TABAKOV: Concerto for 2 Flutes / Piano Concerto (Bilkent Symphony Orchestra/ Emil Tabakov/ Etienne Collard/ Jean-Philippe Collard/ Patrick Gallois/ Philippe Bernold) (Naxos: 8.570073)
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Emil Tabakov (b. 1947)
Concerto for Two Flutes • Piano Concerto
Emil Tabakov, who used to be an excellent double bass player, now successfully combines the rôles of conductor and composer. In the latter capacity he has written seven symphonies, a Requiem (based on the Latin text of the Mass), a cantata dedicated to the old Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo, concert pieces, works for various ensembles, as well as instrumental concertos, in which he presents a personal vision of the contemporary image and function of the solo performer. In his symphonic music, he insists on the selection and further development of brief, but highly concentrated thematic ideas that lend themselves to a development closer to the classical symphonic conceptions of the first half of the twentieth century.
Emil Tabakov wrote his Concerto for Two Flutes and Orchestra in 2000 at the request of the world-renowned French flautist Patrick Gallois, to whom it is dedicated. The first movement, marked Largo, opens with sustained notes, played pianissimo by violins divisi, and with a delicate meditativeness in the solo flutes, which enter in succession with a theme presented in a repeated rhythmic pattern. The music becomes more active after the soloists introduce the second theme in canon. The development goes through frequent fluctuations in tempo, and the two flutes are often given the opportunity to be alone in a simple imitative texture. The contrast of timbres and motion creates a tragic feeling that lingers in the movement's second episode, where the virtuoso concerto is now transformed into a dramatic slow movement. A brief coda by the soloists is continued by the orchestra and brings this movement to its final measure, marked morendo (dying away). Silence absorbs everything.
The tempo indication of the second movement, Allegro giocoso, allows for a more instrumentally idiomatic conception. The composer himself, who rarely speaks about his music, offers a brief description of its structure: "A slow meditative first section and a fast virtuoso second section". The four-note theme forming the basis of this movement is first heard on the flutes, interrupted by maracas, tambourine and tamburo bulgaro (which can be replaced in performance by a standard large drum). This slightly fragmented theme takes over the orchestra as frantic glissando-like passages in the woodwind sharply change the character of the theme in a sudden forte. The theme is then passed to the violins, bassoons and trumpets. The pure sonority in the initial statement of the theme takes the shape of impending menace; after the first phase of its development, its meaning has already been entirely transformed. This idea continues throughout the entire second movement. The next orchestral culmination seems to steal the stage from the two flutes; an eloquent percussion monologue of drums, cymbals and maracas then precedes the reprise. The cadenza of the two flutes then takes us to a different world, where the music takes on a highly suggestive theatricality.
The world première of the concerto took place in Ankara on 17 June 2003, with the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra under the composer's direction and soloists Patrick Gallois and Albena Petrova. The concerto has since been performed with huge success in Russia, Mexico and Bulgaria.
The formal occasion for the creation of the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra was the commission by Rotary Club Adana (Turkey) to celebrate the anniversary of the Turkish army. What at first might appear to be a paradoxical idea resulted in an exquisite work which has drawn the attention of three pianists: the famous Turkish pianist Gülsin Onay, the young Bulgarian pianist Georgi Cherkin, and the French pianist Jean-Phillipe Collard, who plays the solo part in the present release. The piece was completed in 2003 and its world première took place that year in Adana, with the composer conducting and Gülsin Onay as the soloist.
The composition is in the traditional three movement sequence of the classical concerto, fast-slow-fast, and is scored for a large symphonic orchestra. The work starts with a signal-like trumpet motif, a possible allusion to the occasion this composition was commissioned to commemorate. The main theme is soon transformed, now displaying a classical cheerfulness and energy which create a contrasting atmosphere through the use of aggressive glissandos in the wind instruments in opposition to the delicate piano writing. The climactic moments in this movement are achieved with variations in rhythmic accentuation and orchestral colour. The soloist's cadenza, a wonderful amalgam of virtuosity and a logical re-statement of the first-movement material, leads to a wild coda.
The slow movement offers contrast not only in terms of tempo and character, but especially in its treatment of textures and timbres. Here the soloist joins the cymbals and gong to support the tender piccolo melody. The woodwinds and strings complete the illusion of a calm, imaginary space. This beautiful escape from reality is framed by the quiet fade-out of the piccolo, now descending a semitone lower than at the beginning of the movement.
The third movement, the most complex of the concerto, has a virtuoso, toccata-like, and even aggressive character. Here the solo instrument takes the leading rôle, but the piano sound is heard in the different sections of the movement "through" various instruments of the orchestra. The piano is either surrounded by a solo oboe or complemented by hissing flutes or trumpets, and the brass are again tempted into a glissando. The second theme brings back an intimate mood with a very beautiful dialogue between a solo violin and the solo piano. After a powerful climax, the orchestra gives way to the soloist, who struggles for domination until the signal-like motif from the first movement returns.
It is astonishing that today, in a world of sheer diversity of ideas in music, where just about anything can pass as a musical composition, this concerto resolutely defends economy of means and strict formal procedures based on classical models. The music speaks in a contemporary language without startling the listener or making him feel unprepared. This is music that insists on, and succeeds in, being heard.
Translated from the original Bulgarian by Deyan Georgiev