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Emil TABAKOV (b.1947)
Complete Symphonies - Volume 4
Double Bass Concerto (1975) [20:42]
Symphony No.5 (2000) [54:00]
Entcho Radoukanov (double bass)
Symphony Orchestra of Bulgarian National Radio/Emil Tabakov
rec. Sofia, 1982 (concerto); 2011

Emil Tabakov is a Bulgarian composer-conductor who tends to focus his creative work during the summer months. Otherwise he is much taken up with the musical orchestral life of Sofia and its orchestras. Born in Ruse in Northern Bulgaria, his international career received a fillip when he won the Copenhagen-based Nikolai Malko Young Conductors' Competition in 1977. His instrument is the double bass for which his professor was Todor Toshev. The present Toccata disc (the fourth so far vol. 1 vol. 2 vol. 3 ) includes his Concerto for that instrument. In addition to the Double Bass Concerto, here played by Entcho Radoukanov, there are also quite a few works for the double bass in his chamber music catalogue. Tabakov has written ten symphonies and these fell between the ages of 35 (1982) and 70 (2017). There are also concertos for percussion, two flutes, piano, cello and viola. His composition tutors included Marin Goleminov . This, presumably authoritative series of recordings, is in part supported by Bulgarian National Radio who appear to have supplied the recordings.

The 20 minute Concerto is in three movements: Allegro, Lento and Vivace. The first of these is couched in language of thunderous determination and soulfulness. It has ruthless and colourful kinetic ways. You will likely find this work appealing if you subscribe to the cello concertos by Shostakovich and Kabalevsky. The recording is stunningly good and is a good gauge of music that seethes with conflict and victory. It's all carefully coloured and balanced. There's a mystically crooning, oh-so-quiet Lento with the solo instrument played up high in its register. Also memorable are some shuddering thuds and eldritch moaning. This is by no means a concerto of trivial display or troubadour serenades. Instead it has something of a symphonic mood. Every moment either articulates urgency or decisive action. It boils at the end towards a whooping yet oddly strangulated call.

The Fifth Symphony, from the year most people took as the launch of the new millennium, is a mammoth work of four movements and 54 minutes. Not once does Tabakov allow anyone to believe that he is tackling anything other than momentous issues. The music whirls around in excoriating turmoil. After 17 minutes of such rampant fury comes a surprisingly short Largo. This is almost Holstian in its desolation - perhaps a touch of Egdon Heath and otherwise redolent of the quiet tension at the start of Rite of Spring. After the devastation of that opening Spiritoso (a term which does not really do justice the assaults that clamour away at the listener) it has the feeling of re-setting a huge mechanism. Next comes a squealing and hiccoughing, Prokofiev-like Allegro moderato which is gawky and not at all epic. This. The finale is dominated by a tetchy and edgy motif (pretty much immanent across the movementís 16 minutes) which is forward-moving and aggressively threatening.

The sound on this disc takes you by the lapel and leaves no room to allow your concentration to slip out of focus. Itís belligerent and very much in scale with Tabakov's thunder whether rumbling quietly or shouting fit to deafen. It hammers at you, monolithic and brutalist, like a hybrid of Imants Kalnins Symphony No. 4 and Shostakovich Symphony No. 7.

The notes are only in English and are by Paul Conway. This writer is already well established as a gifted commentator on music of British composers, especially focused on activity from the end of the Second World War. They run to eight well thought-out pages.

Robert Barnett

Takes you by the lapel and leaves no room to allow your concentration to slip out of focus.

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