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Kazassian, Vilifree

(b Sofia, 8 Dec 1934; d Sofia, 12 July 2008).
  • Claire Levy

Bulgarian conductor, composer, pianist, and arranger, of Armenian origins, remembered for his prominent role as a musician and public figure in the development of popular music in Bulgaria. He graduated from the Technical University in Sofia (1957) and studied in the Faculty of Theory at the Bulgarian State Conservatory. In 1953 he joined the band Jazz of the Young. By the end of the 1950s he played the piano also at the Satiric Theatre Orchestra and founded Studio 5, a band famous for its supportive role in promoting young singers. Following a similar purpose, later on he initiated Trombata na Vili (‘The Horn of Vili’), a radio contest for discovering new talented pop singers. Since 1960 Kazassian’s music activities have been closely associated with the newly created Big Band of the Bulgarian National Radio where he took successively the positions of pianist (1960–65) and conductor (1965–98). He contributed significantly to the organization and development of the Golden Orpheus Pop Music Festival and the Melody of the Year Television Competition. He also founded several vocal groups, including Do Re Mi Fa and Studio V. The author of numerous instrumental jazz pieces for big band, pop songs, children’s songs, and pieces of film and theatrical music, Kazassian developed a specific creative taste for elegant musical expression. Among his popular songs stand out This World in Love, Circus, Funfair, and especially My Childhood, a song from the television series Unexpected Holiday (1981). He was honoured with a number of music awards, including the Yosiff Tzankov Prize of the Union of the Bulgarian Composers (1984) and the prize for lifetime contribution to the Bulgarian National Radio (2005).