Reviews

   
 
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"Having been enraptured by two pieces of music by Dobrinka Tabakova, string trio Insight and Concerto for Cello and Strings, Bonachela was swept away on a creative process which would become Anima.

“As soon as I heard this music I could see dance,” he said. Breath, vital force, taking off, optimism, flying and fierce determination are the recurring motives which underpin the work and take us on a whirling, swirling frenzied journey. It feels like the dancers have been swept into the eye of a cyclone with no choice but to use the force and counterforce of their relational contacts to take flight. [...]

This program really is a tour de force as the dancers rise to the challenge of both manifesting Bonachela’s visions ignited by the music of Tabakova, as well as realising Nankivell’s grounded and evolving Wildebeest."
Elizabeth Ashley about Anima, October 2016 / Dance Informa (Australia)
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... "Трийсетминутната композиция е написана за малък симфоничен оркестър и хор. Солисти няма, текстовете на Шекспир се „прогласяват” от хора, на когото е поверена главната роля. Музиката е пропита от елизабетинската епоха, в която твори Шекспир – не само мелодически, но и по отношение подбора на тембрите. Например, протагонист е арфата, на която се поверява епиграфът с името Шекспир. Още в прелюда за първи път то „се изсвирва” от нея заедно с обоя, като буквите от името, които не отговарят на ноти, се заменят с близки букви-ноти. Това са детайли, които слушателят не би разчел, ако не му се кажат, както го направи Табакова преди изпълнението на кантатата. Но това, което слушателят може да схване веднага, е английската атмосфера, близка до английската баладичност, до епохата, може би и до указанията за музика, които Шекспир е предписвал към всяка своя пиеса. Това стилово и звуково приближение към отминалото време създава изискана дистанция на почитта между слушателя и музиката-памет. Тя звучи и молитвено, и тържествено, и (особено в постлюдията) – силно емоционално. Спецификата на всеки текст е отчетена от Табакова в музикалното му интерпретиране. Само един пример – редовете от писмото на Хамлет до Офелия са прошепнати от хора на фона на остинатна мелодия в нисък щрайх и соло цигулка в открояващ се висок регистър. Емоционалната дистанция се скъсява в постлюдията с въздействащ акапелен хор, към който оркестърът се присъединява накрая, за да угаснат заедно в тишина." ...
Екатерина Дочева за кантатата Безсмъртният Шекспир, декември 2016 / Куптура
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... "The second half sees the premiere of Rafael Bonachela’s Anima, an ethereal piece bathed in high white light with the company dressed in various configurations of simple white underwear. To look for narrative in Bonachela’s choreography missed the point; his strength lies in the skilful exploration of physical form and configuration in all its diversity, solos, duets, trios and full-company splendour.

Dobrinka Tabakova’s score is gorgeous, using an emotive string trio to weave an oriental sensibility into the opening duet and solo performances. [...] Finally, the standing ovation was testament to the dancer’s skill and beauty of movement and its power to move, entrance and transport the viewer to something less ordinary." ...
 
Lynne Dwyer about Anima (Insight & Concerto for Cello & Strings), October 2016 / The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
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THE BARD OF TYSOE
 
 ..."The Postlude is an extended miracle of unaccompanied choral writing – a “chorale” – with just gentle support from the organ. In a way, it brings everything back to reality ... The music, in these dying moments – a full-orchestral ppppp – is even more astonishing than that which precedes it. It truly is rivetingly beautiful. It gives Shakespeare’s memorial the life, the humanity, it describes. And we are left with the chorus hanging in space and time….

It therefore took me several extended, sobbing, moments to remember how to applaud. Let’s just say that Holy Trinity’s roof also hovered, raised by joy and amazement, for many, many minutes. We knew that we had witnessed, well…

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant…
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.

This is a work that will have a long, long life – far surpassing ours. The rest is silence."
 
The Bard of Tysoe about Immortal Shakespeare, April 2016 / The Bard of Tysoe
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WALES ARTS REVIEW    *HIGHLIGHTS 2015 | DIRECTORS & CRITICS: CLASSICAL MUSIC*
"Thanks to the generosity of the composer, I am listening, as I write, to Dobrinka Tabakova’s Centuries of Meditation (YouTube) for choir, harp/piano and strings. She has made freely available the live recording of the premiere of this work given at the Three Choirs Festival in 2012, with a backdrop of pictures of the Thomas Traherne stained glass windows which inspired it. I heard the music reprised this year as part of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, a venue which managed to provide both the space and intimacy which the work seems to me to demand. There were no stained glass windows to hold the eye in St David’s Hall, but the music has such depth of colour and such luminosity that it has imprinted itself in my mind as strongly as the most striking visual image.

The performance which I heard in May was given by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, a group of singers steeped in the music of Eastern European composers, in particular that of Arvo Pärt. Listening to the music of these two composers side by side on that occasion I had a strong sense of Pärt handing over a baton to Tabakova. She was born in Bulgaria and her music seems to draws on the same mysterious wellspring as his (notwithstanding his Estonian origins), but she has lived for much of her life in London, and the influence of the English choral tradition is also clearly audible in her work. Above and beyond both she has articulated that elusive thing which all artists seek to express, her own voice.

Thinking back to a performance which – in words from Traherne which Tabakova set in this work – ‘transported and ravished me’, I now have a great urge to go and gaze upon those stained glass windows in the Audley Chapel of Hereford Cathedral, preferably plugged into a recording of the music. In these dark days it will be a nourishment for the soul."
Cath Barton about Centuries of Meditations, December 2015 / Wales Arts Review
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[...] After Tabakova’s viola and strings arrangement of Schubert’s warm-hearted Arpeggione Sonata, her Fantasy Homage to Schubert took us to a wondrous, ethereal place, where spectral string textures conjure up a magical impression of floating through space, and through which the late emergence of yet another Schubert theme on viola provides a heart-stopping moment [...]
Ken Walton about Fantasy Homage to Schubert, October 2015 / The Scotsman
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WALES ARTS REVIEW
It was fitting that the finale of this year’s Vale of Glamorgan Festival should showcase the work of the festival’s featured composers, Arvo Pärt and Dobrinka Tabokova, and that for this occasion it should accord their music the spaciousness of Cardiff’s premier concert hall. [...]

