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Bulgarian-born and resident in London for the past two decades, Dobrinka Tabakova (b 1980) brings together several of those facets that have pervaded Central and Eastern European music over the past quarter of a century. This first disc dedicated to her output [...] is judiciously balanced between chamber and concertante pieces, with the latter represented by works for cello and viola. [...] The performances are as formidably assured as the roster of musicians would suggest, while ECM’s spaciously atmospheric sound suits the music-making ideally
Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone

From the tender, but dramatic ‘Insight’ to ‘The Suite In Old Style’, which seems to call on and fuse elements from a huge range of musical times and traditions, the power and complexity of her music shines through, served by wonderful musicianship. For me there were traces of Arvo Pärt, Elgar and even Michael Nyman at his best. But Tabakova’s music is unique, fusing east and west in a highly original way. The haunting theme that is revisited time and again in the 16-minute-long-conclusion to the album, ‘Such Different Paths’, is stunning, giving me to believe that Tabakova is one of the best young composers working today.
Fern Bryant, Musical Pointers

Tabakova was born in Bulgaria in 1980, moving to London to study in the early 1990s. Her aim is to write music ‘that grabs you and has something to say,’ citing John Adams and Sofia Gubaidulina among her inspirations. And she’s brilliant at seizing your attention – the angular bass figurations which kick off the ‘Concerto for Cello and Strings’, or the accordion-like wheeziness which colours parts of the string trio ‘Insight’. The concerto’s last movement is stunning, the combination of vigour and ecstacy recalling Tippett.
Tabakova’s ‘Suite in Old Style’ for viola and chamber orchestra won’t frighten anyone – an affectionate baroque pastiche which does plumb genuine depths. That it could have been composed at any point during the last century shouldn’t underplay its charms. More striking is a trio for violin, accordion and bass, and an ambitious string septet, ‘Such different paths’, dedicated to (and here recorded by) Dutch violinist Janine Jansen. Solo playing throughout is inspired, whether it’s from Maxim Rysanov on viola, Kristine Blaumane on cello, or violinist Roman Mints. ECM’s sound is, as usual, rich and detailed.
Graham Rickson, TheArtsDesk

Her glowing tonal harmonies and grand, sweeping gestures convey a huge emotional depth that gives the pieces here immediate appeal. And it would be hard to better the passionately committed performances of her music given by the starry line-up of players on this remarkable disc. The high point is Kristina Blaumane’s astonishingly powerful performanceof Tabakova’s 2008 Cello Concerto, an account of such intensity that it’s quite draining to listen to. From the first movement’s pounding, urgent chords to the glassy harmonics of the fragile third movement, Blaumane maintains a rich, radiant sound with beautifully sculpted phrases, and the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra gives fervent support. [...] From start to finish, it’s hard not to be swept up in the abundant power of Tabakova’s music – matched in a recorded sound that’s warm and clear.
David Kettle, The Strad

