EMIL TABAKOV (b.1947): Complete Symphonies, Vol. 6 - Symphony No. 7.
Catalogue Number: 04W001
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0597
Description: If you’ve been following this remarkable series thus far, this release is essential, and if you haven’t, the monumental 7th symphony, concise despite its hour-long span, is as good a place to start as any. Tabakov unflinchingly guides his listeners through the abyss more graphically than any other contemporary composer in his strongly, though amply dissonant, tonal idiom, in expansive structures built from repeated motifs and obsessive ostinati. One aspect of this particular symphony that demonstrably heightens its impact is the way in which the composer lays bare the construction of his vast, churning mechanisms. Tabakov’s method is typically to set out his material, consisting of short themes, motifs, and gestures, at the beginning of each movement, and then develop them extensively with incredibly precise attention to structure and timbre in the tautest possible symphonic argument. It is the nature of his material, and the extremes to which he is prepared to take it, that sustain his dark visions over their expanded timescales. These are precisely choreographed apocalypses, as meticulously structured, proportioned and architecturally three-dimensional as one of John Martin's epic Biblical canvases. The huge first movement begins in media res with blaring fanfares with a distinctive battering rhythm, and a warlike swooping theme. These alternate with unpleasantly slithering quiet, disquieting, passages, haunted by an echo of the rhythmic motif, now sounding like an urgently pulsing distress signal. These exceedingly economical materials are then juxtaposed in every possible combination, woven in the tense contrapuntal mesh of an extended development section. A shocked pause in the action ushers in an even more compressed recapitulation which climaxes explosively, and a few traumatized solo voices bring the movement to a hushed close. The slow movement is a colossal funeral march, its main theme strangely reminiscent of a vastly slowed-down theme from Tchaikovsky's Manfred and crowned by a demented chattering motif like demonic laughter. This is no cortège on human scale, but a threnody for the mutual destruction of colliding planets. Secondary material derived from the main theme in closer intervals is presented in ominously gloomy timbres in the subterranean registers of the orchestra, bringing brief respite from the inexorable motion of the procession, which soon heaves back into ponderous activity. All the material presented thus far now combines in increasingly weighty textures, leading to an impossibly overwhelming climax. The funeral march moves on, leaving a stunned coda to close the proceedings. Next comes a scherzo, beginning with the scurrying of small creatures away from the coming cataclysm. When it arrives, it does so at a gallop, bringing with it inexhaustible reserves of rude energy which propel a huge stamping dance in triple time. The "trio" is a translucently scored interlude which does nothing to reduce the movement's tension. The scurrying introduction heralds the gathering of the scherzo's forces, and sure enough, the A section material returns, now overlapping and combined in new ways rather than literally repeated and finally coalescing into a few bars of a gargantuan waltz before evaporating into a reminiscence of the trio, then reappearing and slamming the door on the final climax. 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. Symphony Orchestra of Bulgarian National Radio; Emil Tabakov.