Dobrinka Tabakova’s Centuries of Meditation (2012), was commissioned for the Three Choirs Festival and premiered in the year of its composition by the Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir with the Orchestra of the Swan conducted by David Hill in Hereford Cathedral, under the stained glass windows which were its inspiration. A translucent work for choir and strings, this entrances the listener from the start as the strings shimmer under the voices. Tabakova exploits every technique available to her players, adding harp – here played by Ceri Wynne Jones – to create additional layers of resonance, akin to the bell-like sounds which are integral to Pärt’s work. Voices and strings blend and are woven together in a completely captivating way. Her music will appeal instantly to lovers of the English choral tradition, and yet it is new and different and all her own. Her choice of texts from the works of the English mystic Thomas Traherne is nothing short of completely felicitous – the very quality he himself sought. […]

In the second half of this concert we heard the UK premiere of Tabakova’s Concerto for Violincello and Strings (2008), with Kristina Blaumane, for whom the piece was written, as cello soloist. In the first movement a curious thing happened: at a certain point the soloist was playing, alone, and yet there was a penumbra of sound around her. Whether this was a happy effect of the acoustics of the hall or Tabakova is some sort of mesmerist I cannot say. Her sound certainly blooms – a word she uses herself in her always unpretentious, illuminating programme notes – and the hall certainly carries it out, but there is something more. It is perhaps that access to a deep source which has been mentioned before in relation to both Tabakova and Pärt’s music, something intangible.
I would say to anyone who loves the cello and who reveres Elgar’s Cello Concerto that they should listen to this work. The cover of this year’s Vale Festival programme carries the strapline ‘Today’s New Music; Tomorrow’s Classics’. I would say that this could be one of them. [...]
Cath Barton about Centuries of Meditations and Concerto for Cello & Strings, May 2015 / Wales Arts Review
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Recording of the month
I was greatly impressed with Dobrinka Tabakova’s highly imaginative Alma Redemptoris mater. The piece makes great play with dancing triads, initially given to the female voices, around which other musical material is skillfully woven. This is an intriguing piece which manages at one and the same time to sound very old and very new.
John Quinn about Alma Redemptoris Mater, February 2015 / Music Web International
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Dobrinka Tabakova treats the meditative Alma redemptoris mater in a highly effective quasi-orchestral style […] most memorable
 
Malcolm Riley about Alma Redemptoris Mater, January 2015 / Gramophone Magazine
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Judith Weir about The Marian Collection
But it’s the new-ness of the new music (all recently commissioned by Merton College) that provides illumination for everything else [...]. I particularly admired Dobrinka Tabakova’s setting of Alma Redemptoris Mater; ingenious polytonality resolving itself logically, but warmly.
Judith Weir about Alma Redemptoris Mater / November 2014
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[...] A Royal Philharmonic Society commission, Dobrinka Tabakova's Pulse, with film noir by Ruth Paxton and using gamelan, piano and percussion, confirmed the talent of this young British composer: one to watch. 

Fiona Maddocks about Pulse, July 2014 / The Observer

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All music is cut from the cloth of life, either in celebration or defiance of it. Perhaps that is why critics and historians are habitually searching for easy clues and obvious hints in a composer's biography to explain their work. String Paths, conceptualised as a documentation of pieces written between 2002 and 2008, isn't making life easy for them. The album compiles five pieces highlighting and contrasting different ensemble constellations, from the multifarious trio "Insight" and a "Suite in Old Style" to the show-stopping Concerto for Cello and Strings, which sandwiches a slow "Longing" sequence in between two passionate, anthemic, rhythmically agitated movements. Melody, a pronounced sense of propulsion and a 21st century sense of harmony are the main building blocks here. [...] The closing septet "Such Different Paths" is a case in point, a process of lines exploding onto the canvas, then continually flowing, dripping, rising, converging, blurring, drifting apart and re-aligning again. It may seem as though there were a program at work here. But in reality, creation is a means to an end, which intriguingly blurs the borders between the autobiographical and the absolute. Those looking for easy clues and obvious hints will definitely be disappointed: Tabakova is writing music for the ritual of listening. Explaining away its mystery is the last thing on her mind.

Tobias Fischer about String Paths, Feb 2014 / tokafi.com

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Contemporary Compositional Record of the Year
 
