Author Topic: Emil Tabakov (born August 21, 1947)  (Read 583 times)

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Offline foxandpeng

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Emil Tabakov (born August 21, 1947)
« on: September 10, 2021, 12:47:42 AM »
High time Tabakov had his own thread ;D.

Emil Tabakov is a Bulgarian composer, conductor, and double-bass player. He was trained at the Bulgarian State Music Academy in Sofia, where he studied conducting with Vladi Simeonov, double bass with Todor Toshev, and composition with Marin Goleminov, and earned diplomas in all three subjects. He has held several high profile positions, including Music Director and Conductor of the Sofia Soloists Chamber Orchestra from 1979-1987, two stints as Principal Conductor of the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra from 1994-2000, and in 2014 he became the conductor of the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra. He was also Bulgarian Minister of Culture in 1997!

As of 2021, Tabakov has written ten symphonies, but there are also concertos for percussion, two flutes, piano, cello and viola, amongst other works. So far, his symphonic output is most notable amongst his recorded compositions.

Symphony No. 1 (1981) (recorded on Balkanton and a second recording on Toccata Classics TOCC 0410)
Symphony No. 2 (1984) (recorded on Toccata Classics TOCC 0562)
Symphony No. 3 (1988) (recorded on Balkanton 030077)
Symphony No. 4 (1997) (recorded on Toccata Classics TOCC 0467)
Symphony No. 5 (2000) (recorded on Toccata Classics TOCC 0530)
Symphony No. 6 (2001) (recorded on Toccata Classics TOCC 0562)
Symphony No. 7 (2005) (recorded on Toccata Classics TOCC 0597)
Symphony No. 8 (2010) (recorded on Toccata Classics TOCC 0365)
Symphony No. 9 (2015)
Symphony No. 10 (2019)

His primary influences are noted as being Shostakovich, Brahms, Scriabin and Richard Strauss and reviews suggest that he is likely to be of interest to those who are fans of Prokofiev, Shostakovich or Shchedrin. I would also add in Pettersson and Mahler to that list.

Tabakov primarily composes during the summer months, with a style described as exploring the darker side of the human spirit in epic scores as austere as they are powerful, bleak and gripping in equal measure, and showing a grim sense of humour in the teeth of the dancing indifference of fate. Words used to describe his symphonies range from tonal, aggressive, obsessive and violent, filled with wild kaleidoscopes of whirling colours and driving energy, angst-ridden, grief-stricken, effervescent and dissonant, menacing, brooding and threatening :)

It's difficult to recommend an obvious starting point for Tabakov's symphonies, only because they are all pretty gripping, in my opinion.

Current favourites are #8, #2, #1 and #5, although the rest really aren't far behind. The Viola Concerto is great :)


Offline relm1

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Re: Emil Tabakov (born August 21, 1947)
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2021, 05:01:34 AM »
I like his #7.  Basically, I like what I've heard and enjoy the Toccata series.

Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Emil Tabakov (born August 21, 1947)
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2021, 05:22:17 AM »
Ah, #7 is great. I love its epic grandeur and scope. It doesn't quite have the 'nails against a chalkboard' atmosphere of some of the other symphonies (even though it is still infused with that angsty Tabakovian thing that he does so well), but it delivers what it promises with harsh cigarettes and black-and-white-film starkness. Good old threatening brass, menacing percussive drama and disquieting funereal pain, blended with darkness and human misery :)  ;D

One review talks about the finale of #7 really powerfully:

The finale begins with a slow introduction which sets out the material on which the movement will be based. An air of menace soon establishes itself, and soon an inexorably rising tide of encroaching darkness overwhelms the scene. A momentary return to an innocent rising motif from the opening prefaces the main allegro section. This is dominated by a crisp, domineering brass motif and a rapid percussion tattoo, and any attempts by oases of light and air to penetrate the amassing steely hurricane are doomed to early failure. The gathering momentum of this movement must be among the most thrilling, and terrifying, descents into hell ever depicted in Western art. A final, fleeting glimpse of the light of heaven at infinite distance - and the roiling inferno closes in forever.

Drama much? But I get the point. Guy's not wrong :)

I like Rob Barnett's comparison to RVW #4. Different, but kind of the same. But different.

Glad you are a fan :)
« Last Edit: September 10, 2021, 05:49:50 AM by foxandpeng »

Offline André

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Re: Emil Tabakov (born August 21, 1947)
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2021, 07:53:02 AM »
I only have #4 at the moment (plus his big Orchestral Piece). 3 more discs (4 symphonies) are on their way. I should receive them late next week. Tabakov develops a full head of steam (and decibels) in his works, but there is substance aplenty. I look forward to hear them.

He is also a well-recorded conductor, with Mahler and Shostakovich symphonies and a Verdi Requiem under his belt. I don’t think I have explored that facet of his art.

Offline classicalgeek

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Re: Emil Tabakov (born August 21, 1947)
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2021, 12:11:44 PM »
I've sampled some of his symphonies on Spotify, and I immediately thought of Pettersson too. Very grim, stark, serious works from beginning to end... but really compelling in their own way. Yet another composer I intend to explore further!

Offline foxandpeng

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Re: Emil Tabakov (born August 21, 1947)
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2021, 10:48:15 PM »
I only have #4 at the moment (plus his big Orchestral Piece). 3 more discs (4 symphonies) are on their way. I should receive them late next week. Tabakov develops a full head of steam (and decibels) in his works, but there is substance aplenty. I look forward to hear them.


I've sampled some of his symphonies on Spotify, and I immediately thought of Pettersson too. Very grim, stark, serious works from beginning to end... but really compelling in their own way. Yet another composer I intend to explore further!

Looking forward to hearing your impressions!