Best of 2013: Contemporary Compositional Record of the Year

Winner:  Dobrinka Tabakova – String Paths (ECM Records)

Runner-up: Daniel Bjarnason – Over Light Earth (Bedroom Community)

Let’s face it – “contemporary composers” are a dime a dozen nowadays and its becoming increasingly difficult to say which in time will truly become the cream of the top. 2013 signified a turning point for the future of contemporary works with budding darlings rising to the occasion (french newcomer Sylvain Chauveau’s sublime Kogetsudai), non-classical musicians taking stabs on compositional writing (The National’s Bryce Dessner’s work on Aheym), and a plethora of achievements from contemporary mainstays (such as anything even remotely touched by Nico Muhly). But two recordings of pure contemporary compositions really stood out from a crowded bunch this year – namely Daniel Bjarnason’s tantalizing Over Light Earth, and young composer Dobrinka Tabakoba’s surprisingly welcomed String Paths. Both records are proud with audacity and intricate with very non-conventional means of their merging of strings and atmospheric touches.  But on an overall package Tabakova’s brings a truly wonder and awe experience, even at times overwhelming heart-wrenching, that cannot be forgotten long after the record is done.  String Paths is sonically mesmerizing throughout, both on a technical level and on an pure sensual measure.  One listen to Tabakova’s Concerto for Cello and Strings and not only will you’ll be instantly hooked, but emotionally exhausted.  Despite her relatively young age, Tabakova’s String Path verifies her genius in commanding flow and melody, and stellar performances from guests violinist Janine Jansen, violinist Roman Mints, violist-conductor Max Rysanov and cellist Kristina Blaumane, only add to the radiance of the record. Originally we picked String Paths earlier in the summer as one of our surprise hits of 2013, with the notion that records released later in the year would eventually steal its thunder.  As the year closes, String Paths is actually stealing everyone’s else spotlight and providing a long standing testament to the potential of Tabakova’s brilliance.  String Paths is a record of revelation beyond the years of its young composer and one that will set the precedent by which all future contemporary classical recordings will be judged by.

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