Cello Concerto

Composer: Dobrinka Tabakova (b. 1980)
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Composer: Dobrinka Tabakova (b. 1980)

Performance date: 02/07/2019

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 2008

Duration: 00:22:00

Recording Engineer: Gar Duffy, RTÉ

Instrumentation Category:Full/Chamber Orchestra

Instrumentation Other: vc, orch

Artists: Keith Pascoe - [violin]
David Brophy - [conductor]
Laura van der Heijden - [cello]

Laura van der Heijden [cello]

Festival Strings, Keith Pascoe [leader]

David Brophy [conductor]

Dobrinka Tabakova [born 1980]

Cello Concerto [2008]

1. Turbulent, Tense

2. Longing

3. Radiant

This piece was composed for Kristine Blaumane, a friend and classmate of Tabakova and premiered in the Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam in October 2008. Tabakova describes Blaumane’s playing, her movement from technically challenging to lyrical, is quite seamless…I wanted to show that off. Tabakova likewise shows off her own command of string textures, timbre and colour, and in the dichotomies that are so intrinsic a part of her compositions: emotional and technical; masterful and tender; east and west; folk and formal; traditional and modern; tonal and modal. Tabakova’s unique identity – Bulgarian-born and English-educated – is expressed in these dichotomies. The work was included in Tabakova’s Grammy-nominated ECM album String Paths.

Tabakova describes the first movement as a ship trying to anchor itself. The first movement is a dialogue between turbulent, angular themes and folksy ideas, full of pulsing energy. The strong, rhythmic beginning in the lower strings immediately evokes turbulence and tension. Layers of music are quickly added creating a strong driving rhythm, full of movement before the rhythm falls away and the second interlocutor emerges, a lyrical melody and counter melody with a distinctive eastern tone. The rhythmic and turbulent theme returns with variations before the fervent cello solo comes to the fore. The dialogue gathers in intensity as it passes more frequently between the two themes. The dialogue resolves into a chorale of exquisitely harmonious long chords.

The second movement is very human, very full of longing and all of those human feelings. Such was Tabakova’s inspiration and we feel this immediately in the quiet and subdued beginning. The melancholy solo is soon introduced, bewitching with luscious legato lines. The solo theme in pentatonic mode is embellished and transformed as it progresses and is interwoven throughout the movement, a testament to the skill with which the composer blends the traditions of east and west. The colour and vibrancy of the underlying harmony increases in richness as it gradually crescendos towards the apex of the movement before dropping in volume to allow the solo cello to be heard with delightful clarity before both cello and accompaniment fade away. The chromatic lilt of this movement evoke longing and human emotion, the soulful and the tender.

The third movement, Radiant, is lively and playful. A semiquaver theme triggers the main theme of the finale, the angular theme and accented rhythms of the first movement transfigured into a joyful and spirited form, over which the solo line leads the work to its jubilant resolution. The overall shape of the piece is one of upward ascent, accomplished in the concluding movement. 

Helen Dawson