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Emil TABAKOV (b. 1947)
Concerto for Two Flutes and Orchestra* (2000) [27:08]
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra** (2003) [34:23]
Patrick Gallois and Philippe Bernold (flutes)*
Jean-Philippe Collard (piano)**
Bilkent Symphony Orchestra/Emil Tabakov
rec. 28 May-2 June 2005 Bilkent Concert Hall, Turkey
NAXOS 8.570073 [61:31] 

This disc has been my introduction to the work of Tabakov. The liner-notes for this release rather amusingly describe the composer as someone “who used to be an excellent double bass player.”  Tabakov has quite a number of recordings to his credit, almost exclusively with the Sofia Philharmonic under his baton; he was conductor for the Sofia Philharmonic, according to the information found on his website, from 1988 until 2000.  More recently, he is the conductor of the Ankara-based Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, the ensemble we have here for this disc.  Tabakov currently has six symphonies to his credit, four of which have been recorded, as well as a number of concert pieces for various instruments.  The two works on this disc are among his most recent.  If they are representative of his oeuvre, this reviewer is certainly interested in hearing more. 

The opening Concerto for Two Flutes was written for and dedicated to one of the flautists for this release, Patrick Gallois, who has recorded various discs for Naxos recently, both as flautist and as conductor.  The piece begins very quietly, with the flutes coming in a minute into the piece in a call-and-response intonation of the thematic material.  The piece as a whole seems to emerge from a dense fog, rather in the same way various pieces by Valentin Silvestrov do, with their sustained quiet notes in brass and strings.  Shostakovich is also here, certainly, as is Rodion Shchedrin’s more brooding orchestral music.  One gets the sense rather early on that this is not a concerto in the typical sense of the term — the first movement makes few great technical demands on the soloists, and there is no cadenza to speak of.  The entire first movement has the feeling of an arduous ascent, and is, in its own right, quite riveting music.  The movement has a morendo ending, but this dying away is found throughout the piece as the thematic material gains energy and then flags, builds again, then flags again. 

The second movement shows itself to be a far more jittery creature.  The thematic material here is again minimal, essentially a descending three note motif.  The antsy obsessiveness of this movement is heightened by the use of maracas and various percussion to add to the itch.  Things still are quite tautly restrained until with a resounding blow to a large Bulgarian drum, the whole thing spins off into a true danse macabre which soon shows its teeth, and a quite frightening aspect. All stops dead at about 9:30, whereupon the flutes peep out again from under the wreckage and soon set to quarrelling, which only gets the orchestra started again, with the flutes in an ever-quickening pace.  An interesting and impressive work I plan to revisit often.

The Piano Concerto has a few more of the hallmarks of a traditional concerto, with the orchestra coming in with the bravado first movement’s thematic material, which is a tottering monster of a march.  The piano staggers in afterwards, with jolting syncopations in the left hand.  Here again, as we heard in the last movement of the two-flute concerto, we have a certain obsessiveness in the treatment of the thematic material, always with an edge.  The main theme is a depiction of a crushing force, and indeed, it turns out the piece was commissioned to celebrate the anniversary of the Turkish army. The cadenza is a fleet-fingered treatment of the main theme which soon becomes fragmented, then alternated with its quieter version of itself heard earlier. 

Quite interesting is the use of timbre in the second movement, which opens with the piccolo and a quietly rolled cymbal, which makes a wonderful imitation of wind, adding greatly to the impression of an almost Maxfield Parrish-like open, peaceful tableau before the concerto moves toward more disquieted areas.  The virtuosic third movement has the pianist making an entrance with rapidly-repeated single notes.  This section of the movement is certainly a call to arms, with jangling alarms and whoops from the brass.  Surrounded by menace, the second theme comes in a rather frightened tender moment exchanged between the violin and the piano, after which things spin back off into the melee of the first theme.  Shostakovich’s battle music is certainly an influence here 

Having listened to this disc, I certainly am interested in hearing more of Tabakov’s music.  Those who enjoy the work of Prokofiev and especially that of Shostakovich and Shchedrin certainly wouldn’t go wrong here.  The recording quality is quite good, as is the balance of the orchestra with the soloists in both works presented.  

David Blomenberg 

 

 


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