Published on Thursday 8 December 2016
Written by Keith Bruce
UK-domiciled Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tabakova will have been a new name to many in the churches on the Scottish Ensemble’s Candlelit Concerts tour, but it is one they will certainly have noted. Artistic director Jonathan Morton may well have acquired the idea of teaming her music with that of Ralph Vaughan Williams from the premiere of one of her most recent works, Immortal Shakespeare, by the Orchestra of the Swan at Stratford earlier this year, but the pairing of two pieces from 2008, recorded on 2013’s award-winning ECM disc String Paths, with The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis was a plan well worth pursuing.
There are very distinct echoes of The Lark in the leader’s obligato over the looping phrases on the low strings in her Such Different Paths, but the title is perhaps better explained by the way the very precise atonality of the opening and those minimalist repetitions come together with a unity of purpose by the end. In what was a superbly constructed programme, that minimalist influence had also been clear in the opening piece, Wojciech Kilar’s Orawa, which make very specific tonal demands of individual players before an ensemble accelerando and climactic vocal shout.
The other remarkable partnership was of the professional group with star soloist David Cohen on Tabakova’s cello and strings concerto, nine players from the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and two of the Ensemble’s “Young Artists” in a superbly coherent larger group, even when split into two cohorts in the space for the second Vaughan Williams piece.
Every detail of the experience was worth the closest audience attention, but it was the delicacy of Morton’s own solo playing – bravely bold in its proximity to silence – that everyone present will surely have taken home.