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Dobrinka Tabakova: String Paths

img  Tobias Fischer

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. And yet, in concordance with Steven Soderbergh's assessment that it is not the scenes themselves, but the transitions between them that are the most important part of a film, it is Tabakova's way of taking her material through various settings rather than traditionally 'developing' it, of permutating not pitches but possibilities and of aiming not at stylistic eclecticism but fusion, which defines her personal style. Tabakova likes to speak about her work using parallels to the world of cinematography – zooming in and out of certain themes as if shifting focus with a lens – and yet, these references are merely approximations: To Morton Feldman, painting was a metaphor when speaking about music, the movies are her compass when writing it. 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.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Dobrinka Tabakova
Homepage: ECM Records