"The genius crafting of Tabakova’s compositions are not just great contemporary works – they were INSTANT CLASSICS. Tabakova’s works are alluring to say the least and emotionally one of the most humbling records for even the most staunch listener. String Paths pieces together delicate, fragile movement that are beautiful at every turn. Tabakova is far above in a class of composers to herself and very rarely do audiences see a living legend develop as it happens. String Paths is Tabakova’s first super milestone vibrant with imagination and color that will set the bar incredibly high for all classical composers going forward."
The team at weblog Alto Riot about String Paths, December 2013 / Alto Riot
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"[...]stunning [...] an original and exciting, deeply moving, and triumphant commercial recording debut. What’s more, there is something immediate and personal about her music that will prove the envy of many of her peers. Tabakova may be using the musical materials of tradition, but through them she has broken new paths, while young composers are sure to take notice and be inspired."
Mark Nowakowski about String Paths, October 2013 / The Washington Times Communities
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[...]“String Paths,’’ features the intensely hypnotic music of Dobrinka Tabakova. [...] Tabakova writes under the arch of ancient and modern, of mystical and magisterial, particularly her glowing “Concerto for Cello and Strings’’ [...] Tabakova’s writing sounds effortless, if not ethereal, and she challenges listeners without making them feel uncomfortable. From the first to last notes on this disc, the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and a top-notch group of soloists wrap us in a luminous blanket of sound."
Kurt Loft about String Paths, September 2013 / Tampa Tribune
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"The first CD solely devoted to Bulgarian-born Londoner Dobrinka Tabakova certainly makes clear the basis of her appeal, with her music's unabashed combination of tonality, modality and folk influences, choric chant, East-West synthesis and - in the works here - a sensuous delight in the sonority of strings. Much of the work on offer could be music for an arthouse film, set in some desolate, beautiful land. Slow movements express longing and rapture, while the lively rhythms and modality of her quicker ones remind me of Vaughn Williams: [...] Tabakova writes for her chosen instruments with disarming naturalness and enthusiasm, as in the bravura septet Such different paths [...] Most fascinating is the Suite in Old Style [...] ECM's publicity calls it 'Rameau channeling' but this is no pastiche, rather a Schnittke-style polystylistic romp with oriental cross-currents. Contemporary music, in short, that's amazingly easy on the ear'  *****Orchestral Choice *****
Calum MacDonald about String Paths, August 2013 / BBC Music Magazine
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"ECM have swooped down on 32-year old Dobrinka Tabakova with a hypnotic Cello Concerto and a Rameau-channeling Suite in Old Style for viola and chamber orchestra. The expressive range is riveting, piercingly beautiful and frequently radiant, and each of the pieces reveals an ingenious use of instrumental resources that enable the composer to paint with broad strokes."
Haiku Reviews about String Paths, August 2013 / Huffpost Arts & Culture
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"Bulgarian-British composer Dobrinka Tabakova was impressed during her studies by such figures as Sofia Gubaidulina, Giya Kancheli, and perhaps Alfred Schnittke. Yet the music on this collection doesn't follow any of those examples slavishly. The Baroque elements of Schnittke's music are present in the Suite in Old Style for viola, harpsichord, and strings, but there is nothing neo-classic about the work. Instead, Tabakova extends the massed sound of Baroque music into a series of abstract planes, ornamented with other small details of Baroque concerto style. The effect is completely individual, and so it goes through the rest of the program, with references to traditional styles that seem at once completely natural and thoroughly decontextualized. Frozen River Flows, for violin, accordion, and double bass, seems inevitably to refer to Schubert's cycle Die Winterreise, yet it captures the tension of that work in an entirely different way from the original. The string septet Such Different Paths, written for and performed here by violinist Janine Jansen, has a violin part that disassociates itself from the rest of the septet and rises into the stratosphere; the configuration resembles, among other works, The Lark Ascending, yet the music shares a certain tension with the rest of the program. Although the mood is sensuous rather than challenging or violent, the tight writing for the instrumental ensembles and the difficulty of the individual parts adds a rigor to the whole that makes a fascinating contrast with the various familiar bits that go by. The various combinations of top-flight mostly Eastern European players could hardly be improved upon; they have clearly found in Tabakova composer who can furnish them with absolutely contemporary ideas that do not discard the training that shaped them. The music is likewise perfectly suited to ECM's hyperclarity of engineering."
James Manheim about String Paths, August 2013 / Allmusic.com
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"Revel in this ... you cannot help but be emotionally moved." ... "When we have composers such as Dobrinka Tabakova at the very threshold of her career and artists such as those playing on this record we need have no fear for the future of music. It will last as long as people like her write and people like us listen. This disc is full of music to delight and wonder at. It is played superlatively and with ECM’s usual attention to maintaining its benchmark standards in sound."
Rob Barnett and Steve Arloff about String Paths, August 2013 / Music Web International
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"Performances of music by Dobrinka Tabakova (Bulgarian-born 1980 but London resident since she was 11) have become a welcome and frequent feature of musical life in Britain and across continental Europe for so long now that it is strange a CD dedicated to her music should have taken so long to appear. It was worth the wait: this one is outstanding in every aspect - hugely enjoyable from start to finish and at times extraordinarily lovely.
The disc opens with the string trio Insight from 2002, a single span of not quite ten minutes and it grabs the listener immediately. It is, quite simply, gorgeous, with caramel-rich chords animated by a stabbing gesture gradually giving way to an urgent, folk-like dance; Bradley Bambarger's notes reveal that she was thinking of the trio as an accordion, and the textures breathe in and out accordingly, the more active elements springing from that chordal foundation like flares off the surface of the sun before settling down again. It has been a long time since I heard a new piece of music as sheerly beautiful as this one, and these ten minutes more than justify the price of the disk as a whole.
The Concerto for cello and strings (2008), about 20 minutes in duration, opens with a movement marked 'Turbulent, tense', but after the opening bustle, reminiscent of Arvo Part at his most vigorous, the cello spins out a long melody that initially calms matters down; the bustle returns and the two elements fise together before being enveloped in a cloud of slow string chords. The central movement, 'Longing', is where Tabakova lets her lyrical heart off its leash in an exquisitely impassioned cello solo, supported at first tenderly and then increasingly ardently by the string orchestra until, passion spent, the music coasts gently into shelter and rest. The finale, 'Radiant', opens with harmonics, suggesting that the soul which passed from life in the second movement was now floating upwards, but the vigour that attends the cello part and soon spreads to the rest of the orchestra pushes such sentimentality aside; their folk-inspired minimalist dance tumbles happily onwards until held chords pin down its movements and the music stops without further ado.
The six-minute Frozen River Flows was originally written, for oboe and percussion, in 2005; this arrangement, for violin, double bass and accordion, was made shortly afterwards at the request of Roman Mints- and it works wonderfully well. As the title suggest, Tabakova's fondness for juxtaposing lyrical and more active elements is deployed here, too, a more vigorous central passage emerging from, and being reclaimed by, long and lovely melodic lines-and the instrumentation is strikingly effective. This piece, too, has more that its fair share of magic.
The three-movement, 17-minute Suite in Old Style (2006) was written for viola, harpsichord and string quintet; here the quintet is expanded to string orchestra. In contrast with the emotional intensity of much of the rest of the disc, Tabakova here lets her hair down with some relatively relaxed pseudo-Baroque, with two buoyant dances either side of a very lovely nocturne.
The closing string septet, Such different paths, opens with the most explicitly minimalist material, with a series of little motivic cells thrown around by the violins and slowly expanding out to take in the other instruments (the piece is scored for pairs of violins, violas and cello and a double bass). Tabakova being Tabakova, it doesn't take long for modal dance elements to invade the proceedings. But the energy seeps away and the music sinks into a slow mantra in the lower strings; an ecstatic violin solo that deliberately echoes Vaughn Williams's ascending lark (in homage to the performance of the VW by Janine Jansen, for whom Such different paths was composed and who resumes her responsibilities here) casts an hypnotic spell and the music passes from view in long, loving lines, tranquil and unassertively ecstatic.
Tabakova is fortunate in her musical friends, and many of them are gathered here to make her music: Kristina Blaumane and Maxim Rysanov are outstanding soloists in the Cello Concerto and Suite in Old Style respectively, but the performances are of the highest quality across the CD as a whole. The recordings bring clarity to the solo lines and rich reverberance to the carpet of string-orchestral sound that Tabakova favours. A winner, then, and I urge you to make its acquaintances soon- it will take only the opening bars of Insight to persuade you that you made the right decision." 

