08 May 2024


by Jeff Counts

THE COMPOSER – DOBRINKA TABAKOVA (b. 1980) – Though born in Bulgaria, Dobrinka Tabakova has lived in London since 1991 and become an integral part of Britain’s musical life. She graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and went on to receive a PhD from King’s College London. Fully committed to the promotion of living composers, she co-coordinated the British Music Information Centre’s The Cutting Edge program and has served as president of the Guildhall’s Contemporary Music Society. Tabakova has medaled at the 4th Vienna International Music Competition, was awarded the prize for an anthem commemorating the Queen’s Golden Jubilee at St. Paul’s Cathedral and has been celebrated at competitions from Amsterdam to New York.

Dobrinka Tabakova
Dobrinka Tabakova

THE HISTORY – In her liner notes for the 2023 recording of Orpheus’ Comet, Tabakova states that it “was the first official piece written during my residency with the BBC Concert Orchestra.” She continues, “Commissioned by both the BBC and the European Broadcasting Union, it was written for the 50th anniversary of the regular Music Exchanges and the opening of Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo – the signature melody of Euroradio – was at the heart of the concept for the work. It is a regal, upbeat opening – exactly what you would wish from a fanfare – and in my reimagining, it becomes the culmination of tribute to Euroradio. In my research for Orpheus’ Comet, I came across one of the earliest mentions of the Orpheus legend, which is found in Book IV of Virgil’s Georgics. Essentially these are books about agriculture but, the fourth book begins with a detailed study on the life of bees. The final chapter then turns to the legend of Orpheus and tells of Aristaeus (a shepherd and bee-keeper) who chased Euridice, causing her to trip, be bitten by a serpent and ultimately die. As the piece began to take shape, it was the buzzing bees that left a strong impression on me and transformed into musical material. At the very opening of the piece, the buzzing begins in the horns, gradually evolving into nebulous chord clusters and accent sparks that pass around the rest of the orchestra. This dialogue continues until a solemn chorale appears out of the busy texture. The chorale is taken up by the strings and grows to include the buzzing ideas, which are transformed to almost hypnotic rhythmic loops. A soaring melody in the flute and clarinet hovers above as momentum starts to build. Trombones underpin this build-up and prepare for the finale, and the arrival of Monteverdi’s theme, with a modern twist. The work was first performed on 27 November 2017 at LSO St Luke’s, London by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Johannes Wildner.”

THE WORLD – Elsewhere in 2017, the Woman’s March on Washington occurred in America, as did a total solar eclipse from coast to coast, Robert Mugabe was ousted in Zimbabwe, and Harry and Meghan got engaged.

THE CONNECTION – This is the Utah Symphony premiere of Tabakova’s Orpheus’ Comet.