Wednesday 31 July 2019

Kynance Cove, On the South Downs: Truro Cathedral Choir & BBC Concert Orchestra in Dobrinka Tabakova

Dobrinka Tabakova - Kynance Cove, On the South Downs - Regent Records
Dobrinka Tabakova Kynance Cove, On the South Downs, choral works; Truro Cathedral Choir, BBC Concert Orchestra, Natalie Clein, Joseph Wicks, Christopher Gray; REGENT
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 July 2019 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
A celebration of composer Dobrinka Tabakova's residency at Truro Cathedral, featuring two larger scale works which also celebrate her being composer-in-residence with the BBC Concerto Orchestra

This disc from Regent Records celebrate two of composer Dobrinka Tabakova's residencies, at Truro Cathedral and with the BBC Concert Orchestra, it contains works Tabakova wrote for the choir of Truro Cathedral alongside larger scale works performed with the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Gray, with Natalie Clein (cello) and Joseph Wicks (organ). The disc features the choral pieces, Alma remdeptoris Mater, Jubilate Deo, Truro Canticles, Praise and Of a rose sing we, the Diptych for solo organ, and two works for choir and orchestra, Kynance Cove and On the South Downs, and thus gives usa wide-ranging choral portrait of the composer.

Commissioned by Merton College as part of the Merton Choirbook, Tabakova's Alma redemptoris Mater is a striking piece which creates an etherial atmosphere using bitonality, with hints of plainchant woven into the work. Her Jubilate Deo, for upper voices and organ, has a lovely radiance to the harmonic texture.

The Truro Canticles were commissioned by Truro Cathedral as part of the celebrations for the inclusion of girl choristers into the musical foundation, and it is the girl choristers of the cathedral who sing on all the works in the first part of the disc, with the boy trebles only joining for Kynance Cove and On the South Downs. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis of the canticles use full choir (girl choristers and lay clerks) and organ, with Tabakova adding the antiphon Salva nos, Domine to the Nunc Dimittis. The Magnificat is slow and thoughtful, gradually building, with a lovely sense of harmonic textures, whilst the Nunc Dimittis has a similar numinous atmosphere. Both are substantial works, clearly these are for special occasions only.

Joseph Wicks plays her Diptych for Organ. The first movement is an engaging 'Pastoral prelude' with a free right hand over a left hand drone, whilst the 'Chorale' builds to a climax from a quiet beginning.

Praise, written for HM The Queen's Golden Jubilee Celebrations, sets a text from the Book of Daniel for choir and organ, again creating a rather numinous atmosphere. Of a rose we sing sets a 15th century text, weaving English and Latin into a simple strophic form and creating something rather lovely.

Kynance Cove, setting part of a poem by John Harris, was commissioned by Truro Cathedral in 2018 for choir and orchestra. Here is sung by the cathedral choir (girls, boys, lay clerks) and four youth choirs, Richard Lander School, Truro High School for Girls, Truro School, Cornwall Youth Chamber Choir. The work plunges straight in with a rather dramatic opening. Tabakova creates a flowing pulse on the orchestral strings, over which she sets the more dramatic choral part. Listening to it, I was struck by the influences of RVW and Holst alongside Tabakova's own voice.

On the South Downs sets a descriptive text by the poet Frances William Bourdillon for choir, orchestra and solo cello (Natalie Clein). In three movements, the first and last set the text whilst the middle is purely instrumental. The opening movement sets the text quite homophonically, creating a rather numinous atmosphere over undulating strings with Clein's ecstatic cello weaving in an out. The middle movement continues this feeling of mystical ecstasy and I kept thinking of works by RVW in a similar vein, including his Oxford Elegy. The final movement continues this feeling of radiant ecstasy with a gorgeous wash of sound.

The set features booklet notes by Dr Richard Longman which provide plenty of background to the pieces, albeit written in rather flowery language.

The set provides a fine introduction to Tabakova's work as well as being a celebration of her residencies, and gives us a chance to hear a pair of striking large-scale works alongside the smaller ones.

Dobrinka Tabakova - Alma redemptoris Mater [6:02]
Dobrinka Tabakova - Jubilate Deo (2003) [4.42]
Dobrinka Tabakova - Truro Canticles [12.09]
Dobrinka Tabakova - Diptych for solo organ [9.43]
Dobrinka Tabakova - Praise (2002) [5.14]
Dobrinka Tabakova - Of a rose sing we [5.34]
Dobrinka Tabakova - Kynance Cove (2018) [12.29]
Dobrinka Tabakova - On the South Downs  [14.44]
Truro Cathedral Choir
Richard Lander School Choir
Truro High School for Girls Choir
Truro School Choir
Cornwall Youth Chamber Choir
BBC Concert Orchestra
Natalie Clein (cello)
Joseph Wicks (organ)
Christopher Gray (director)

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