Die 2006 entstandene Suite scheint der Ausgangspunkt für die erste, bei ECM erschienene, Porträt-CD dieser außergewöhnlichen jungen Komponistin gewesen zu sein. Neben der Suite präsentiert sie mit drei Kammermusikwerken und dem Konzert für Violoncello und Streichorchester vier Werke sehr unterschiedlichen Zuschnitts, die jedoch alle Ausdruck einer sehr persönlichen Sprache sind. Die Bulgarin hat keinerlei Scheu vor fast romantisch anmutenden, weit gespannten melodischen Linien, vor offen ausgestellter Expressivität und Emotionalität, vor süffigen Streicherkantilenen - und vor der Tonalität. Es darf durchaus und an prominenter Stelle mal ein klarer d-moll-Akkord sein, und das Cellokonzert darf gerne im unmissverständlichen A-Dur gipfeln.
Darüber hinaus hat die Harmonik eine stark modale Einfärbung, ist die Volksmusik als Folie im Hintergrund dieser Musik unüberhörbar. Vertreter der reinen Lehre mögen sich angesichts eines so offenkundig entspannten Verhältnisses zu Tradition und Vergangenheit möglicherweise mit Grausen wenden. Doch es wäre ein Missverständnis, Tabakovas Unbefangenheit mit Unreflektiertheit zu verwechseln. Und ihre klangsinnliche Musik entwickelt eine enorme Sogwirkung, nicht nur in ihren ruhigen, meditativen Momenten. Dass Tabakovas Musik einigermaßen barrierefrei auch von Menschen gehört werden kann, die wenig Erfahrung mit zeitgenössischer Musik haben, muss man sicher nicht für eine Katastrophe halten, und einen Hinweis auf ihre Qualität liefert dieser Umstand schon gar nicht.
[…] Seien es die fragile Kühle ihres Trios ‚Frozen River Flows’ für Violine, Akkordeon und Kontrabass, der an minimalistische Verspieltheit erinnernde Beginn ihres Streichseptetts ‚Such different paths’ oder die immer wieder von Ausbrüchen gestörten flächigen Klänge und ruhigen Linien ihres Streichtrios ‚Insight’, die auf der neuen CD dokumentierte Sprache Tabakovas ist so vielseitig, von einer solchen Differenziertheit und Intensität, dass sich jede vorschnelle Einordnung verbietet. Dass die überragenden Interpreten nicht wenig zum überaus positiven Gesamteindruck dieser Veröffentlichung beitragen, muss kaum eigens erwähnt werden. Das gilt für den Bratscher Maxim Rysanov, der sich intensiv für die Musik Tabakovas einsetzt, nicht anders als für Janine Jansen als die sicher prominenteste Künstlerin auf dieser CD, für das Litauische Kammerorchester ebenso wie für alle anderen Beteiligten. Eine wunderschöne CD.
Oswald Beaujean, Bayerischer Rundfunk

Glücklich kann sich eine junge Komponistin schätzen, der solch exzellente Interpreten zur Seite stehen! Kristine Blaumane im Cellokonzert, der Bratscher Maxim Rysanov in der ‚Suite In Old Style’, Janine Jansen im Streichseptett – sie spielen Tabakovas Musik, dass kaum Wünsche offenbleiben: mit emotionaler Tiefe, beeindruckendem Klangsinn und nebenbei auch mit schlichter Perfektion. Vielleicht sind es aber auch einfach Intensität und Vielschichtigkeit von Tabakovas Sehnsuchts-Musiken, die sie zum Äußersten inspirieren.
Clemens Haustein, Fono Forum

Bulgarian-born composer Dobrinka Tabakova first came to the attention of ECM founder and producer Manfred Eicher through the Lockenhaus Festival, a source of inspiration for many of the ECM New Series releases involving both composers and performers. On that occasion he heard violist Maxim Rysanov as soloist in a performance of ‘Suite in the Old Style’, scored for viola, harpsichord, and strings and one of three suites Tabakova had composed for Rysanov. Born in 1980, Tabakova is very much a 21st-century composer, familiar with the broad spectrum of genres explored by composers during the twentieth century without feeling any major bond to any of them (either the genres or the composers).
It should be no surprise that this suite is, at least in part, a reflection on Alfred Schnittke. Tabakova came to know Rysanov through his performances of Schnittke’s viola concerto; and he also performed his ‘Suite in the Old Style’ on viola, rather than on violin, for which it was scored. However, while Schnittke’s view of the past tended to be jaundiced (when not outright cynical), Tabakova was also influenced by the more sensitive retrospection of Ottorino Respighi, as in his three suites of ‘ancient airs and dances’. She has described those suites as ‘conversations’ with the past; and she conceived her own suite as a similar ‘conversation’ with Jean-Philippe Rameau. Listeners familiar with Rameau’s style will now have no trouble eavesdropping on this conversation with the release (earlier this month) of ‘String Paths’, Tabakova’s debut recording for ECM New Series, in which Rysanov serves as both soloist and conductor of the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra.
Rysanov also conducts that ensemble in a performance of a cello concerto, which Tabakova composed for Kristina Blaumane, Principal Cello with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Like the suite, this concerto radiates with positive energy, even to the extent that the ‘tempo marking’ for the last of the three movements is ‘Radiant’, complementing the ‘Turbulent’ opening movement and the intervening movement, marked as ‘Longing’. Once again the listener may well approach this as another dialog composition, although in this case the dialog is between composer and soloist.
[...] The album concludes with a single-movement string septet, entitled ‘Such Different Paths’ and scored for pairs of violins (Janine Jansen and Julia-Maria Kretz), violas (Amihai Grosz and Rysanov), and cellos (Torleif Thedéen and Boris Andrianov), along with a bass (Stacey Watton). This was composed for Jansen, whose own approach to the programming of chamber music often involves that same ‘conversation’ between past and present that has occupied Tabakova’s attention. In ‘Such Different Paths’ the melodic material progresses from the upper register instruments to the lower strings, while the ‘elevation’ of the first violin alludes to the rising solo passages for violin in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’. This new release thus presents Tabakova to the community of serious listeners as a composer very much of the current century but with a clear understanding of the past and the potential influences that reside there.
Stephen Smoliar, Examiner.com

