In collaboration with Tsvetelina Petrova
“Rousse and Bulgaria mean the world to me.”
One of the founders of the Bulgarian jazz music, a colorful saxophone player, a loving, committed, enthusiastic, and keen supporter of jazz, “an oddball, a quirky eccentric and a bon vivant, a screwball with a gnarly character”, Petar Petrov – Parcheto is one of the urban legends and major advocates for Rousse, a musician with a mission who has repeatedly demonstrated a wide encyclopedic culture, artistic charm and profound sensitivity all of which turn him into one of the emblematic figures of the Bulgarian culture.
Petar Petrov – Parhceto was born on November 28, 1932 in Rousse. He graduated from the State Academy of Music in Sofia majoring in clarinet and started working at the Philharmonic Orchestra in Rousse as a soloist player on the clarinet. There he worked for nearly 40 years.
In 1959, he gathered with some friends to form a small jazz band in the city. In 1963 he went to play in Prague. After returning to Rousse, he created a jazz band called The Petrovs Quartet featuring as members him on the saxophone, Petar Petrov–Petuha on the trumpet, Zlatko Petrov on the piano and Ilko Petrov on the drums. The band predominantly played contemporary jazz music, such as hard bop and free jazz, and took on improvisation. In 1960s, together with composer Alexander Vladigerov, Petar Petrov-Parcheto grounded the foundation of the jazz tradition in Rousse.
In the early 1970s, he played in Germany with the special permission from the then Concert Directorate, which allowed Bulgarian musicians to work in the Socialist Republic of Germany. However, he managed to work playing the sax in the Federal Republic of Germany too and got an impression of the music culture in the country.
On his returning to Rousse, he began inviting jazz musicians from other cities in the country. In this way, the first National Jazz Fest was born in 1977. Until his death in 2013, Peter Petrov-Parcheto was its leader and organizer. By means of his active work he contributed to the gradual promotion of the city and of the National Jazz Fest not only in Bulgaria, but also abroad. More and more jazz music players joined the annual festival. He also became the founder and leader of the Jazz Club in Rousse.
People say about him that he was “what a great artist is – it was unthinkable for him to limit himself to and close himself into the space of music solely. He also knew literature, art, and theater – and the people who made them“. So naturally, in 1981 the Jazz and Poetry series were found. In the first one it was Radoi Ralin who took part, Ivan Tsanev took part in the second one, and Boris Hristov took part in the third one. All three were Petar Petrov’s personal friends.
The then Petar Petrov’s jazz band called Rousse became an immutable and prerequisite participator in the jazz festivals in Sofia and Sopot. The orchestra toured around Europe, Asia, and America performing in Poland (at the Jazz Dzhembori Festival), Hungary, Russia, Italy, Slovakia, Romania, and Turkey. They attended the jazz festival Jazz Yatra in India and together with Yildiz Ibrahimova, Stayko Staikov, Ilko Petrov and Alexander Petrov – Alex Berbera they toured in Mexico.
Petar Petrov-Parcheto was awarded the Rousse prize and became one of the first honorary citizens of the city. He was given the Cyril and Methodius medal, the Honored Artist title, and the Crystal Lyre prize of the Union of Musicians.
His relatives, however, believe that all prizes he won throughout his life were accepted by him without superfluous vanity and that, after all, he remained „real, edgy, irresistible, spontaneous, and endlessly gifted”. As Iglika Peeva says in her book Petar Petrov-Parcheto: The Free Flight of the Spirit, as an „outstanding erudite, he could afford to stay true to himself, without caring for the status quo“. With his unrelenting passion for music, literature and art, he continued to spread and advocate for the beauty of jazz music in and outside Bulgaria.
Being a dean of the Bulgarian jazz music, Petar Petrov-Parcheto made pioneering efforts to preserve and develop the culture in Bulgaria during the totalitarian rule of the Communist Party in the country when culture was totally neglected and brutally censored. Therefore, his active stand and work contributed to the transformation of Rousse into one of the most significant and prominent Bulgarian jazz music hubs while he also helped young musical talents by supporting their professional career, and also fostered the love for jazz music in generations of art lovers in the city and in the country. He too contributed to the development of Bulgarian musicians such as Yildiz Ibrahimova, Theodosius Spasov, Kamelia Todorova, Antoni Donchev, and Boris Petrov.
Petar Petrov-Parcheto died on January 24, 2013 in his home in Rousse.
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