The “Bulgaria” concert complex is part of a multipurpose edifice erected in the city of Sofia between 1935 and 1937.
The architectural complex “Bulgaria,” which includes a music hall, a hotel, a restaurant, and a patisserie, was conceived by the Clerical Cooperative Savings Insurance Company, which selected the concept of architects Stancho Belkovski and Ivan Danchov in a competition in 1932.
The three-story structure (“Tsar Os liberator,” “Georgi Benkovski,” and “Aksakov”) is regarded as an example of modernism in the interwar period, with daring solutions such as sinking seats in the performance hall, a detachable glass roof over the restaurant, and collapsing store windows.
The music hall featured 1470 seats on three levels: the ground floor, the first and second balcony. It had a custom cladding adapted to the specifications of the Hertz Institute for Acoustic Research in Berlin in order to create the very excellent acoustics. The installation of the first concert organ in Bulgaria by the German firm Sauer was also one of the outstanding successes. This organ is still the biggest on the Balkan Peninsula, with four manuals, 72 registers, and 6,000 pipes.
The complex “Bulgaria” premiered on October 9, 1937, with a joyful performance performed by the Academic Symphony Orchestra. Tsanko Tsankov conducted, with soloists including French organist Joseph Bonnet and well-known Bulgarian artists Luba Encheva, Dimitar Nanov, and Pancho Vladigerov. The program featured pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Handel, Petko Staynov, and Pancho Vladigerov, who created one of his most famous works, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No3, specifically for the inauguration of the new auditorium.
The hall was devastated by the bombardment on May 24, 1944, and the organ and the two Concert Royals Steinway were irretrievably lost.
The “Bulgaria” concert complex was largely rebuilt in 1949 and became home to the orchestra, which had performed at the inauguration twelve years previously and is today known as the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra. The chamber hall grew more popular among artists during the next 25 years, and it was refurbished in 1974. In the same year, the German manufacturer Shuke erected a new concert organ in the Hall “Bulgaria” with three manuscripts and 55 registers, the biggest in Bulgaria at the time.
The architectural complex “Bulgaria” was designated a cultural monument of national interest in 1978.
The concert complex, with its rooms, became a type of classical music hub in Bulgaria, frequented by all major Bulgarian artists as well as some of the best performers of the twentieth century from across the globe.
Until 1989, a national review was conducted every four years at the Bulgaria Hall, with all of the country’s state symphony orchestras participating.
The concert complex is still immensely significant for Bulgarian cultural life in the early twenty-first century. It contains the National Noteka as well as the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra and a stage for the presentation of diverse works from the city and the nation. The complex comprises of a main hall with 1087 seats, a chamber hall with 216 seats, a marble hall – Studio Music – with 50 seats, a recording studio, and an art gallery, which has been open since 2004 and hosts exhibits of famous Bulgarian artists and photographers. All halls are outfitted with concert royals Steinway, and the building also includes instruments from the firms Bözendorfer and Bütner.