Am besten mit dem guten Schluss beginnen und das fünfte Stück zuerst hören: Dobrinka Tabakovas neue CD ‚String Paths’ (ECM) endet mit der Komposition ‚Such different paths’, das die Weltklasse-Geigerin Janine Jansen und ihr Kammerensemble mit einer Verve durchbrausen, wie man es sich nur wünschen kann. So muss das klingen, wenn in dieser Komposition Elemente bulgarischer Volksmusik als vibrierende Melodiegeber auf splitternde Dissonanzen treffen. Ein kompaktes Stück, melodisch eingängig und typisch für Tabakovas Komponierstil. Die urwüchsige Kraft darin reißt Interpreten und Hörer mit. Ein ebenso erfreulicher wie erwartbarer Effekt, denn Janine Jansen und Spectrum Concerts Berlin sind Widmungsträger des 16-minütigen Werkes. Das siebenköpfige Ensemble entfacht bei den im Kern schlichten Melodien und riff-artigen Themen fahl leuchtendes Feuer, um auf den im Titel beschworenen verschlungenen Wegen ins Ziel zu tanzen. Mit gerade mal 33 Jahren hat Dobrinka Tabakova noch das forsche Temperament der Jugend, verbindet es jedoch mit konzentriertem Stilwillen. Diese Qualitäten prägen auch die übrigen vier Stücke des Albums.
Werner Theurich, Spiegel online

Performances of music by Dobrinka Tabakova (Bulgarian born in 1980 but a London resident since she was 11) have become a welcome and frequent feature of musical life in Britain and across continental Europe for so long now that it is strange a CD dedicated to her music should have taken so long to appear. It was worth the wait: this one is outstanding in every aspect – hugely enjoyable from start to finish and at times extraordinarily lovely. [...] Tabakova is fortunate in her musical friends, and many of them are gathered here to make her music: Kristina Blaumane and Maxim Rysanov are outstanding soloists in the Cello Concerto and ‘Suite in Old style’ respectively, but the performances are of the highest quality across the CD as a whole. The recordings bring clarity to the solo lines and rich reverberance to the carpet of string-orchestral sound that Tabakova favours. A winner, then, and I urge you to make its acquaintances soon – it will take only the opening bars of ‘Insight’ to persuade you that you made the right decision.
Martin Anderson, International Record Review

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-Western synthesis and - in the works here – a sensuous delight in the sonority of strings. Much of the work on offer could be music from 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 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. [...] Contemporary music, in short, that’s amazingly easy to hear.
Calum MacDonald, BBC Music Magazine

No indie classical producer has done more to raise the market profile of important new contemporary voices than Manfred Eicher, the ever-enterprising founder-director of the ECM New Series label. He has got several uncommonly interesting CDs out this summer, including ‘String Paths,’ the first full collection of works for small ensemble by Dobrinka Tabakova. Anyone who admires the fusion of ancient and modern in the music of Arvo Part will respond to the works of the young, Bulgarian-born, English-educated composer. In Tabakova's Concerto for Cello and Strings, Kristina Blaumane's cello moves across a landscape of increasingly luminous timbres, spiraling upward at the ecstatic close. The tonal-modal intensities are at once piercingly sweet and pungently dissonant in the string trio ‘Insights’ and the string septet ‘Such different paths,’ variously played by violinist Janine Jansen and several of Tabakova's former conservatory colleagues, with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra.
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

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