Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
Dobrinka Tabakova was born in Bulgaria in 1980 but has lived in London for more than 25 years, studying at Alleyn's School, the Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and King's College, London. She composes for both voice and instrument and indeed we have heard some of her work in other collections. This release, though, is all about her although all of her collaborators on this excellent disc do her proud. Following the introduction of girl choristers in 2015, Truro Cathedral Choir, with support from the Arts Council England, set up a partnership with Dobrinka Tabakova who was simultaneously composer in residence for the BBC Concert Orchestra. The orchestra travelled to Truro for the recording session that made use of the excellent acoustic within the cathedral and the two longer tone poems, "Kynance Cove", a setting of a poem by Cornish poet John Harris (1820-1884), and "On The South Downs" with words by polymath Francis William Bourdillon (1852-1951), were recorded live with singers from four other Cornish school choirs, all admirably directed by Christopher Gray and seamlessly captured by producer / engineer Gary Cole. "On The South Downs" also features some wonderfully evocative cello playing by Natalie Clein and in the booklet notes Richard Longman helpfully reminds us that Elgar composed his famous cello concerto while staying in a cottage on the same South Downs and, let it be said, while Dr Tabakova may not yet be quite on the level of Sir Edward the comparison is by no means out of place. Lovely. Also included in the 70 minutes of most enjoyable music is the Marian Antiphon "Alma Redemptoris Mater" ("Loving Mother Of The Redeemer") with some tintinnabuli of which Arvo Pärt would be proud that clears to reveal an ancient Gregorian chant reimagined with modern rhythms that manages the trick of sounding both ancient and modern. This is followed by a suitably joyous setting of Psalm 100, "Jubilate Deo" and then a specially commissioned "Truro Canticles" written for the newly expanded cathedral choir and while there are more than a few settings of the "Magnificat" and "Nunc Dimittis" from Luke's Gospel these are good enough to be of interest beyond Cornwall. This is followed by a "Diptych For Solo Organ" played by Joseph Wicks that helps us to move effortlessly from the traditional texts to the less typical "Praise" written as part of the celebrations of HM The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and "Of A Rose Sing We", a 15th century Christmas poem, premiered on Christmas Eve at Truro Cathedral's famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (as later copied by King's College, Cambridge). Truly a varied programme in which everything sits together very well and with some outstanding musicianship on display throughout.
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