Emil Tabakov’s Seventh Symphony

TABAKOV: Symphony No. 7 / Bulgarian Nat’l Radio Symphony Orch.; Emil Tabakov, cond / Toccata Classics TOCC 0597

This is Vol. 6 in a series of recordings devoted to the complete symphonies of Bulgarian composer-conductor Emil Tabakov (b. 1947). For some reason, I overlooked the first five releases, but I’m glad I decided to review this one because the music is pretty interesting.

Written in 2004, the symphony strikes a balance between tonal music and bitonality—it never really moves into atonality. The opening section is highly dramatic, using a lot of brass, winds, and later on, percussion. To some extent, I felt as if Tabakov was pushing too hard to make his music sound edgy-modern. It’s quite possible that that was the case. It has some interesting ideas but, to my ears, sounded a bit formulaic.

Which doesn’t mean that it’s poorly constructed or ephemeral music, just that it’s not really inspired. Of course, I enjoy the music of other composers who spent long weeks and months constructing their music, among them Meyerbeer and Brahms, so I’m not saying that this is altogether a bad thing. But Meyerbeer and Brahms had very personal styles of writing music, and Meyerbeer in particular generally aimed at making his music entertaining despite the many interesting things in it just as Tabakov obviously aimed at cashing in on the modern fad towards this particular style, and in doing so he was successful but not, as I say, original.

To my ears, the most original music here was the third-movement scherzo, a wild and orchestrally imaginative piece that I enjoyed—except that it went on far too long. The last movement is similar: some good ideas but beaten a bit to death.

Of course, you may get much more out of this symphony than I did. As I say, it’s interesting, but has its flaws.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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