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Dobrinka TABAKOVA (b. 1980)
String Paths
Insight for string trio [9:35]
Concerto for Violoncello and Strings [20:53]
Frozen River Flows for violin, accordion and double bass [6:12]
Suite in Old Style [18:35]
Such different paths [16:57]
Kristina Blaumane (cello); Maxim Rysanov (viola, conductor); Janine Jansen (violin); Roman Mints (violin); Julia-Maria Kretz (violin); Amihai Grosz viola); Torleif Thedéen (cello); Boris Andrianov (cello); Raimondas Sviackevicius (accordion); Vaiva Eidukaityte-Storastiene (harpsichord); Stacey Watton (double bass);
Donatas Bagurskas (double bass); Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra
rec. March/April 2011; June 2012
ECM NEW SERIES 2239 [72:22]

Tabakova may be Bulgarian-born but she has drunk deep from the British pastoral spring. Her music is tonal, unequivocally emotional and tuneful. I discovered her music through an early morning BBC Radio 4 programme in which Clare Balding interviewed walkers across the Sussex South Downs. The music that grabbed my attention was Tabakova's glorious On the South Downs. This was performed by cellist Natalie Clein with the West Sussex Youth Orchestra and Choirs. It is a work slap-bang-centre in the English spiritual pastoral tradition as proclaimed by RVW, Finzi and Tippett. This is a deeply moving piece which I have heard again time after time courtesy of a study recording from the composer. I am rather sorry that to was not included here among the treasury we are offered. Arnold's Scholar Gypsy would have understood this music as would Ivor Gurney, the wanderer in England's fields and forests. We need to have this work recorded along with her Centuries of Meditations for orchestra and chorus written for the 2012 Three Choirs Festival and the Sun Triptych for solo violin, cello and string orchestra.
 
Insight - for string trio - offers darting and soaring liberation. There are none of Schnittke's acidic assaults. The writing is lavishly consonant and takes its imprint from the greats of the British string music tradition. The shades of RVW, and especially of Tippett, are alive here. Anyone who is already captivated by Tippett's Corelli Fantasia and Concerto for Double String Orchestra is likely to be at exultant ease with Tabakova's music. The Cello Concerto is in three movements - a swirlingly active and kinetically driven Turbulent first movement ushers in a deeply tender movement entitled Longing. The finale bears the title Radiant. It does not mislead - the cello's line is luminously passionate. Maybe it's the accordion but the moving Frozen River Flows feels heavy with snow-scene nostalgia; that and the viewing of distant joys and loves across the decades.

The Suite in Old Style follows. This has the surface sound of Hovhaness in his ceremonial dancing mode in the Prelude with its subtitles: Fanfare from the balconies - back from hunting and Through mirrored corridors. The second movement mixes the sweetest romance carried by Rysanov's solo viola and the massed string orchestra with the contrast of archaism explicit in the harpsichord. The Riddle of the barrel-organ player is obviously reflective of the a Mozartean model but then we return to the life-enhancing celestial dancing of the Prelude. Such Different Paths, in its spidery joy-suffused weave of the lyrical and the flighty again is reminiscent of lyrical Tippett (Rose Lake and Triple Concerto). Syncopation, birdsong and a keening poignancy are Tabakova's currency here. Dreamy surrealism entering at 3.03 in what sounds like a meeting and mediation between The Lark Ascending and Silvestrov's meltingly psychedelic Fifth Symphony. Later we may think of Percy Grainger (5:47) and even of moonlit Laurence Whistler glass engravings. The music fades into quiet and then swells with dizzily high harmonics.
 
ECM do their usual elite treatment in the English-only booklet - we will let them off printing the titles in dark purple on a black ground. Recordings are all you might hope for - opulent in detail but not over-warm.
 
Revel in this ... you cannot help but be emotionally moved. We need more Tabakova recorded and the most clamant need is for On the South Downs.
 
Rob Barnett
 

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