Brilliant Bulgarian pianist and composer Milcho Leviev turns 80

Written by on December 19, 2017 in People - Comments Off on Brilliant Bulgarian pianist and composer Milcho Leviev turns 80

Milcho Leviev is a Bulgarian icon and a living legend. During his career, which has lasted 60 years so far, he has done it all. Today Leviev turns 80.

Not only did he conduct the symphony orchestras of both Sofia and Plovdiv, but he was also their soloist on the concert grand. He played with the Bulgarian Radio Big Band as its musical director, while composing tunes for them. And he founded his own group, with which he performed in all of Europe in the 1960s.

As a young man, Milcho Leviev studied under the best professors there were, including the great composer Pancho Vladigerov and pianist Andrei Stoyanov. While communist Bulgaria gave him this opportunity, it restricted him later, it threatened him and finally drove him away. In 1970, Leviev managed to flee to the United States of America.

In a recent interview with The Sofia Globe, he talked about those times and which circumstances made him take a difficult decision.

Milcho Leviev at the “Sofia Jazz Peak” festival, some 12 years ago. Right: With the late Peter Herbolzheimer. Photos by Imanuel Marcus.

Milcho Leviev is not just a star to Bulgarians, but to music enthusiasts around the world. Jazz-Rock and Fusion specialists admire the Bulgarian musician for delivering brilliant performances. Those included concerts, TV appearances and recordings with Free Flight, a band he founded. They mixed classical music with Jazz and Fusion in a unique way and became big in America.

Both as a band leader and a band member Milcho Leviev is legendary. In the latter category, the genius teamed up with the best, including the late Al Jarreau, Airto Moreira and the drummer of drummers, Billy Cobham. Leviev and some of his compositions were perpetuated on some of Cobham’s albums such as “A Funky Thide of Sings” (not a typo) or “Total Eclipse”.

Today, at age 80, he lives in Thessaloniki and shows up in Bulgaria now and then, for concerts or his summer school at New Bulgarian University.

In an e-mail sent yesterday, he said he and his wife, the vocalist Vicky Almazidu, were fine. He wrote he was playing at Thessaloniki Jazz clubs again, once a week.

Milcho Leviev is very energetic and a very funny guy. He could have been a comedian too. Also, he seems more like 60, rather than 80.

The organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria, Shalom, congratulated Milcho Leviev, whose father was Jewish, to his 80th birthday. “Today is a holiday for all the lovers of good music”, Shalom’s President Alexander Oscar wrote to Leviev.

The Sofia Globe’s recent interview with Milcho Leviev (September 2017) can be read here.

Milcho Leviev: The genius composer who defected from communist Bulgaria

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com