TABAKOV: Five Bulgarian Dances. Symphony No. 8 (2007-2009)
Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra / Emil Tabakov, cond.

TERRY RILEY: Dark Queen Mantra (2015). The Wheel & Mythic Birds Waltz (1983). STEFANO SCODANOBRIO: Mas Lugares (su Madrigal di Monteverdi) (2003).
Benjamin Kreith, Rick Shimozaki, violins. Charlton Lee, viola. Kathryn Bates, cello. Gyan Riley, guitar.

TSONTAKIS: Anasa for Clarinet and Orchestra (2011). True Colors for Trumpet and Orchestra (2012). Unforgettable for two Violins and Orchestra (2009/2013).
David Krakauer, clarinet Eric Berlin, trumpet. Luosha Fang and Eunice Kim, violins. Albany Symphony Orchestra / David Alan Miller, cond.
NAXOS 8.559821 TT: 63:12

Recently this site praised a premiere recording of Bulgarian composer Emil Tabakov's Symphony No. 1 and his amazing Viola Concerto (REVIEW).That was the second issue in Toccata Classics planned series of all of Tabakov's symphonies. Here is the first, and it is equally impressive It begins with the composer in a lighter mood, a vivacious setting of Balkan folk melodies. Symphony No. 8 reverts to the composer's darker side, evidenced in all of his symphonies. Written 2007-2009, it has only three movements for its 43-minute duration, mostly of a somber nature. The composer says of this, "it is profoundly concerned with timbre and sound-color and uses short motif figurations rather than full-blown themes. The third movement is marked Presto and contains many brass outbursts, ending softly and quixotically. If you enjoy Mahler symphonies, you'll probably find this of great interest. Excellent performance, fine stereo sound. A major release! I look forward to future issues in the series.

This new Sono Luminus disk is a tribute to the long association the Del Sol String Quartet has had with Terry Riley, which began 25 years ago. On this disk they pay his Dark Queen Mantra composed in 2015, which includes an important guitar part played here by the composer's son Gyan. The disk ends with an earlier work of Riley, an odd waltz called The Wheel & Mystic Birds, which surely is not much of a waltz. Riley, now an octogenarian, continues to compose profusely; these are examples of what is up to at this stage. In between we have a five-movement work by Stefano Scodanibbio, a modern setting of music of Monteverdi. Those who enjoy avant-garde chamber music doubtless will enjoy this, but there is nothing here I wish to experience another time. We may be sure the fine performances are exactly what the composers intended. If you are curious, you can check out music of Riley on YouTube, where there are countless examples. Approach with caution!

Naxos has another important release of world premiere recordings of unusual concertos by American composer George Tsontakis (b. 1951). We have three recent works showcasing various instruments. First is Anasa, the ancient Greek word for "breath," for clarinet and orchestra. The first movement is klezmer oriented and highly rhythmic, the second a plaintive soliloquy, the third a lively dance colorfully orchestrated, with snarling brass outbursts and pistol shots. David Krakuer is the virtuoso soloist in this lively display work.True Colors is a two-movement work for trumpet and orchestra. The first is called Echoing with the soloist repeating orchestral phrases. The second, Magic Act, is a varied exploration of orchestral textures with much heavy percussion. It begins and ends softly and mysteriously. Eric Berlin is the amazing soloist producing sounds one might never expect to come from the instrumen,. Of somewhat lesser interest is a work for two violins, Unforgettable, heard here in its 2013 revised version. There are three movements: Changing Landscapes, Leapfrogging, and Ballade. All of the performances are first-class with the dependable David Alan Miller leading the fine Albany Symphony, which commissioned the first two works. The composer wrote the program notes. Excellent audio. A fine, important issue in the Naxos American Classics series.

R.E.B. (August 2017)