• Ilia Mihaylov
  • The Great Voices of BULGARIA
  • Novi Koreni
  • Cinema & Music
  • Together We Sing
  • The Sound of BYZANTIUM

Ilia Mihaylov

Conductor, Scholar & Teacher


Ilia Mihaylov was born in Sofia (Bulgaria) in1974. As a conductor, scholar and teacher with rich international experience, he has proven to be a successful progect manager in the field of classical, sacred, traditional and contemporary music. In 2023 he defended his PhD thesis on the Byzantine-Slavic chanting tradition at Sofia University, "St. Kliment Ohridski," where he currently teaches. Dr. Mihaylov is active in the academy, participating on a regular basis in various scientific projects while teaching music master classes for reputable educational institiutions such as Harvard and Princeton Universities, Université Paris 8, Conservatoire de Strasbourg, Choir Academy of the Puisaye Festival (France) and Chengdu School of Culture & Art in China. He also served on the faculties of the American College of Sofia and Lycée Français Victor Hugo.

Since 1999, Dr. Mihaylov has been the Music Director of the The Great Voices of Bulgaria choir. With this ensemble, he has directed versatile projects involving extraordinary artists such as Prof. Stefan Dragostinov, the Bulgarian kaval virtuoso Theodosii Spassov, band FSB, the Hollywood composer Michel Colombier, the jazz pianist François Raulin, the saxophonists Christophe Monniot, François Corneloup, double bassist Claude Tchamitchian, Bruno Chevillon, the Hungarian organist László Fassang and his traditional flutes and bagpipe counterpart Balázs Dongó Szokolay, to name a few. He has been received with critical acclaim at many of the world's greatest festivals in over 25 countries in Europe, Asia and North America. In 2023 he created the album Yana, together with the pioneer of ethno-folk and electronic music fusion in Bulgaria Yavor Roussinoff.

From 2011 to 2015 Mihaylov was the Chorus Director of the Bulgarian National Choir Svetoslav Obretenov, and conductor of the Sofia Philharmonic. As a guest conductor, he has led all major Bulgarian orchestras, and worked closely with Studio Primo, Concerto Antico, Quarto Ensemble and Camerata Bohemiana (Czech Republic). Major highlights of his professional career include working side by side with some of the world’s preeminent artists, such as the conductors Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink, Pierre Boulez, Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Mazur, Iván Fischer, Danielle Gatti, Jesús López Cobos, Jean-Claude Casadesus, Uroš Lajovic, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Michel Corboz, the tenor José Carreras and the choreographers Pina Bausch and Maurice Béjart.

Mihaylov has recorded for BBC Radio 3, and has featured on 13 albums as conductor and producer, including for Еdiciones Singulares, Brilliant Classics and Naïve labels and others. He recorded the film music of the eminent composer Mitko Shterev for the Bulgarian National Radio Golden Fund in2009. Together with Vassil Kazandjiev, he founded The Bulgarian Musical Society in 2005, and served as its Artistic Director for fourteen years.

Mihaylov was educated at HEMU (Lausanne Conservatory) in Switzerland, The Juilliard School (New York), ABRSM (London), where he studied piano, double bass, music theory, and conducting. He is fluent in English, French, Italian and Russian. In his spare time, he loves to cook, travel, play tennis and ski.

The Great Voices of BULGARIA

The Bulgarian people have long known that the human voice is much more expressive in song than in conversation. In their tradition, they have taken the art of singing to the top of its artistic expression. The perfection, which is at the core of traditional Bulgarian folklore, is the outcome of efforts dating back some thousand years ago and it has passed on from generation to generation through the centuries.

THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA is a women’s choir of professional singers that has existed for more than 40 years. Sustaining the voice in the throat by using their neck muscles, instead of the diaphragm, this vocal technique is completely natural to them and century’s old. Since1980’s, under the direction of Zdravko Mihaylov, their repertoire was expanded to include arrangements of traditional Bulgarian music composed with modern harmony and polyphony by authors such as Philip Koutev, Krassimir Kyurkchiysky, Stefan Dragostinov, Peter Liondev and Stefan Moutafchiev to name a few.

Soloists of ensemble during the years have been Nadka Karadjova, Liliana Galevska, Kalinka Valcheva, Elena Bozhkova, Olga Borisova, Kremena Stancheva, Anastasia Kostova, Vasilka Andonova, Nadejda Chwoineva, Stoyanka Boneva, Stoyana Lalova, Yanka Taneva, Hristina Lutova, Tsvetanka Varimezova, and Zlatina Ouzounova. Thus creating the best possible collection of folklore voices and songs and thanks to Mihaylov’s abilities, the choir gained international fame and won the Grand Prix de Disque at MIDEM, France.