Martin Anderson about String Paths, July/August 2013 / International Record Review

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"No indie classical producer has done more to raise the market profile of important new contemporary voices than Manfred Eicher, the ever-enterprising founder-director of the ECM New Series label. He has got several uncommonly interesting CDs out this summer, including "String Paths," the first full collection of works for small ensemble by Dobrinka Tabakova.
Anyone who admires the fusion of ancient and modern in the music of Arvo Part will respond to the works of the young, Bulgarian-born, English-educated composer. In Tabakova's Concerto for Cello and Strings, Kristina Blaumane's cello moves across a landscape of increasingly luminous timbres, spiraling upward at the ecstatic close. The tonal-modal intensities are at once piercingly sweet and pungently dissonant in the string trio "Insights" and the string septet "Such different paths," variously played by violinist Janine Jansen and several of Tabakova's former conservatory colleagues, with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra."

John von Rhein about String Paths, July 2013 / Chicago Tribune

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"Die 33-jähre Dobrinka Tabakova schreibt Musik, die direkt zum Hörer spricht; in der Platz ist für die große Emotion und auch Sehnsucht. Zuweilen erinnert ihr Stil an Arvo Pärt, dann wieder an Olivier Messiaen oder amerikanische Minimal Musik. Glücklich kann sich eine junge Komponistin schätzen, der solch exzellente Interpreten zur Seite stehe! Kristina Blaumane im Cellokonzert, der Bratscher Maxim Rysanov in der 'Suite in Old Style' Janine Jansen im Streichseptett- sie spielen Tabakovas Musik, dass kaum Wünsche offenbleiben: mit emotionaler Tiefe, beeindruckendem Klangsinn und nebenbei auch mit schlichter Perfektion. Vielleicht sind es aber auch einfach Intensität und Vielschichtigkeit von Tabakovas Sehnsuchts-Musiken, die sie zum Äußersten inspirieren."

Clemens Haustein about String Paths, July 2013 / Stereo Magazine

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"Compelling music from a young British-Bulgarian composer[…] Even on a first hearing, the music of Bulgarian-born and London-educated composer Dobrinka Tabakova sounds reassuringly familiar. It's no less fresh and compelling for that, though. Her glowing tonal harmonies and grand, sweeping gestures convey a huge emotional depth that gives the pieces here immediate appeal. And it would be hard to better the passionately committed performances of her music[…] on this remarkable disk. The high point is Kristina Blaumane's astonishingly powerful performance of Tabakova's 2008 Cello Concerto, an account of such intensity that it's quite draining to listen to[...] From start to finish it’s hard not to be swept up in the abundant power of Tabakova’s music- matched in a recorded sound that's warm and clear."

David Kettle about String Paths, June 2013 / The Strad

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"Bulgarian-born and resident in London for the past two decades, Dobrinka Tabakova (b1980) brings together several of the facets that have pervaded Central and Eastern European music over the past quarter of a century. This first disc dedicated to her output (between 2002 and 2008) is judiciously balanced between chamber and concertante pieces, with the latter represented by works for cello and viola. Concerto for Cello and Strings feels nominally the more conventional: its outer movements, ruminative and restive by turns, frame one whose ecstatic solo writing is intensified by the string orchestra’s textural and harmonic richness. Kristina Blaumane (principal cellist of the London Philharmonic) takes its many technical challenges, not least the plunging final gesture, wholly in her stride – as does Maxim Rysanov the more discursive format of Suite in Old Style; its outer movements are decidedly anecdotal takes on Baroque and Classical idioms (the composer has spoken of her admiration for Respighi in this regard), while that between them is a ‘nocturne’ of sustained eloquence.

As to the chamber pieces, Insight draws its string trio into less a three-way dialogue than a span of subtly differentiated timbres, while Such Different Paths adopts a more intricate format whereby the string septet is divided into various sub-groups that finally coalesce into an ethereal postlude. With its scoring for violin, double bass and accordion, Frozen River Flows evinces a more detached manner in its plaintive lilting melancholy. The performances are as formidably assured as the roster of musicians would suggest, while ECM’s spaciously atmospheric sound suits the music-making ideally. If not revelatory, Tabakova’s is still a thoughtful and approachable new voice which ought to secure an enthusiastic following."

