EMIL TABAKOV (b.1947): Complete Symphonies, Vol. 5 - Symphonies No. 2 (Symphony Orchestra of Bulgarian National Radio) and No. 6 (Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra).
Catalogue Number: 06V010
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0562
Description: Volume 5 in this indispensable series (see also 08S009, 08T011, 09U059, 07V011) brings us two more of Tabakov's apocalyptic visions. As we know by now, Tabakov’s epic symphonic canvases are unrelentingly and invariably (though far from unvaryingly) dark, and always propelled by an inexhaustible volcanic energy which powers the mechanisms of whirling engines, and not infrequently explodes in uncontainable eruptions on a titanic scale. Only a strange person who finds Dante's descriptions of the nine circles of Hell repetitive or lacking in detail or nuance would dream of objecting to this degree of concentration on the darker side of human experience; the works are notable for their inventiveness of material and procedure. The Sixth Symphony, like the previous three, is a large (50 minute) four movement structure. It represents an archetype of Tabakov's approach to creating a symphonic argument of the utmost cogency and tautness of design while filling an extended canvas with a ceaseless variety of dramatic events. As he often does, Tabakov presents his basic material in the opening bars of each movement. In the first, this comprises an explosive hammering gesture, a brief descending scale, and a scurrying string motif. Out of these instantly memorable, dramatically striking blocks, the composer then proceeds to build a tense, powerful symphonic drama by varying and combining them in every conceivable variant of texture, orchestration, harmony, dissonance and contrapuntal enmeshing. After an introductory burst of artillery from the timpani, the main material of the Largo is presented; a long keening melody in the upper strings, progressing with a glacially measured tread. In isolation, the character of this theme sounds not unlike Pettersson, though its treatment is completely unlike anything the Swedish composer would have done. Two hushed themes hesitantly provide secondary material, leading to a withdrawn, tender episode, and the remainder of the movement consists of these two sets of material in varied dialogue and an uneasy coexistence, until an ominous crescendo leads to the unmasking of the secondary themes, now revealed to be as violent as the primary ones, which reassert themselves in a final shattering, wildly dissonant climax. The scherzo has a persistent pounding rhythm which propels an uncouth dance on a massive scale. A contrasting central section obsessively repeats a short rising scale in undulating, overlapping patterns, at first hushed and sinister, but increasingly overbearing, and punctuated throughout by the opening rhythm. When the scherzo returns its scoring is quite different, now harsh and skeletal, skittering and scrambling, before a final pounding statement of the 'dance'. The massive finale begins with a startling call to arms, immediately followed by a sinuous gesture from the strings. In innumerable guises and augmentations, these groups of material confront one another with varying degrees of hostility, building several grinding climaxes interspersed with moments of sombre repose. Repeated attempts at a scurrying fugato finally unleash a propulsive juggernaut which abruptly, and unexpectedly, vanishes. The coda evaporates in ghostly whispers. The Second Symphony of 1984 already shows all the trademarks of the composer’s method for building his intense, unrelenting symphonic dramas. The work is in two movements, and contains some episodes of almost sonorist freedom from conventional harmony, which are less frequent (though not absent) in later works, though the primary vocabulary is basically tonal. The first movement is slow, though textures and harmonic movement are manipulated with the utmost skill to give the impression of mounting momentum in the grinding counterpoint of the turbulent battle sequence that eventually erupts. The tension mounts from the very opening, with shrill alarums sounding in the gloom. The second movement is pure kinetic energy unleashed, rapidly incorporating its opening gestures into a propulsive mechanism that hurtles onward with titanic momentum, pauses briefly for a series of tense dialogues between soloists and orchestral groups and then sets off again with even greater inevitability, exhausts itself in a final cataclysm, and just ... stops. Emil Tabakov (conductor).