“There is a myth that Orpheus was born in the lands that Bulgarians inhabit today. It seems to be a fact, not a legend, since his daughters are still singing there.”

These words were written by the New York Times in the remote 1963 – the year in which the largest Bulgarian folk ensemble crossed the Iron Curtain to conquer an entire continent with its cosmic art. And although the native performers have long been dubbed across the globe as the “Bulgarian voices”, at that majestic moment their radiance would hardly have been of the noblest colour had it not been for the polishing done by the great Bulgarian musician and erudite personality Philip Koutev.

Born on June 13, 117 years ago, the composer and conductor founded the State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble in 1951 and remained its chief artistic director until his death in 1982. Philip Koutev developed Bulgarian folklore by making adaptations and arrangements of authentic folk songs for a polyphonic choir, thus spreading the fame of Bulgarian collective art in Europe, Asia and America. Today, the folk ensemble bears the name of its creator, paying tribute to the person who gave the world songs such as “Are you a tulip, are you a hyacinth” (Lale li si, zyumbul li si”, “Todora is lying down” (Polegnala e Todora), “A bird flew over” (Prehvrakna ptichka) and many others.

More about the emblematic figure of Philip Koutev, about his legacy as a composer and his personal charisma in the interview of Radio Bulgaria with Prof. Elena Kouteva – musicologist, director of the Philip Koutev ensemble and daughter of the famous artist. We bring it to your attention through a publication from the archives of Radio Bulgaria: Philip Koutev – a towering figure in Bulgarian music and culture.

Edited by Diana Tsankova

English Rossitsa Petcova