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Dobrinka TABAKOVA (b.1980)
Alma redemptoris Mater (6.02)
Jubilate Deo (4.42)
Truro Canticles (12.09)
Diptych for solo organ (9.43)
Praise (5.14)
Of a rose sing we (5.34)
Kynance Cove (12.29)
On the South Downs (14.44)
Christopher Gray (director)
Natalie Clein (cello)
Joseph Wicks (organ)
Truro Cathedral Choir
BBC Concert Orchestra/Christopher Gray
rec. 2018, Truro Cathedral, UK
REGENT REGCD530 [70.37]

For anyone who has not previously encountered the music of Dobrinka Tabakova, this is an admirable introduction, as well as being full of good things in its own right. The Bulgarian composer, who has lived in England for many years (Alleyn’s School, Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall School, Kings College, London) has quietly built a fine reputation as a composer, and is well represented on disc. Her music is easy on the ear, and largely tonal. Like Arvo Pärt, she tends, especially in religious music, to use subtle repetition as a compositional tool.

A natural affinity with the English cathedral choral tradition is evident. The anthem, Praise, on the current disc, may also be found in Volume 8 of the splendid collection of English Anthems from John Scott and St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir (Hyperion CDA 67483), a broader but no less effective recording than the current one. Alma redemptoris Mater receives a brisk performance from Merton College Choir, under Peter Phillips, in The Marian Collection (Delphian DCD34144). The Truro Cathedral Chopir give well-prepared and idiomatic performances, which will not disappoint.

The two Truro Canticles, (Magnificat and Nunc dimittis) were commissioned for the Truro Choir when girl choristers were admitted. Both are devout, expressive works. In particular, the Nunc dimittis, here including Salva nos, Domine, builds powerfully as an eloquent call for God’s protection and care. It is a rewarding piece of music, to which I have returned several terms.

Diptych for solo organ is confident, rhythmical and direct. Some passages are reminiscent of folk music, and overall there is much to enjoy in Joseph Wicks’ idiomatic performance.

The two choral works, Kynance Cove and On the South Downs, each with the BBC Concert Orchestra and additional singers from Richard Lander School, Truro High School for Girls, Truro School and Cornwall Youth Chamber Choir, are highly attractive works, recorded live with an appropriate sense of occasion. If I marginally preferred the three-movement On the South Downs, (which also has a lovely part for solo cello, played by Natalie Clein) it might be the natural prejudice of a Sussex boy, but I loved the rather hazy atmosphere as well as the sense of stillness throughout. The cello part is reminiscent of Elgar (appropriately perhaps, as he wrote the Cello Concerto while living at Fittleworth). For me, this single work is worth the price of the CD – lovable and intense in its serene beauty.

This is a disc to savour, approachable but with so many depths.

Michael Wilkinson

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