Richard Whitehouse about String Paths, June 2013 / Gramophone Magazine

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"[...] Ausdruck einer sehr persönlichen Sprache. Die 2006 entstandene Suite scheint der Ausgangspunkt für die erste, bei ECM erschienene, Porträt-CD dieser außergewöhnlichen jungen Komponistin gewesen zu sein. Neben der Suite präsentiert sie mit drei Kammermusikwerken und dem Konzert für Violoncello und Streichorchester vier Werke sehr unterschiedlichen Zuschnitts, die jedoch alle Ausdruck einer sehr persönlichen Sprache sind. Die Bulgarin hat keinerlei Scheu vor fast romantisch anmutenden, weit gespannten melodischen Linien, vor offen ausgestellter Expressivität und Emotionalität, vor süffigen Streicherkantilenen
- und vor der Tonalität.[...] Vertreter der reinen Lehre mögen sich angesichts eines so offenkundig entspannten Verhältnisses zu Tradition und Vergangenheit möglicherweise mit Grausen wenden. Doch es wäre ein Missverständnis, Tabakovas Unbefangenheit mit Unreflektiertheit zu verwechseln. Und ihre klangsinnliche
Musik entwickelt eine enorme Sogwirkung, nicht nur in ihren ruhigen, meditativen Momenten. Dass Tabakovas Musik einigermaßen barrierefrei auch von Menschen gehört werden kann, die wenig Erfahrung mit zeitgenössischer Musik haben, muss man sicher nicht für eine Katastrophe halten, und einen Hinweis auf ihre
Qualität liefert dieser Umstand schon gar nicht.[...] 1980 im bulgarischen Plovdiv geboren, ging Dobrinka Tabakova 1991 nach London, wo sie u.a. am Junior Department der Royal Academy of Music, an der Guildhall School und am King's College studierte. Meisterkurse bei John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Iannis Xenakis
u.a. ergänzen das Bild eines von Grund auf ideologiefreien Komponierens. Von daher sollte man sich hüten, sie vorschnell in die Ecke osteuropäischer, gefühliger Postmoderne zu stellen. Seien es die fragile Kühle ihres Trios "Frozen River Flows" für Violine, Akkordeon und Kontrabass, der an minimalistische Verspieltheit erinnernde Beginn ihres Streichseptetts " Such different paths" oder die immer wieder von Ausbrüchen gestörten flächigen Klänge und ruhigen Linien ihres Streichtrios "Insight", die auf der neuen CD dokumentierte Sprache Tabakovas ist so vielseitig, von einer solchen Differenziertheit und Intensität, dass sich jede vorschnelle Einordnung verbietet. Dass die überragenden Interpreten nicht wenig zum überaus positiven Gesamteindruck dieser Veröffentlichung beitragen, muss kaum eigens erwähnt werden. Das gilt für den Bratscher Maxim Rysanov, der sich intensiv für die Musik Tabakovas einsetzt, nicht anders als für Janine Jansen als die sicher prominenteste Künstlerin auf dieser CD, für das Litauische Kammerorchester ebenso wie für alle anderen Beteiligten. Eine wunderschöne CD."

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[...]Expression of a very personal language. The suite created in 2006 appears to have been the point of departure for the first portrait CD, appearing on the ECM label, of this exceptional young composer. Besides the suite she presents, with the three pieces of chamber music and the concerto for cello and string orchestra, four works of very varied format which, however, are all an expression of a very personal language. The Bulgarian has absolutely no reticence when it comes to sounding almost romantic, from wide-ranging melodic lines, to openly exhibited expressiveness and emotionality, to full-bodied string cantilenas - and to tonality. [...] Defenders of the pure doctrine may possibly turn away with horror on account of such an obviously relaxed attitude towards tradition and the past. But it would be a mistake to confuse Tabakova’s naturalness with a lack of reflection. And the sensuous timbre of her music develops an enormous pull, not just in her quiet, meditative moments. It is certainly not correct to think it a catastrophe the way that Tabakova’s music can also be heard, more or less without barriers, by people who have little experience of contemporary music and this fact certainly does not provide any indication of her quality.[...] Born in 1980 in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, Dobrinka Tabakova moved in 1991 to London, where she studied among others at the Junior Department of the Royal Academy of Music, at the Guildhall School and at King's College. Master classes with John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Iannis Xenakis complement the picture of ideology-free composition from scratch. Therefore one should be careful of hastily placing her in the East European, Post-Modernist pigeonhole. Whether it is the fragile coolness of her trio "Frozen River Flows" for violin, accordion and contrabass, the beginning of her string septet "Such different paths" reminiscent of minimalist playfulness or the expansive sounds and quieter lines of her string trio "Insight" repeatedly disturbed by outbreaks, the language of Tabakova documented on her new CD is so versatile, of such sophistication and intensity, that any hasty classification is out of the question. It goes without saying that the outstanding interpreters make a not insignificant contribution to the generally positive overall impression of this release. This applies to the violist Maxim Rysanov, who is intensively committed to Tabakova’s music, as it does to Janine Jansen as the undoubtedly most prominent artist on this CD, to the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra as well as to all the others involved. A wonderful CD." 

Oswald Beaujean, about String Paths, June 2013 / Bayerischer Rundfunk Radio

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"Mit zum Gamüt. Wie unterhält man sich mit einem Komponisten des 18. Jahrhunderts? Wie lassen sich Sprach-und Ländergrenzen, Epochen, vor allem: die festen Vorstellungen von dem, was an Neuer Musik gefälligst neu zu sein habe, überwinden? Die bulgarisch-britische Komponistin Dobrinka Tabakova, Jahrgang 1980, tut es einfach. In aufreizend naiven Klangmaleireien ruft ihre Suite in Old Style für Viol, Harfe und Streicher barocke Fanfaren, Jagdszenen und Spiegelsäle à la Rameau vors innere Ohr. Oft trügt der Schein, wie in einem tönenden Trompe-l-oeil, und alle Kategorien lösen sich auf, verschmelzen zu einer urwüchsigen Sinnlichkeit (wie auch in ihrem Cello-Konzert). Man könnte diese Musik, die zwischen südosteuropäischer Folklore, Gershwin und Giya Kancheli ihre Inspirationsquellen sucht, eklektizistisch nennen. Man könnte es aber auch lassen und sagen: Solchen Mut zum Gemüt haben wir lange nicht mehr gehört."
"...Such courage we have not heard in a while"

Christine Lemke-Matwey about String Paths, June 2013 / Die Zeit

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"Dobrinka Tabakova’s music has a particularly 21st-century feel for its broad palette – its free mix of tonality and modality, of folk-music influence and the example of past masters.” ECM’s sleeve note is entirely accurate. We’re innately suspicious of contemporary music which is easy on the ear – as if there’s conflict between accessibility and compositional rigour. Tabakova was born in Bulgaria in 1980, moving to London to study in the early 1990s. Her aim is to write music “that grabs you and has something to say,” citing John Adams and Sofia Gubaidulina among her inspirations. And she’s brilliant at seizing your attention – the angular bass figurations which kick off the Concerto for Cello and Strings, or the accordion-like wheeziness which colours parts of the string trio Insight. The concerto’s last movement is stunning, the combination of vigour and ecstacy recalling Tippett. Tabakova’s Suite in Old Style for viola and chamber orchestra won’t frighten anyone – an affectionate baroque pastiche which does plumb genuine depths. That it could have been composed at any point during the last century shouldn’t underplay its charms. More striking is a trio for violin, accordion and bass, and an ambitious string septet, Such different paths, dedicated to (and here recorded by) Dutch violinist Janine Jansen. Solo playing throughout is inspired, whether it’s from Maxim Rysanov on viola, Kristine Blaumane on cello, or violinist Roman Mints. ECM’s sound is, as usual, rich and detailed.

