The duo Zaharieva-Stankov: Chamber music is like poetry

It is the most perfect creation by people for people

Musicians need patience and attention. It is very difficult for young musicians to build a repertoire, but they should not be discouraged. They will need it! Music is the only thing worth living for. Life will have no meaning without beauty, say pianist Zheni Zaharieva and violinist Angel Stankov in an interview to EUROPOST.

What is the secret behind your half-century-long collaboration?

Stankov: We have been playing music all our lives and the audience enjoys us. We even interviewed for teaching positions at Sofia's National Academy of Music together.

Zaharieva: The idea to interview together for those jobs came from the head of the academy's Department of Chamber Music, Prof Ema Bozhinova, who is a well-read person and a wonderful musician! She wanted to recruit talented, concerting musicians to teach her students. The application process entailed giving lessons to a student live in front of a commission and performing chamber music. I remember that Angel and I played sonatas by Schubert and Parashkev Hadzhiev. We were both given teaching positions.

Could you tell us some interesting story from your concert life?

Stankov: There are many such stories. But I will not forget one of them, from the 1980s. A group of Bulgarians invited us to West Berlin, but they had booked a hotel for us in East Berlin. We passed with special entry permits through the Berlin Wall. A student of Prof Chirkov, who was accompanying us, became upset with something after the concert, and then Zheni, who had not changed out of her concert dress, and I, carrying the bouquets of flowers, had to walk a few kilometres. It was quite strange for the soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie to see people pass through the Berlin Wall in such a fashion.

Zaharieva: We also had concerts in East Berlin at that time!

You both prefer chamber music. Why?

Stankov: Chamber music is like poetry! Wise people have expressed the most intimate of thoughts and feelings, which do not blur the influence of the composers and the perception of the audience, that continues to show interest.

Zaharieva: Each of us had their solo engagements, but chamber music attracted us because it is primarily the interpretation of the musical works that is being sought while the technical mastery remains in the background. In addition, composers have expressed their creative ideas in the most concentrated and perfect way. Being able to recreate them is a great temptation and pleasure. The good thing is that over the years, Angel and I have developed an intuitive sense of the details in the sphere of interpretation, and we can find convincing solutions without arguing.

Is it different now after months of isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Zaharieva: I do not think so!

What piece of advice do you give most often to your students?

Zaharieva: Not to forget that Music is their most true friend and to feel grateful that they are capable of recreating the most perfect creation by people for people - Music.

Stankov: Musicians need patience and attention. It is very difficult for young musicians to build a repertoire, but they should not be discouraged. They will need it! Music is the only thing worth living for. Life will have no meaning without beauty.

The interview is part of the project Working Hours of the Soul, implemented with the support of the National Culture Fund under the Creative Initiatives Programme.

Close-up

The music duo of Zheni Zaharieva (piano) and Angel Stankov (violin) has been a favourite of audiences both in Bulgaria and abroad for 50 years now. Born in Sofia, Prof Zheni Zaharieva studied at the Moscow Conservatory before specialising in Paris. She teaches chamber music at the National Academy of Music in Sofia. She has won three international competitions and has been awarded numerous titles and prizes in Bulgaria, Germany, France and Japan.

Prof Angel Stankov is a graduate of the National Academy of Music in Sofia, where he has been teaching since 1996. He furthered his education in London. He has performed in some of the world's most prestigious halls and has won a number of awards. He also teaches masterclasses at the International Summer Academy Semmering (Austria), Las Vegas (US), Weimar (Germany) and Edirne (Turkey). In the past couple of years he has added conducting symphonic orchestras to his resume.

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