Meet Dobrinka Tabakova
The piece that will begin a little past 3:00 Tuesday afternoon on WFCR might at first sound familiar. That "pum pum pum" in the double basses, bass drum and tambourine. The modal, archaic sounding string melody. It's one of those old-fashioned, neo-something things, like Peter Warlock's "Capriol Suite" or Benjamin Britten's "Courtly Dances from Gloriana," right? Or maybe the score of a movie about Joan of Arc or Henry V?
Wait a second — that solo viola is doing some strange stuff! It starts in like a folk fiddle. Then it plays a haunting little tune, a sort of first cousin to Gabriel Fauré's "Sicilienne." Suddenly, the music stops, the harpsichord starts up again and launches what sounds for all the world like a jazzy waltz à la Django, with the viola as a slightly tipsy Stéphane Grappelli. Back to the haunting tune, though recast in an eerie light and...poof, it's gone.
So what's going on here? Merely the first movement from the "Suite in Old Style, 'The Court Jester Amareu'" by 33-year old Bulgarian-British composer Dobrinka Tabakova, from a new ECM New Series CD devoted to her works. Never heard of her? Neither had I until yesterday. Here's the way she outlines the movements of and describes the piece:
Prelude: Fanfare from the balconies and back from the hunting
Through mirrored corridors
The rose garden by moonlight
Riddle of the barrel organ player
Postlude: Hunting and finale
Written as homage to Rameau (Amareu being the anagram of Rameau), this suite presents glimpses from everyday life at an 18th century aristocratic household: hunting, courting in the gardens, dancing and entertaining in opulent surroundings.
Another day, another unique new composer, another way to define what new music sounds like at present. Not a deathless masterwork, perhaps, and probably none intended. But some cool new sounds to perk up your ears and transport you to some distant realm, even if only for a moment. Isn't that one of the best things about being a classical music fan?