the great voices of bulgaria

EN --- BG




Zdravko Mihaylov


     Zdravko Mihaylov was born in the small village of Artchar, in northeast Bulgaria in 1944. After graduating from the Bulgarian State Conservatory in 1969, he continued his studies at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève where he received a diploma in orchestral and choral conducting. His professors were Arpad Gérecz and Michel Corboz.

     Z.Mihaylov began his career as Assistant Conductor to several renowned opera companies in Europe such as Opéra National de Lyon, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Opéra National de Bordeaux, L’Opéra de Nice, L'Opéra d'Avignon, collaborating with conductors such as Murizio Arena and Horst Stein.

     In 1980 Zdravko Mihaylov became the conductor of THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA Women’s Choir (a.k.a. The Women’s Choir of Sofia), a group of professional singers that has existed for more than 50 years. Thanks to him their repertoire was expanded to include arrangements of traditional Bulgarian music composed with modern harmony and polyphony. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s they merged with soloists from The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir (of which Mihaylov was Principal Conductor from 1978 to 1983), and The Philip Koutev National Folk Ensemble. Thus creating, the best possible collection of folklore voices in Bulgaria, and thanks to Mihaylov’s abilities as a first- rate choirmaster , they gained international fame under the name Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares / The Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria, won Grammy Award and Grand Prix de Disque, and toured the world.



     In 1971 Zdravko Mihaylov founded his first ensemble THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA Mixed Choir (a.k.a. Ensemble Vocal Bulgare / Mixed Choir of Sofia).They gained international recognition for their interpretation of Orthodox Music. With them, he extensively toured Europe, recorded for Radio France, Radio Köln, Radio Suisse Romande, realized more than 15 albums for the labels Diamond and Auvidis, and in 1991won the Grand Prix de Disque at MIDEM in Cannes.

     In 1998, he recorded music by the Japanese composer Yasunori Mitsuda for Xenogears, a console role-playing game developed and published by Square for Sony's PlayStation. Xenogears was voted the 16th best video game of all time and has shipped 1.19 million copies worldwide. An Original Soundtrack was published in Japan by the DigiCube label.


In 1971 Zdravko Mihaylov founded THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA Men's Choir from members of the Mixed choir and other solo voices from the Sofia National Opera.

     Z.Mihaylov was also a jury member for the international Choral competitions in Montreux (Switzerland) and Tours (France).

Zdravko Mihaylov lived and died for the wonderful Bulgarian choral music to which he devoted over thirty years. Even at the final moments of his life, destiny had him dedicated to his art which he carried in his heart and soul. On November 24, 1998, after a concert in Geneva, Zdravko Mihaylov left the conductor's podium forever. His unforgettable artistic and creative presence remains, along with a multitude of masterpieces, folklore arrangements of the greatest Bulgarian composers and the most beautiful orthodox chants, which he also co-authored. They will outlive time.





Ilia Mihaylov

     Since 1999, Ilia Mihaylov is the Music Director of the Grammy Award and Grand Prix du Disque winning choir THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA (a.k.a. Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares). With them he has toured in England, Russia, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Holland, Poland, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal, and the Azores Islands. In 2005 he was invited by Valery Gergiev at the Moscow Easter Festival, and conducted concerts in the Kremlin, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, and St. Peter’s Monastery. In the same year Mr. Mihaylov and The Great Voices of Bulgaria toured Canada and established a box office record, as one of their concerts sold 10 000 tickets.


     In 2008, BBC Radio 3 recorded and broadcast their concert of Orthodox Chants performed at the Bath International Music Festival, U.K. They returned in England at the Lichfield Festival the following year, this time with a program featuring Bulgarian traditional folklore.


      Highlights of Mr. Mihaylov’s creative activities with the choir include recording music by the renowned composer Мichel Colombier for the French label Naïve, creating an original score for Jean Epstein’s 1923 silent film La Belle Nivernaise together with the trio of the French jazz pianist François Raulin, and premiering the Balkan crossover project with the Hungarian organist László Fassang and traditional flute and bagpipe virtuoso Bálazs Dongó Sokolay. Furthermore, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs selected Mr. Mihaylov to produce two albums, Anthology and The Treasures of Bulgaria which were to become the country’s official gift for the occasion of its joining The European Union, conducting in front an audience of 30 000 people at Sofia’s Battenberg square the choir and the iconic progressive rock band FSB celebrating the same historic event.


     Ilia Mihaylov regularly works with the world-renowned Bulgarian musician, kaval virtuoso and composer Theodosii Spassov. Together they created several projects, and for one of them Spassov wrote original scores for THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA. The project premiered at the Twelfth Salon des Arts festival at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. Following this successful opening, the artists were invited to perform at the 2010 Donaufest in Germany where they were warmly received by the public and positively reviewed by the press.


   Mr. Mihaylov and the choir were featured in three documentaries – Glasove (2005),produced by the National Film Center; Off Stage (2005), by the award winning director Andrey Paounov; and most recently in 2010 by the French music television network MEZZO, which was included in the prestigious series The Choirs of Europe, a very high honor as only ten emblematic choirs and conductors were featured in this program.



     As an orchestra conductor Ilia Mihaylov worked with the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Varna State Opera, the Plovdiv and Pazardjik Symphonies, the OFD - Ruse Chamber Orchestra, and the Consort for Early Music Concerto Antico. He has recorded for BNR. In 2009 together with members of the Sofia Philharmonic, he realized the Bulgarian premiere of the internationally acclaimed composer Daniel Schnyder.


    His regular conducting engagements with the Studio Primo Chamber Orchestra started in January 2007 by premiering Theodosii Spassov’s new project In the Infinity at the New Year’s Music Festival in Sofia. Highlights of his activity with that ensemble include a baroque project, touring with the music of the legendary film composer Mitko Shterev and a live DVD recording of Bluba Lu’s album World Melancholy, later enthusiastically reviewed by The Times.


    In 2009 Mr. Mihaylov was selected to be the Executive Producer for the book and CD The Jews in Bulgaria, commemorating the 100 years anniversary of the Sofia Synagogue. Ilia Mihaylov is one of the founding members and Artistic Director of the Bulgarian Musical Society. Since September 2009 he has been on the faculty of the American College of Sofia.


     Born in Sofia, Ilia Mihaylov started to study piano and had ear training at the age of four, and he began to play the double bass at the age of twelve. He graduated from the Lausanne Conservatory and the Juilliard School in New York where he started his training as an orchestral conductor. Later, he specialized in choral conducting with Michel Corboz at the Geneva Conservatory. He studied in Bulgaria, for seven years with one of the greatest conductor-makers Professor Vassil Kazandjiev. In 2009 he was admitted with distinction as a Fellow of the Royal Schools of Music (FRSM) in Music Direction (Symphony Orchestra) from the London’s ABRSM. As a bassist Mr. Mihaylov played professionally with such eminent conductors as Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink, Pierre Boulez, Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Mazur, Ivan Fisher, Danielle Gatti, Jesús López Cobos, as well as for the choreographers Pina Bausch and Maurice Béjart.