Since 1999, Ilia Mihaylov became the Music Director of the The Great Voices of Bulgaria. Together they have been immensely successful realising versatile projects with extraordinary artist such as the Bulgarian kaval virtuoso Theodosii Spassov, the Hollywood composer Michel Colombier, the jazz pianist François Raulin and his trio, the contemporary visual artists Missirkov/Bogdanov, the Hungarian organist László Fassang and his traditional flutes and bagpipe counterpart Balázs Dongó Szokolay, among other.

The choir have appeared to a critical acclaim in over 20 countries in Europe, Asia and North America at many of the world's great festivals. Master classes for the Harvard University, Paris University 8, and the Conservatory of Strasbourg are regular part of their educational programs.

In the past, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs selected Mr. Mihaylov and the choir to produce two albums, which were to become the country’s official gift for the occasion of its joining the European Union. In 2005, Valery Gergiev invited The Great Voices of Bulgaria at the Moscow Easter Festival, and they performed concerts in the Kremlin, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, and St. Peter’s Monastery. In the same year the choir toured Canada and established a box office record, as one of their concerts sold 10 000 tickets. In 2019, they went to Chengdu, China at UNESCO 7’Th International Festival of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

BBC Radio 3 recorded the Great Voices of Bulgaria on a program, and the French music channel MEZZO TV featured them on a documentary, which was included in the prestigious series The Choirs of Europe.

Novi Koreni

The trio of the French jazz pianist and composer François Raulin and "The Great Voices of Bulgaria" choir, conducted by Ilia Mihaylov, have been working together since 2007. Together they created the cinema-concert La Belle Nivernaise, which has been presented with success at a number of festivals in Italy, France and Bulgaria. The friendly relationship established between the French musicians and the Bulgarian choir gradually shaped the idea of a new musical production, not limited by the parameters of accompanying a silent cinema. Gradually, during their visits to Bulgaria, the saxophonist Christophe Monniot and the pianist François Roulin presented their own compositions to Ilia Mihaylov, and with his help adapted and arranged them to fit the vocal range, technical and aesthetic possibilities of "The Great Voices of Bulgaria". Especially for this "adventure" the double bassist Claude Tchamtchian was involved.

The repertoire includes:

- French chansonnes - Piaf's La foule and Aznavour's Emmenez-moi;

- American jazz standards - "I Child is Born" and "Somethimes I fell like a motherless child";

- French arrangements of famous Bulgarian folk songs such as "Temnei Goro", "Vecheryai Rado", "Dilmano, dilbero";

- "jazzed" interpretations of works by Bulgarian authors such as "Dilmano, Dilbero" by Kurkchiyski and "Velikden Ide" by Dragastinov.

- Original compositions by the members of the trio.

In summary, this entirely new musical material in which French and Bulgarian musical influences intertwine develops the idea of aesthetically interpenetrating and complementing these seemingly distant musical cultures. Giving a new identity to the respective musical heritages the project, ,,NEW ROOTS" was born. It premiered at the Détours de Babeles festival in Grenoble, France in March 2023 to great acclaim.

Here's what the French press wrote about him:

,,The charm worked from the start. The strong, delicate, clear, low, powerful voices were in complete symbiosis with the instruments, which were sometimes a fifteenth voice. It was a pleasure to listen to French chansons revisited by our [French] jazz trio, which also arranged traditional Bulgarian pieces, each of the musician-composers bringing his own specificity - either jazz, French chansonnes or his taste for Eastern music. This crossing of musical roots (or rather influences) delighted the very enthusiastic audience. Long live this unique and exceptional creation - New Roots - a joyous, warm and colourful musical production."

(Jazz Rona Alps)

Cinema & Music

“La Belle Nivernaise” is an unexpected combination of a silent film by the great director in the history of European cinema Jean Epstein, the Great Voices of Bulgaria choir conducted by Ilia Mihaylov and the Trio of the French jazz pianist François Raulin. Presented to great success in Italy, France and Bulgaria it earned rave reviews describing it as “an event of European scale, a real symbiosis of impressionist cinema and Eastern Balkan music.”

This cinema concert is devised as a series of musical pictures developing against the background of the images from the film by commenting or supplementing them. The magic power of Bulgarian voices is a unique match to the original compositions of the trio of jazz musicians. Thus, an intriguing dialogue between the European jazz and its improvisational element and the timeless music of folk songs is attained.

Diverse music sensibility creates a new and rare sound and while acting as a support to the film’s plot it becomes an unexpected co-author of the cinema narrative.

