Tabakova: String Paths

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LABELS: ECM New Series
ALBUM TITLE: Tabakova: String Paths
WORKS: String Paths: Insight; Concerto for Cello and Strings; Frozen River Flows; Suite in Old Style; Such Different Paths
PERFORMER: Roman Mints, Janine Jansen, Julia-Maria Kretz (violin), Amihai Grosz (viola), Torleif Thedéen, Boris Andrianov, Kristina Blaumane (cello), Raimondas Sviakevicius (accordion), Donatas Bagurskas, Stacey Watton (double bass); Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/Maxim Rysanov (viola)


This first CD solely devoted to Bulgarian-born Londoner Dobrinka Tabakova certainly makes clear the basis of her appeal, with her music’s unabashed combination of tonality, modality and folk influence, choric chant, East-West synthesis and – in the works here – a sensuous delight in the sonority of strings. Much of the work on offer could be music for an arthouse film, set in some desolate, beautiful land. Slow movements express longing and rapture, while the lively rhythms and modality of her quicker ones remind me of Vaughan Williams: Tabakova’s first movement in the Concerto for Cello and Strings, with the excellent Kristina Blaumane as soloist, could almost be an updated Concerto Accademico. With the prevalent whiffs of the exotic, though, perhaps a closer parallel is Alan Hovhaness.

Tabakova writes for her chosen instruments with disarming naturalness and enthusiasm, as in the bravura septet Such Different Paths and the trio for violin, accordion and double-bass, Frozen River Flows. The string trio Insight treats the ensemble like a great breathing accordion. Most fascinating is the Suite in Old Style for violin (a charismatic Maxim Rysanov), cello and strings – ECM’s publicity calls it ‘Rameau-channelling’ but this is no pastiche, rather a Schnittke-style polystylistic romp with oriental cross-currents. Contemporary music, in short, that’s amazingly easy on the ear.


Calum MacDonald