Graham Rickson about String Paths, June 2013 / The Arts Desk

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Aptly for a Bulgarian composer educated in England, the music of Dobrinka Tabakova pivots on the cusp of East and West European, as well as sounding both ancient and modern. [... there are echoes here of Arvo Pärt, both in the tintinnabuli effects occasionally discernible in the turbulent first movement of her “Concerto for Cello and Strings”, and in the ascetic but radiant tone of her string trio “Insight”. 
Elsewhere, violin keens wistfully over a wanly pulsing double bass and droning accordion to achieve the appropriately glacial tone of “Frozen River Flows”, while her “Suite in Old Style” employs viola, harpsichord and orchestra in a manner part folk dance, part elegy, and part reverie. 

Andy Gill about String Paths, May 2013 / The Independent

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From the tender, but dramatic ‘Insight’ to ‘The Suite In Old Style’, which seems to call on and fuse elements from a huge range of musical times and traditions, the power and complexity of her music shines through, served by wonderful musicianship. For me there were traces of Arvo Pärt, Elgar and even Michael Nyman at his best. But Tabakova’s music is unique, fusing east and west in a highly original way. The haunting theme that is revisited time and again in the 16-minute-long-conclusion to the album, ‘Such Different Paths’, is stunning, giving me to believe that Tabakova is one of the best young composers working today.

Fern Bryant about String Paths, May 2013 / Musical Pointers

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Polish playwright Sławomir Mrożek, in his 1965 play Tango, asked how can progress be possible if everything is permissible and tradition is dead? Bulgarian/English composer Dobrinka Tabakova in String Paths (her debut release for ECM […]) answers this question by constantly referencing the past on one hand, but peppering it with contemporary innovation and neat compositional tricks on the other.[...] Taken as a whole, the album hits the delicate balance between clarity, complexity, tradition and innovation perfectly and is one that reveals itself little by little with each listen.

Rob Edgar about String Paths, May 2013 / London Jazz

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It takes a lot to upstage Fauré’s Requiem, but it happened on Monday afternoon with a Three Choirs Festival commission, Centuries of Meditations by the young British/Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tabakova. The work is a setting of words by the 17th century mystic Thomas Traherne, which inspired Tom Denny’s four stained glass windows in the Audley Chapel of Hereford Cathedral. And like the burnished reds, gold and greens of the windows, the music itself blazes with light and texture.
Tabakova’s style is deceptively minimalist, but never in an over repetitive way. It makes felicitous use of repeated chord patterns and ostinati (strings of the Orchestra of the Swan were glowingly sonorous) and long vocal lines (sustained with lustrous fortitude by the disciplined and surprisingly mature sounding TCF Youth Choir) that grow exponentially towards a sense of wondrous fulfilment.
Although not designed as a companion-piece to the Fauré, this new and hauntingly beautiful composition seemed strangely apposite, perhaps due to its shared themes of faith, love and humanity;…

David Hart about Centuries of Meditations, July 2012 / Birmingham Post

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[...]The triumph of the afternoon, though, was Dobrinka Tabakova’s specially-commissioned piece Centuries of Meditations. In Hereford Cathedral’s tiny Audley Chapel are four stained glass windows made by Tom Denny in 2009. Each one explores an aspect of local 17th-century mystic Thomas Traherne’s philosophy, and Tabakova had taken sections of his poetry as her inspiration. The young British/Bulgarian composer was present to hear her work come to life, with the youthful chorus as an entirely appropriate vehicle. Taking the enthusiastic applause, she beamed like the sun and, with hand on heart, was clearly moved by the occasion. And rightly so.
This thoughtful and thought-provoking piece was dreamy in its unfolding. Interpreting the windows from left to right, the first movement reflects a celebration of nature, with life-affirming forward motion and a sense of bursting forth; the second emphasises the importance of faith, musing on the shining central cross through unaccompanied plainchant; the third is a meditation on love, with the window’s central figure bathed in a glow of light, ‘translated musically’, according to Tabakova, ‘as growing rich cluster chords, which radiate from a single note’; and the fourth depicts community, by means of a city (clearly Hereford itself as the Cathedral is seen in the distance), the work coming to a close with the development of a theme of bells and culminating in a joyous finale. The choir and orchestra were perfectly balanced and did full justice to this accessible new work. It was a privilege to witness the bringing together of windows, words and music in the most appropriate location, especially as even the weather was in tune. My lasting memory will be of this phrase of Traherne, sung with tenderness and clarity, the final sustained word continuing to shimmer with light and life before skittering up into an accomplished slide: ‘You are as prone to love as the sun to shine.’

Katherine Dixson about Centuries of Meditations, July 2012 / bachtrack

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At first glance Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata seems a most unlikely candidate for transformation into a fully-fledged viola concerto. A closer look at the score suggests otherwise, particularly as the piano plays a rather subsidiary role in the musical argument. Indeed there is some historical precedence for Dobrinka Tabakova’s resourceful arrangement in the present release since Gaspar Cassadó adapted the same work for cello and full orchestra in 1930. Yet whereas the Cassadó sounds somewhat bloated, Tabakova’s adaptation for string orchestra seems more closely attuned to the intimate spirit of the original. Certainly Maxim Rysanov makes the best possible case for hearing this version, delivering a wonderfully poetic account of the solo part with subtle and sensitive accompaniment from the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. 