Mitko Sterev’s Film Music

The Union of Bulgarian Film Makers has given Mitko Shterev, vastly famous as an author of evergreens and composer of the music to more than 30 motions pictures the “Movie Composer of the Century Award”. In the autumn 2009, the Bulgarian National Radio invited the renowned Bulgarian composer to record his music. Ilia Mihaylov, with whom Sterev have been working for a long time and touring extensively, conducted the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra with the composer playing the piano parts himself. A selection of some of his best film scores like Doomed Souls (1975), Rеturn from Rome (1976), Adaptation (1979), The Lot (1993), The Prince and the Pauper (2005), A Man for a Million (2006), to name a few was issued on a CD that was later to become a national bestseller.

Together We Sing

Through his dynamic presence on the podium, and tireless advocacy for arts education Ilia Mihaylov has introduced music to new audiences around the world.

Giving masterclasses and collaborating with major educational institutions he has created divers teaching projects for students from all levels and musical background.

Ilia has committed time and energy to his mission of bringing music to young people, firm in his belief that the arts play an essential role in creating a more just, peaceful, and integrated society.

The Sound of BYZANTIUM

The Sound of Byzantium is a musicological research project whose main goal is to present the European musical roots of Bulgaria trough the Slavic - Byzantine ecclesiastical musical tradition. The aim is to lift the veil of the Byzantine world – a sui generis prototype of the European Union with his heart in Constantinople, his body in the Slavic countries - Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Russia in which the Orthodox Christianity is the principle structurally founding element. The dearest infant of this world is the civilization called Byzantine, which is one of the two faces of Europe and constructs the inseparable historical heritage of our continent.

Nowadays, Orthodox music has been undeservedly marginalized, while in Western Europe, ecclesiastical music is increasingly heard from recordings and concert performances. It is necessary to bring the achievements of the theoretical research on Eastern music to the knowledge of the society in a captivating and modern fashion.

Systematizing and recovering works dating from 10th–19th century, transcribed from old sources, manuscripts, and collected from various monasteries, archives, and funds, the chants are studied and performed by contemporary church singers with theological education. The project will summarize the liturgical music, used in the Balkan Peninsula, music that have influenced the development of Western European culture for more than a millennium.

In 2018, Ilia Mihaylov and his Ensemble for Byzantine music Sofia Psaltes recorded and published some of the studied material on CD, accompanied by explanatory texts in luxurious bilingual (BG, EN) book edition.



Les musiques de Chagall

Les musiques de Chagall Mixed Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

2003 Naive / France

Noel Orthodox

Christmas Orthodox Music Mixed Choir, Women`s Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1998 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Bulgarian and Russian Traditional Songs

Women`s Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1998 Balkanton / Bulgaria

Bulgarian and Russian Ortodox Music

Mixed Choir, Women`s Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1998 Balkanton / Bulgaria

Xenogears - Original Soundtrack

Music composed by Yasunori Mitsuda Mixed Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1998 DigiCube / Japan

Le Mistere des Voix Bulgares, vol.3

Le Mistere des Voix Bulgares, vol.3 The world premier of the Nikolai Kaufman`s Io igra oro / We have danced the Round (1989) is included in this volume. Recorded by The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir under the conductorship of Zdravko Mihaylov

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1998 Philips, Disque Celier / France

Traditional Songs, Ortodox Chants

Women`s Choir, Men`s Choir, Mixed Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1997 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Paix de L'ame / Peace of mind

Men's Choir, Mixed Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1996 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Ortodox Chants, Traditional Songs

Recorded live at Victoria Hall, Geneva Women`s Choir, Men`s Choir, Mixed Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1996 Dinemec Clasics / Switzerland

Traditional Russian Songs

Women`s Choir, Men`s Choir and Mixed Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1994 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Russian Orthodox Music

Women`s Choir, Men`s Choir and Mixed Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1993 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Orthodox Chants

Women`s Choir, Men`s Choir and Mixed Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1992 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Traditional and Orthodox Songs

Mixed Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1992 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Traditional and Orthodox Songs

Men`s Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1991 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Traditional and Orthodox Songs

Women`s Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1991 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Bulgarian Folk Songs

Recorder live at THE MUSIC HALL Köln Women`s Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1990 Laser Light / Germany

The Singing of the Bulgarian Women

Bulgarian Folk Songs Women`s Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1988 Auvidis - Ethnic / France

Traditional Bulgarian Songs. Ortodox Chants

Live from Jerusalem Izrael Festival Women`s Choir

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1988 MCS / Israel

Le Mistere des Voix Bulgares, vol.2

Two songs - Stani mi, Maytcho and Trenke, Todorke, conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov and The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir, realized 1982 - 1983, are included in this world famous Grammy® Award winning album (1990)

conducted by Zdravko Mihaylov

1987 Philips, Disque Celier / France


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