EMIL TABAKOV (b.1947): Complete Symphonies, Vol. 4 - Symphony No. 5, Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 07V011
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0530
Description: The monumental 5th Symphony, nearly an hour long, is another installment in Tabakov's sequence of apocalyptic visions; as bleak, obsessive, dark and frankly terrifying as the previous offerings in this immensely valuable series (09U059, 08S009, 08T011), this is the most bellicose and violent thus far. The first movement begins with an heroic theme, immediately embattled. Under constant assault from battering percussion, it holds its own through a warlike exposition, developing as it goes. Eventually, in a master-stroke of symphonic thinking, in the midst of battle it transforms enough to generate its own second subject, which announces itself with a motif that suggests the beginning of the Dies irae before taking a different turn. This theme is then the subject of the development section proper, beginning quietly with burbling interjections from the woodwinds. This gradually swells in a mighty crescendo, then the work’s opening fanfares introduce the first theme, and battle royal recommences, with both themes vying for supremacy. An explosive, shattering fusillade temporarily halts the proceedings, and the strings try quietly to assert the second subject, but this is soon blasted aside by the first, with an air of victory. But it is not clear - at this point - who has won, or with what consequences. The slow movement begins quietly and mysteriously, in the mood of a nocturne, punctuated by lonely bird calls. The first theme is derived from that of the first movement, now hushed and tranquil. Surging disturbances threaten the calm, but are quickly dispelled. Bells introduce a new section in which the tutti material achieves a brief climax, after which the movement dissipates in melancholy and mystery, bells and birdsong. The scherzo starts with a feeling of ironic burlesque, temporarily creating the impression of something lighthearted, if sarcastic, with what sound like deliberate allusions to Shostakovich and Mahler. When, perhaps inevitably, it becomes a colossal, bludgeoning march there remains something ludicrously exaggerated about it, as terrifying as it is. The nightmare goes from bad to worse; a march of monstrous, grinning gargoyles, implacable and brutally uncomprehending in their barbaric violence. This horror is followed by another; the relentless juggernaut of the finale, propelled by the most basic two-note mechanism, a gigantic perpetual motion engine with the sole purpose of racing towards the final apocalyptic confrontation of the themes from the whole work, and hurling them into the final abyss, apparently with success, as the music culminates in an explosive climax - and is abruptly cut off. The Concerto for Tabakov's own instrument is much earlier - 1975 - and was his graduation work, but it already exhibits to a surprisingly advanced degree many characteristics of the composer’s fully mature style. The first movement is sardonic, very Shostakovich-like (there is even a quotation from the latter's First Cello Concerto). The solo writing is virtuosic without being showy, and treats the instrument as an equal protagonist in the musical argument. Here, as later in his career, the composer displays a predilection for woodwinds shrieking in their highest register, obviously learnt from Shostakovich and especially effective in accompanying the basso profondo of the solo instrument. The slow movement begins eerily, and maintains the character of a chilly, sinister winterscape throughout. The finale is active and propulsive, nervous and agitated, the soloist's rapid repeated notes actually providing much of the rhythmic impetus of the movement. A syncopated section is briefly jazzy, then a tutti climax brings back material from earlier in the work before an impatient final gesture ends the work. Entcho Radoukanov (double bass), Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra; Emil Tabakov.