncello and piano (1979);
Da Capo for double bass and two tapes (1979).
Sonata for two violoncellos (1987);
“Per violoncello solo” (1981).

For piano:

The Art of Series, vol. 1 (1970), vol. 2 (1966), vol. 3 (1969).


Sonata N1 (1985);
Sonata N2;
Sonata N3 (1987);
24 Studies (1990-92);
24 Bagatelles (1995);
Little Piece in Traditional Style (1995).

For organ:

Creation, Death and Resignation (also in a transcription for two pianos;
For organ and two pianos) (1992);
Six Portraits of One Image (also transcribed for piano) (1994).

Vocal music:

For soprano and instrumental ensemble:

Five Miniatures for soprano, bongos and piano, lyrics by Stanka Pencheva (1964);
Songs of a Woman for soprano, flute, violin and viola, lyrics by L. Daskalova (1964) version for voice and chamber orchestra, 1970);

Five Poems for soprano, flute, guitar, viola and trombone on poems by Apollinaire (1968);
Litanies for soprano, tape and piano (1973);
Hommage d’Apollinaire for soprano, flute, harp, violoncello and double bass (1980)

For soprano and piano:

Four Songs on poems by Dimcho Debelianov (1956);
Four Songs on poems by Nikolay Liliev (1962);
Triptych after B. Parun (1964);
Four Songs on poems by L. Hus (1971);
Midnight Songs on poems by Damyan Damyanov, Andrey Germanov, B. Bojilov (1974);
Four Songs on poems by Paul Eluard (1982);
Triptych on poems by Emily Dickinson (1992).

Choral music:

For mixed choir:

Prolet ide (Spring Is Here) (1982);
Ballad for Levski (1986);
Triptych (1987);
De Profundis (1992).

For male voices choir:

Neda Voda Nalivala (Neda Went for Water) (1980);
Prayer (1990).

For women’s traditional music choir and academic choir:

Mehmetyo, sevda golema (Mehmetyo, My Love) (1969);
Prolet nad Trakia (Spring over Thrace) (1971);
Dva tapana biat (Two Drums Are Calling) (1975);
Rado, bela Rado (Rado, Beautiful Rado) (1978);
Lyatna Nosht (Summer Night) – 16-voiced madrigal (1979);
Razvi se gora zelena (Green Forest Is Growing) (1980);
Tihiyat proleten dajd (The Quiet Spring Rain) (1983);
Three Aquarelles (1986);
Four songs “The Seasons” (1986);
Holy Bulgarian Liturgy (1991);
Prayer (1991);
Beautiful Mavruda (1996).

For four-voiced choir:

Prayer (Holy God) (1996).

Selected books (published in Bulgarian):

Sky Blue Morning, Noon and Path after Noon (Sofia, 1989);
My Life – An Attempt at a Reconstructing a Scattered Mosaic (Plovdiv, 1993);
The Symphonies of Konstantin Iliev (Sofia, 1995).

Selected literature about him (in Bulgarian):

Spassova, Vassilka, Emilia Nikolova and Maria Boyadjieva-Luisova. Ivan Spassov. Chronograph (Plovdiv, 1999);
Andreeva, Tsanka and Romeo Smilkov. Ivan Spassov’s Piano Work (Plovdiv, 2000).