BBC Music Magazine, Sept 2011 , about Schubert Arpeggione arrangement

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[...] the string-orchestra arrangement of the piano part by Dobrinka Tabakova is convincing in its sensitivity and instrumental colouring. 

Geoffrey Norris about Schubert Arpeggione arrangement, Aug 2011, The Daily Telegraph

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[...] And there was the luminous “Syng, Hevin Imperiall” by Dobrinka Tabakova, one of three winners of the Sorel Composition Competition for female choral composers on the program. Setting a 15th-century Middle English poem by William Dunbar, it closed in a mood of gorgeous calm after a gauzily beautiful opening punctuated with organ flourishes.

Zachary Woolfe about Syng, Hevin Imperiall, June 2011 / The New York Times

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Tabakova world premiere is a class act [...] This beautifully crafted piece was commissioned by the organist William Saunders from the young British/Bulgarian composer and written especially with Brentwood Cathedral’s restored Hunter organ in mind. The two movements, Pastoral and Choral, were simple in structure but rich in sonority and harmony and were done full justice by Saunders. The Choral particularly caught the ear with its emotional intensity and sensuous, shifting harmonies. It is not hard to imagine this quickly establishing itself in the organ repertoire.

David Worsfold about Diptych for solo organ, Oct 2010 / bachtrack

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The rather lengthy intermission ended with the anticipation of yet another arrangement of a well-known and loved sonata for a stringed instrument and piano: Franz Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata. Although written for a defunct, very short-lived instrument that was a bowed combination of cello, guitar and gamba, it is now mostly played on cello. This performance featured Rachlin playing the viola along with the ASMF in an arrangement by Dobrinka Tabakova, an award winning young British/Bulgarian composer. While admittedly it is difficult to overcome one’s comfort and bias to the original, this arrangement seemed to work much better than the Kreutzer [...] This was a very satisfying experience and adds another excellent adaptation to the already many versions of one of Schubert’s masterpieces. 

Jeffrey Rossman about Schubert Arpeggione arrangement, Apr 2010 / Classical Voice of North Carolina 

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Die Kremerata Baltica war beim Auftritt zur Mozartwoche am Mittwoch in Spiellaune um ihren Meister geschart. Ein Stück, auf das man sich auf Anhieb verliebt, war "Sun Triptych" für Violine und Violoncello der 30-jährigen gebürtigen Bulgarin Dobrinka Tabakova.[...]

Kremerata Baltica, who performed at the Mozart-week on Wednesday surrounded their director in playful mood. A piece which one fell in love with straight away was Sun Triptych  for violin and cello [and strings] by the 30-year-old Bulgarian-born Dobrinka Tabakova...

eStro about Sun Triptych, Jan 2010 / Salzburger Nachrichten

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[...] In der Orchesterfassung mit Jansen am Konzertmeisterpult klangen die phasenverschobenen "Pfade" dieses Stücks, die sich immer weiter verästelten, diesmal noch konturierter als in der bekannten Kammermusikversion. Auch wenn die Pseudotonalität und die an Bartók oder Kurtág angelehnte Folkoristik Tabakovas nicht wirklich neu in der Neuen Musik sind, üben die Empfindsamkeit und der obsolete Sehnsuchtsgestus doch große Faszination aus. [...] 

In the orchestra version, with Jansen in the leader's seat, we heard Such different paths... There were moments of pseudo-tonality and folk-leanings akin to Bartok or Kurtág … the emotional charge and longing gestures produced fascinating effects...

Helmut Peters about Such Different Paths, Jan 2010 / Die Welt

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[…] Dobrinka Tabakova's recently composed Suite in Jazz Style in which you surely can hear jazz, but not only. Digesting strong influences of other composers and music of the last century, the work immediately sounds like an instant classic […] Everything is fresh, vibrant and makes sense. The music is rarely atonal and speaks a rich language. The interesting thing is, nothing seems to be scored following some kind of predetermined conception of how written music should sound today. As an agreeable consequence, the result is therefore very personal. Rysanov, to whom the work has been dedicated, and Katsnelson, make an exceptional job and served the score with true style and spirit. 

During the days of the composition [of Shostakovich's Sonata for viola and piano], Shostakovich wrote an open letter to the musicians of the world: 'By building bridges into the future, we must take care not to burn the bridges connecting today’s culture to its immortal past.' It seems like Dobrinka Tabakova does more than merely fulfilling this mission: whereas Shostakovich showed conflict between the old and the new by putting literal quotations in the middle of a work, she simply merges both worlds. 

Antoine Richard about Suite in Jazz Style, Oct 2009 / tokafi.com

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Bulgarian/British composer Dobrinka Tabakova[‘s][…] Modétudes are just as short as the Scriabin Preludes, but they use modal scales to build still more sharply characterized, melodic miniatures. The results can occasionally sound like Keith Jarrett (in the Aeolian study), but Tabakova is her own woman. The life and imagination of these works, written while she was still a teenager studying in London, are remarkable, and the strength carries through to the more recent Nocturne, written for Chang.

Paul Ingram about Modétudes and Nocturne, Aug 2009 / Fanfare Magazine

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Безспорно избраният център на програмата бе едно очаквано име: Добринка Табакова с творбата ‛Ореол ‛(1999). Действително яркостта и необичайната звукова образност, съчетани с дълбочина, поетичност и неподражаемо артистичен контур на творбата в музикалното пространство, превърнаха тази премиера за България в чудесно преживяване. Ето че отново, тъкмо на форума ppIANISSIMO, се случи нещо, което от няколко години си пожелавам: концертно изживяване с творчеството на младата българска композиторка, постигнала, сякаш незабелязано в борбата за оцеляване на малкото културни пространства в България, световен успех. [...] В мен остана яркото впечатление за нейната индивидуална концепция за звуково структуриране, великолепното изграждане и яснота на драматургията, която при това притежава необикновени и нестандартни пространствени и времеви контури. Благодарна съм, че присъствах на тази нейна позакъсняла българска премиера и че вече мога да се нарека ‛фен“ на младата композиторка.

