This album showcases music written between 2002
and 2008 by Bulgarian-born London resident composer Dobrinka Tabakova.
It reflects the paths that have led to this music, much of it written
with the performers here in mind. Several of them were fellow students
of hers at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. As such
there is a satisfying feeling of unity where all the various paths converge
in collective artistic expression.
for string trio launches the disc. I was immediately
struck by the richness of her writing which is emphasised by the way
she has managed to integrate the three instruments in such a way as
to create a sense of fusion: the three speak with a single voice. Despite
elements of Bulgarian-sounding rhythms which open the piece there is
much about this work that has overtones of 20th
string writing with its pastoral feeling of rural calm.
In her Cello Concerto, after an opening movement that is described accurately
as Turbulent, tense
, we are treated to the most richly gorgeous
sounds in the second movement entitled Longing
Tavener to mind, particularly in the orchestral sections. This is hardly
surprising since he is motivated as a member of the Orthodox Church
to incorporate the sounds and rhythms of chants that have a home in
Russia and Bulgaria. The cello seems to soar heavenwards yearningly
seeking some kind of spiritual fulfilment. This it certainly delivers
to the listener in the form of a calm and cleansing feeling of peace.
The final movement entitled Radiant
is precisely that implying
that the desire expressed in the middle movement has been realised.
The music is suffused in light.
Tabakova’s Frozen River Flows
is scored for the unusual
combination of violin, accordion and double bass. It was inspired, as
she explains in the booklet notes, by watching the flowing of a river
beneath a carpet of ice. Originally composed for an equally unusual
combination of oboe and percussion, the accordion acting as a drone.
It seems well suited to conjure up the icy feel while the violin emphasises
the fragility of the ice and the double bass lends a solidity to which
the other elements of winter, which are transient, will return once
the ice eventually melts.
With her Suite in Old Style
Tabakova joins an illustrious
band of composers who have been drawn to re-examining the music of the
past through 20th
century eyes, including
Górecki, Schnittke and Penderecki as well as Respighi. The work
was written for her one-time fellow Guildhall student. Violist Maxim
Rysanov who is constantly seeking to commission works to help extend
the viola’s repertoire. That’s something to applaud; why
should the violin have the lion’s share of string works? This
is a feeling that is even more powerfully felt when listening to this
which is so wonderfully rich in sonority. She has brilliantly captured
the essence of the past shining it through a 21st
prism. The addition of a harpsichord has reminded us that it too should
be used more often since it is an instrument that could have as much
musical relevance today as it did in the past. She also had the neat
idea of using the musical notation of the name of Rameau, another inspiration
in writing this work, in part of the final section, rather than using
any direct quotations.
The last work on this disc is Such different paths
septet which violinist Janine Jansen, who plays here, approached Tabakova
to write. Introducing each instrument in turn she has them all blend
together in a meeting at the end of their respective paths
once again reflects the overall idea of the album. It is another richly
rewarding and sumptuously scored musical feast.
There was a time about ten or so years ago when all kinds of doom and
gloom was expressed about the future of recordings, orchestras, concerts
and even for music itself. With a whole new generation of composers,
performers, record labels and downloads the future of music is as secure
today as real ale is after the parlous state it was in before the ‘real
ale revolution’ took place. When we have composers such as Dobrinka
Tabakova at the very threshold of her career and artists such as those
playing on this record we need have no fear for the future of music.
It will last as long as people like her write and people like us listen.
This disc is full of music to delight and wonder at. It is played superlatively
and with ECM’s usual attention to maintaining its benchmark standards
See also review by Rob