A Short History of Balkanton Records

Gramophone records have been made in Bulgaria since 1934. In the next decade, only a few recordings were released on several small labels using poor equipment. In 1947 Lipha Records, Simonvia, Harp and Micherphone were merged into a mutual enterprise called "Bulgaria". In 1951 a separate building was constructed and equipped with six semi-automatic pressing machines for shellac gramophone records. In 1952 the annual production was 150,000 discs offering two sides of about four minutes each.

The first state company for the manufacture of long-playing records was established in 1952 under the name "Balkanton". The factory was equipped for all aspects of record manufacturing from recording and pressing to printing the cover - all under the name "Balkanton". 1958 saw the first long-playing record manufactured: 25 centimeters in diameter with four recordings totaling 12 minutes per side.

In 1962 the first long-playing records were produced on vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate. The first LP of PVC material had the catalog No. 500 and offered two compositions by the Bulgarian Petko Stainov, "Thrace - Symphonic Poem" and "Thrace Dances." Annual LP production soon reached 750,000 discs.

A new building was constructed in 1963 for LP manufacturing. The first solo PVC folk album was number BHA 597 and featured the famous folk singer, Vulkana Stoyanova. The first stereophonic LP was manufactured in 1969 as No. 1073 featuring Nicolai Ghiaurov in an opera aria recital. This was licensed to the Decca Record Company and appeared in the U.S. on the London label.

Multi-channel sound recording was introduced in 1972 with equipment purchased from England. Audio-cassette manufacturing began in 1980. In 1982 Balkanton received its own digital recording equipment. The first digital recordings were complete recordings of Puccini's Tosca and Madama Butterfly produced in co-operation with the German company Academica Studio.

The first licensing agreements were with the French company Harmonia Mundi for recordings of the Dimov Quartet. In 1988 the first CD under the Balkanton label appeared and was distributed in Germany and Austria as well as in Bulgaria. The first compact disc was "Bulgarian Opera Voices". In 1989 a joint effort with Stara Zagora was initiated with a compilation featuring the Sofia Philharmonic, Suzanna Klincharova -harp, Anatoli Krustev - cello, the Gusla Male Choir, the Pirin Folk Ensemble and others. Interestingly, the first digital recording of Verdi's Attila was made by Balkanton.

In forty-eight years Balkanton has made many recordings of such famous Bulgarian opera singers as Boris Christoff, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Raina Kabiavanska and Nicola Ghiuselev. Old Bulgarian Church Chants and popular liturgical pieces, Bulgarian folk singers and instrumentalists enjoying world renown have been preserved for generations to come. The music library contains over 25,000 titles of the best of recorded Bulgarian art. We are pleased to offer some selections on this disc of Balkanton's operatic treasures recorded by BNR.