April 2005 I reviewed another CD of Roumi Petrova’s music
entitled “Project Bacillus Bulgaricus”. In that review I
commented on Petrova’s style by saying that the works presented
there did not challenge the boundaries of tonality and for
the most part used their thematic material efficiently. I
concluded, “Rhythmically catchy and tuneful, this release
proves that contemporary composition can provide undemanding
my overall opinion of this latest disc any different? The
short answer is no. All four of the works presented here
were written for, and dedicated to, the cellist Kalin Ivanov.
In the accompanying notes each work is the focus of barely
two sentences, as concentration is given to the soloists
and the composer. Roumi Petrova has been acclaimed as “the
Bulgarian Mozart”, one learns. Surely this was more in recognition
of her abilities as performer (violist) and composer than
as a composer alone.
The Passacaglia that
opens this disc is constructed in five connected sections
to present variations on the main melody. Even if the variations
are restricted to drawing out individual colours and moods
in the playing for the Andante and Poco più mosso sections,
the middle Allegro section does present some variation of
material that usefully draws upon the full range of the cello.
The succeeding Adagio possesses a soulful legato line, played
with singing tone by Ivanov. The link into the final Allegro
maestoso is well handled to bring the work to a climax. Having
said that, Petrova’s style does make a climax inevitable,
even if its compositional material is not totally predictable.
sonata starts with an opening movement – titled Journey – that
has a palpable sense of flow about it, the thematic material
affording richly sonorous playing from Ivanov. The slow
movement, the most expansive on the disc, is an Elegy to
Ivanov’s father, who died whilst the sonata was being written.
Petrova affords many opportunities for introspection to
both instrumental parts: the cello contrasts nobility and
pride with enigmatic pianissimo playing; the piano underlines
the movement’s character by intoning repeated chords akin
to a peal of bells. The closing Rondo is, by contrast,
rather playful in character, but makes skilful use of contrasting
moods in the piano part especially. Although there is
much to recommend the incisive playing of Elena Antimova
on a few occasions I did wish that her instrument had been
recorded with just a bit more presence.
sonata can seem in some respects rather like the first.
Petrova’s liking for exploring the range of her instruments
is well established by now, as is her interweaving of Bulgarian-esque
touches to give her writing at least an approximation of
authentic character. The opening movement sees the instruments
playing cat-and-mouse at a sprightly tempo, before settling
into the appropriately elegiac Lullaby slow movement, that
was originally planned for the first sonata. The sense
of fun returns for the final movement, titled Table Dance,
which comes from a joke shared between composer and cellist
that the final movement should see him dance on a table. It
does have an upbeat tempo that one might indeed dance to
if one was so inclined. Ivanov, however, restricts his
involvement to providing some bouncy and fleetingly inflected
playing, spurred on by Antimova.
ancient Bulgarian portraits for solo cello that conclude
the disc prove tuneful. I can imagine them being performed
as a set or selected individual movements given as encores.
The first portrait possesses a strange Bach-like quality
in its repetition and predilection for the mid-lower range
for much of its duration. The second portrait - Gypsy Man
with a Dancing Bear - is much more upbeat and has a rather
cultured roughness about it. The third portrait, Women
at Harvest, is an image of stillness with overtones given
over a ground at the beginning and end. The fourth portrait,
The Monk and his Servant, possesses similar characteristics
though played with greater dynamic range. The final portrait – Rebeck
player – is somewhat hurried but gives opportunities to
bring out contrasts of dynamic, tone and tempo.
well played music is momentarily diverting.