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The Sofia Festival Orchestra was founded in 1986 and its debut in the same year under the baton of Emil Tchakarov with the participation of the pianist Alexis Weissenberg marked the beginning of an ambitious and complex artistic project. The Orchestra is made up of Bulgaria’s leading musicians and former principals of Europe’s best-known orchestras. Its goals are to enrich local music life and to popularize the achievements of Bulgarian musicians in this country and abroad. The Orchestra has accompanied the Sofia National Opera Chorus, the Svetoslav Obretenov Bulgarian A Cappella Choir and a number of distinguished Bulgarian soloists.

The Orchestra immediately undertook an intense concert programme which included performances by soloists of the calibre of Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Nikolai Ghiaurov, Agnes Baitsa, Nikolai Gedda, Elena Obraztsova, Chris Merritt, Mirella Freni, Natalia Gutman, Raphael Oroszco and Ivo Pogorelich. Recordings by the Sofia Festival Orchestra include Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca, “Eugene Onegin and “The Qeen of Spades” by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky,  “Die Schopfung” (“The Creation”) by Franz Joseph Haydn, Vincenzo Bellini’s “Norma”, “A Life for The Tsar” by Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka and “Boris Godunov” by Modest Musorgsky, a complete edition of the Symphonies by Tchaikovsky etc. (Sony, Hungaroton, Erresse)

Emil Tchakarov was Musical Director of The Sofia Festival Orchestra from its foundation. He made a decisive contribution to the orchestra’s international success leading it on triumphant tours of Germany, Italy, France and Russia as well as to the prestigious Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. When the young Bulgarian conductor passed away prematurely, Julian Kovatchev was appointed Musical Director. Under Kovatchev, the commitment to an artistic programme of international scope has been confirmed. The first steps towards fulfilling this commitment are the world exclusive agreement with Erresse for the production of new audio and video recordings, the renewal of the collaboration agreement with the National Palace of Culture in Sofia and the revival of The New Year Festival inaugurated at the beginning 1993. Nowadays Sofia Festival Orchestra continues the tradition of the “New Year Festival” conducted by Emil Tabakov, actual director of the Orchestra, and takes part in many important musical events in Bulgaria and abroad. The Sofia Festival Orchestra's achievements, as well as its important engagements, are seen as a guarantee of its future.

Born in Bourgas, Bulgaria in 1948, Emil Tchakarov first took up the baton at the age of eleven. When he was fifteen he began to study con¬ducting at the Sofia Conservatory and eight years later was the youngest prizewinner at the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in Berlin. Consequently the Maestro invited him to act as his assistant in opera productions in Salzburg and Berlin.

Emit Tchakarov has conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, the French National Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, has led the Tonhalle Orchestra, Zurich, and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. He has collaborated with the Leningrad Philharmonic regularly for many years, conducting them many times in Leningrad itself and has also made numerous recordings and has been on many tours with them, appearing in Germany, Austria and Italy. On 1 September 1989, Emil Tchakarov was appointed permanent guest conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra.

Emil Tchakarov was well-known as a conductor of opera, having appeared at the Royal Covent Garden Opera, London (Eugene Onegin), the Metropolitan Opera in New York (II Barbiere di Siviglia), the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Tannhauser), the Teatro San Carlo, Naples (Carmen), the Teatro La Fenice, Venice (La Boheme) and in Houston, USA (Boris Godunov, Aida).

In 1986 Emil Tchakarov founded the New Year's Festival in Sofia which takes place annually with the participation of artists of international renown. Here he conducted the Sofia Festival Orchestra (which he also initiated) and with whom he regularly made sound recordings and video films. Emil Tchakarov passed away prematurely in 1991 at the age of 43.