Bulgarian-British composer Dobrinka Tabakova was impressed during her studies by such figures as Sofia Gubaidulina, Giya Kancheli, and perhaps Alfred Schnittke. Yet the music on this collection doesn't follow any of those examples slavishly. The Baroque elements of Schnittke's music are present in the Suite in Old Style for viola, harpsichord, and strings, but there is nothing neo-classic about the work. Instead, Tabakova extends the massed sound of Baroque music into a series of abstract planes, ornamented with other small details of Baroque concerto style. The effect is completely individual, and so it goes through the rest of the program, with references to traditional styles that seem at once completely natural and thoroughly decontextualized. Frozen River Flows, for violin, accordion, and double bass, seems inevitably to refer to Schubert's cycle Die Winterreise, yet it captures the tension of that work in an entirely different way from the original. The string septet Such Different Paths, written for and performed here by violinist Janine Jansen, has a violin part that disassociates itself from the rest of the septet and rises into the stratosphere; the configuration resembles, among other works, The Lark Ascending, yet the music shares a certain tension with the rest of the program. Although the mood is sensuous rather than challenging or violent, the tight writing for the instrumental ensembles and the difficulty of the individual parts adds a rigor to the whole that makes a fascinating contrast with the various familiar bits that go by. The various combinations of top-flight mostly Eastern European players could hardly be improved upon; they have clearly found in Tabakova composer who can furnish them with absolutely contemporary ideas that do not discard the training that shaped them. The music is likewise perfectly suited to ECM's hyperclarity of engineering. A fine release for those interested in the current manifestations of the broadly neo-traditional music developed in the old East Bloc.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Concerto for Cello & Strings|
|Suite in Old Style, for solo viola, harpsichord & strings|