Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir is an internationally renowned World Music ensemble that blends traditional six-part a cappella repertoire with modern arrangements. It is most recognized under the recording name Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. First created as the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir in Bulgaria in 1952 by Philip Koutev, "the father of Bulgarian concert folk music," the choir is now under the direction of Dora Hristova. Koutev also created and conducted the Ensemble of the Bulgarian Republic in 1951.

Singers are chosen from country villages for the beauty and openness of their voices, and they undergo extensive training in the unique centuries' old singing style. Influenced by Bulgaria's Thracian, Ottoman and Byzantine history, their music is striking in its use of diaphonic singing and distinctive timbre, as well as its modal scales and dissonant harmonies (abundant second, seventh, and ninth intervals).

Though the choir became widely known when the trend-setting English alternative record label 4AD released a pair of anthology albums in 1986 and 1988 with the now famous title Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, their recordings date as far back as 1957. The first pressing of the Voix Bulgares album was the result of fifteen years of work by Swiss ethnomusicologist and producer Marcel Cellier and was originally released in 1975 on his small Discs Cellier label. Ivo Watts-Russell (founder of 4AD) was introduced to the choir from a third or fourth generation audio cassette lent to him by Peter Murphy, singer from the band Bauhaus. He became thoroughly entranced by the music, and tracked down and licensed the recordings from Cellier. The group has since performed extensively around the world to wide acclaim and were honored with a Grammy Award in 1989 for their second album.

Three prominent soloists of the group have also performed together as the Trio Bulgarka, notably on the Kate Bush albums The Sensual World and The Red Shoes.

In 1992, the choir divided into two: one for radio, one for television. Bulgarian television signed a contract with the one half, which is the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir; the other half organized itself as a collective, and now performs as "Angelite - The Bulgarian Voices."


  • 1966 Music of Bulgaria, The Ensemble of the Bulgarian Republic (re-released in 1990, recorded in 1955)
  • 1986 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volume I, 4AD
  • 1987 Cathedral Concert (Live), Polygram (re-released in 1992)
  • 1988 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volume II, 4AD
  • 1991 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volume III, Polygram
  • 1993 From Bulgaria with Love: The Pop Album, Rhino / WEA
  • 1993 Melody Rhythm & Harmony, Rhino / WEA
  • 1994 Ritual, Nonesuch
  • 1995 Box Set: Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volumes 1 - II and Ritual, Nonesuch
  • 1998 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volume IV, Phillips
  • 2001 Bulgarian Custom Songs, Gega
  • 2003 A Portrait of Nikolai Kaufmann, Riva Sound / KVZ Music Ltd.

See also

Music of Bulgaria

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