Dobri Hristov

composer, music theoretician, choral conductor

14.12.1875 – 23.01.1941Varna - Bulgaria

Dobri Hristov belongs to the first generation of Bulgarian composers. His total activity won him recognition as the most important figure in Bulgarian music and music culture during the first two decades of the 20th century. After he finished high school, he worked as a primary school music teacher. In 1899 he was among the founding members of Gusla Music Society in Varna and its conductor. In 1900 he went to Prague. He graduated from the Prague Conservatoire in 1903 majoring in Composition under Antonin Dvorak, Josef Suk, Vaclav Novak and Nedbal. He returned to Bulgaria and worked as a teacher of music in Varna (1904-07) and Sofia (1907-18; 1922). In 1909 he was among the founding members of Rodna Pesen Music Society in Sofia. In 1912 he was appointed teacher and in 1918 elected Headmaster of the State Music School (present-day Lubomir Pipkov National Music School) in Sofia. He conducted the choir at the Sveti Sedmochislenitzi Church (1913) and Alexander Nevski Cathedral (1935). In 1922 he joined the staff of the State Academy of Music as lecturer in music theory subjects, being concurrently a Deputy Director of the National Theatre. In 1926 he was promoted Auxiliary Professor and in 1930 became Full Professor. He was elected Academician in 1929.

He is one of the most distinguished Bulgarian music folklorists. His activity was related to the civic and church choirs and thus his work focused on the choral and solo song. Among his first works are the medleys “Liliyana moma hubava” (Beautiful Liliyana) (1897) and “Pusti momi jeravnenki” (These Girls from Jeravna) (1898). After he returned from Prague, he began arranging folksongs from Macedonia such as “Dafino vino” (Dafina – Old Wine) or “Shpirt, lele Yano” (Maid Yana), etc. because they seemed to him most appropriate to be harmonised by means of the classical major-minor system. Most of them were intended for a male voices choir. They were published in his collection entitled Macedonian Songs (1923). In a similar way sound his own songs such as “Pirin Planina” recreated by Marin Goleminov in his symphonic variations. In the mid-1920s he focused on folksongs from the Rhodopes or Sofia region like “Slana padna, Gane” (We Had Frost) or “Ergen deda” (Unmarried Old Man), which he harmonised for a mixed voices choir. Following the well-established tradition of the old Bulgarian church vocal music, he composed Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and Exoteric Liturgy for Choral Singing (1934). His secular choral songs and his liturgies were classified as classic works and entered the repertoire of practically all Bulgarian choirs. His choral composition “Rodna pesen nas navek ni svarzva” (Native Song Binds Us Together) became emblematic. The solo songs (“Devoyche” (Young Girl), “Vino piya” (I Drink Wine), “Sivliana”, “Lele, Boje” (Oh, God!), “Ya razturiay, Tzveto mome” (Undo What You Have Done, Tzveta), etc.) composed for the signer Konstantin Mihailov-Stoyan won huge popularity, too. He wrote over 600 children’s school songs, published in collections; orchestral works, etc.

His activity has a fundamental importance for the Bulgarian music, the music pedagogy and the theory of music in Bulgaria. He wrote the theoretical studies The Rhythmic Bases of the Bulgarian Traditional Music and The Technical Structure of the Bulgarian Traditional Music, as well as a number of schoolbooks, collections and articles, which had a great impact on the music teaching process at Bulgarian schools.


Works for symphony orchestra:

Balkan Suites: N1 (1903); N2 (1916).

Solemn Overture Ivaylo (1906);
Tutrakan Epic Song (1907).

For string orchestra:
Solemn March (1905).

Church music:

All-night Vigils;
Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom;
Exoteric Liturgy.

Choral music:

Liliana moma hubava (Beautiful Liliana) (1897);
Pusti momi jeravnenki (These Girls from Jeravna) (1898);
Slana padna, Gane (We Had Frost);
Red Flag;
Rodna pesen nas navek ni svarzva (Native Song Binds Us Together);
Pirin Mountain;
Poklon, Rodino (To My Fatherland);
Mari mome tsarnooka;
Gana’s Mother;
Dafino vino;
Ela mi, Veliche (Come Round, Velika);
Teacher’s March;
Dobrinka and the Sun – ballad (1931);
Tenka Dafino – fugue (Slender Dafina) (1933).

Solo Songs:

A Haiduk Song;
Devoyche (Young Girl);
Vino piya (I Drink Wine);
De bre, Dimo (Dimo, Come On).

Collections of children’s songs:

Children’s Songs in two volumes (1900-1904);
A Shower of Stars in two parts (1925);
The Fountain Sings (1937).

Selected works (published in Bulgarian):
A collection of selected works compiled by Venelin Krastev: Hristov, Dobri. Music Work and Publicism. Vol.1 (Sofia, 1967); Music Theory Studies and Publicism. Vol. 2 (Sofia, 1970).

Selected literature on him (in Bulgarian):
Kabakchieva, Olga. The Work of Dobri Hristov (Sofia, 1940);
Kamburov, Ivan. Dobri Hristov. Life and Work of a People’s Composer (Sofia, 1942);
Krastev, Venelin. Dobri Hristov. Monograph (Sofia, 1954);
Krastev, Venelin. Dobri Hristov (Moscow, 1960, 1975).
Yapova, Kristina. Dobri Hristov And the Idea of the Personality and the Community (Sofia, 1999);
Archives of Dobri Hristov. A Catalogue (Sofia, 2002).