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(b Sofia, Bulgaria, 9 Aug 1914; d 4 Aug 1989). Bulgarian pianist and teacher. A significant figure in Bulgarian musical culture, Encheva is famous not only in Europe, but in Asia and Australia. Encheva mastered piano performance at an early age; her first introduction to the instrument came from her mother, Nevena Encheva.
Early in her career Encheva received her first award and an Italian scholarship with the opportunity to study in Milan. Encheva was one of the most talented students of the famous Italian maestro and piano professor Renzo Lorenzone. Encheva graduated from the Italian Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory at the age of 16. Her musical talent was so impressive that later she continued her studies under other famous pedagogues, including Marcel Ciampi in Paris and Edwin Fisher in Berlin.
Encheva was an award recipient at numerous international competitions, including the 1936 Vienna International Piano Competition, along with other accomplished pianists in Europe from that time, such as Jacob Flier and Emil Gilels. Her performance of Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto, conducted by Karl Böhm, was so memorable that the critics called her a ‘brand-new Slavonic talent’. Encheva’s musical talent and pedagogical acumen was not limited to Europe, and in the 1980s she was able to apply her multiple talents as musical interpreter and professor at the prestigious Muzashino Academy in Tokyo. She was internationally acclaimed as a concert pianist and pedagogue, as well as a jury member at more than 50 of the most prestigious international piano competitions, including the Queen Elizabeth, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Robert Schumann, J. S. Bach, and Busoni competitions.
Encheva was an active recording artist, recording both volumes of the Well-Tempered Klavier between 1958 and 1962, and the Piano Concerto by dimitar Nenov (1968). In the 1970s she recorded works by Bulgarian composers such as pancho Vladigerov, svetoslav Obretenov, and Nenov for the Alfa, Leman, and Gorle companies in Belgium. She actively promoted the major figures in Bulgarian classical music, recording, together with the famous Bulgarian violinist Maria Sheitanova, pieces by Parashkev Hadzhiev, georgi Zlatev-Cherkin, and Vladigerov. She also recorded works by Mozart, Debussy, Chopin, Mussorgsky, Beethoven, and Busoni’s arrangements of Bach. Her last recording was made for the Bulgarian National Radio (1989).
Encheva’s versatile artistry was demonstrated in her numerous poetic and lyrical musical interpretations, as well as in grandiose dramatic pieces. Her performances register passion, expressiveness, and spontaneity, while avoiding all mannerisms, so that her approach stays faithful to the original work. Her concerts and recordings are notable for their beautiful cantilenas, controlled rhythm, variety of tone, and sensitivity to style.
Encheva’s reputation was not confined to Europe. Perhaps the following account in Tokyo’s Ongaki Gentsizi (1981) best summarizes the greatness of her art:
‘Mrs. Encheva’s concert brought some sunshine and freshness in the rainy days of June. Through her unbelievable sound and range in Bach-Busoni, I seemed to discover a beautiful monument of Buddha in an unknown temple. Encheva performed Mozart with warmth and compassion, in a sound of tenderness, as a mother stroking her little child’. The Ongaki Gentsitzi, vol.8 (1981).