Without question the centre of the programme was a familiar name- Dobrinka Tabakova with her work Halo (1999). The brightness and unusual sonorities, together with the depth and poetry of the work’s shape, made this an unforgettable experience […] I was left with the impression of strong individuality with an ability to arrange sonic shapes and a clarity which creates a strong sense of dramaturgy… I can now call myself a ‘fan’ of the young composer.

Angelina Petrova about 'Halo', April 2009  Culture Magazine, BG

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Tabakova, die viel für Gidon Kremer und dessen Ensembles schreibt, ist mit diesem Stück etwas gelungen: Sie führt den angloamerikanischen Minimalismus zusammen mit der osteuropäischen Moderne der Zwischenkriegszeit, die in der archaischen Folklore das Neue suchte. Janacek, Martinu und Szymanowski sind hier weitergedacht zu einem reizvollen, packenden Stück, das jenseits der Dilemmata "Neuer Musik" über Tonalität und Mehrstimmigkeit nachdenkt. Richard von Weizsäcker - Ehrenmitglied des Förderkreises Spectrum Concerts Berlin e. V. - wollte seine Begeisterung darüber gar nicht verbergen und gratulierte der jungen Komponistin lebhaft in der Pause. 

Tabakova, who has also written for Gidon Kremer and his ensemble, has here succeeded with this work: She blends Anglo-American minimalism together with the flavour of East European 20th century composers and has produced something completely new. Janacek, Martinu and Szymanowski are re-invented in an attractive, absorbing piece, which thinks beyond the dilemmas ' of new music '. Richard von Weizsäcker - honorary member of Berlin Spectrum Concerts – could not hide his enthusiasm and congratulated the young composer enthusiastically in the break.

Jan Brachmann about Such Different Paths, Jan 2008 / Berliner Zeitung

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Erinnerungsarbeit liegt hier im Aufspüren dieses genialen, ganz anders als Strauss von den Zeitläuften beeinträchtigten Komponisten. Auch das Septett „Such Different Paths“ der 27-jährigen Bulgarin Dobrinka Tabakova, als Auftragswerk uraufgeführt, wandelt auf Spuren der Vergangenheit: mit dissonant irisierenden Schichtungen folkloristisch anmutenden Materials, die sich immer mehr in harmonische Schönheit zurückziehen und zeigen, wie zerbrechlich und bewahrenswert sie ist. 

In this evocative work, we are introduced to this brilliantly different composer. The septet- Such different paths commissioned from the 27-year old Bulgarian-born Dobrinka Tabakova, performed here for the first time, strolls on some tracks of the past: with dissonant shimmering harmonies and folk-like material, which gradually dissolves into a fragile beauty…

Isabel Hertzfeld about Such different paths, Jan 2008 / Der Tagesspiegel

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[...] the unusual and inventive programme, makes this disc a real winner […][Dobrinka Tabakova displays an] extraordinary ear for melody and texture… 

Ivan Moody about Whispered Lullaby, May 2007 / International Record Review

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[…] the most beautiful moment comes in the last track, a haunting miniature, Whispered Lullaby, […] which, with its Debussyesque colourings, draws this hugely impressive disk to a meltingly calm end. 
The Scotsman, May 2007
Kenneth Walton about Whispered Lullaby
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[…] intimate, dreamy Whispered Lullaby […] a perfect encore. 

Duncan Druce about Whispered Lullaby, June 2007 / Gramophone Magazine

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[…] conjures some unusual and intriguing sonorities from the choir and the discreet organ accompaniment. The slow moving music is highly effective and makes good use of the vast acoustics of the cathedral.

John Quinn about Praise, Feb 2005 / MusicWeb International

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[...] the startlingly original – immediately appealing – and prize-winning Praise by Dobrinka Tabakova
BBC Music Magazine, Feb 2005
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[…] Solid form, multicoloured sound world, with an excellent balance between soloist and orchestra […] a composition saturated with an inner, captivating and natural energy…

Juliana Alexieva about Concerto for Viola & Strings, Nov 2004 / Culture Magazine

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[...] a charming new piece by Dobrinka Tabakova... 

Paul Driver about What strikes the Clocke...?, Dec 2003 / The Sunday Times

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[...] refined, expressively suggestive gestures. Dobrinka Tabakova’s What strikes the Clocke?, adopted a similar stance…

Stephen Pettitt about What strikes the Clocke...?, Dec 2003 / Evening Standard

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[...] the delightful Midnight by Dobrinka Tabakova, a little gem. 

Stephen Pritchard about Midnight, Dec 2003 / The Observer

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Dobrinka Tabakova's Midnight (2003) was an impressive, short piece that suggested layering, and Chang's hard touch for its toccata-like passages was exactly right. 

Colin Clarke about Midnight, Jan 2004 / Seen & Heard Concert Review

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Dobrinka Tabakova’s Insight- a work cast in a direct language that intelligently stretches the string instruments’ musical tembres

Joanne Talbot about Insight, Oct 2002 / The Strad

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John Adams, Jan 2002 / At the workshop of the John’s Earbox Festival, Barbican, London

[…] extremely original and rare music (The Accordion)[…] postmodern, in that she has taken material that has a familiar ring to it, and then she has put it up against something completely unique and original.
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[…] The 22-year-old prodigy already has scores of compositions to her credit and her enthralling new work (Insight) ingeniously juxtaposes reality with a fantastic, kaleidoscopic sound world.

Roger Jones about Insight, July 2002 / Gloucester Echo

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[…] very beautiful music […]
Classic FM Radio, Sofia, May 2003
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The joyful finale to the Festival came with the special commission of Dancing on Cobbled Streets by Dobrinka Tabakova

Izvestia, Moscow, Jan 2003

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A persuasive performance of Dobrinka Tabakova’s sonorously endearing Insight …

David Alker about Insight, Sept 2002 / Musical Opinion Magazine

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Prof. Alexander Goehr, Sep 1999, On adjudicating the GSMD Lutoslawski Prize

[…]I can hear a continuation of Janaček’s style in Dobrinka Tabakova’s In Focus…

     

 

 
 


 

 

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