“Tabakova may be using the musical materials of tradition, but through them she has broken new paths” (Mark Nowakowski, The Washington Times)
Dobrinka Tabakova is a composer of rich, expressive music, whose distinct soundworld has been called “riveting, piercingly beautiful and frequently radiant” (Huffpost Arts & Culture). Born in the historic town of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Tabakova moved with her family to the United Kingdom when she was 11 and has lived in London ever since. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department and at the age of 14 won the Jean-Frédéric Perrenoud prize and medal at the Vienna International Music Competition. She graduated from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and holds a PhD in composition from King’s College London.
An affinity for string instruments is revealed in Tabakova’s substantial body of works for string orchestra. Written for some of her earliest supporters, the Concerto for Viola and Strings (2004) for Maxim Rysanov, and Concerto for Cello and Strings (2008), for Kristine Blaumane and Amsterdam Sinfonietta, solidified Tabakova’s reputation as an outstanding contemporary voice. Suite in Old Style (2006) written for the Homecoming Festival, Moscow Conservatoire and premiered with Rysanov and Blaumane, and Such Different Paths (2007-8) commissioned by Spectrum Concerts Berlin and dedicated to Janine Jansen, are among her most performed works.
As Composer in Residence with the BBC Concert Orchestra (2017-21), Tabakova turned her hand to large-scale orchestral works including the orchestral triptych Earth Suite (2018-20). She was Composer in Residence with MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra (2017-18) and The High Line (2015) for orchestra, inspired by New York’s park in the sky, was composed during her residency with Orchestra of the Swan (2014-16). Other major orchestral works include Orpheus’ Comet (2017), which opened the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Music Exchanges of Euroradio, and her double piano concerto Together Remember to Dance (2017) for Arthur and Lucas Jussen, commissioned by Amsterdam Sinfonietta.
Her music is also a regular feature in festivals internationally. The Patience of Trees (2021) for violin and string orchestra was commissioned by Manchester International Festival and premiered by Hugo Ticciati and Manchester Camerata. In 2019, Tabakova’s Timber & Steel (2019) was premiered at the BBC Proms to celebrate 150 years since the birth of Sir Henry Wood. She has been a featured composer at the Utrecht International Chamber Music Festival, the Kremerata Baltica Festival, the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival, the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, Davos Festival, and 'Off the Beaten Path' Festival in the Bulgarian Rhodopi Mountains.
A large body of chamber and ensemble works complements Tabakova’s orchestral output. A pianist herself, many of Tabakova’s early chamber works focus on the piano. Modetudes (1998) travels through the seven modes while Halo (1999) for solo piano explores harmonic and tonal qualities of the instrument. Among her best-known works are Frozen River Flows (2005) for oboe and percussion, which was premiered in the National Portrait Gallery, and Suite in Jazz Style (2009) for viola and piano, commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and The Royal Philharmonic Society for Maxim Rysanov. Her sympathy for strings continues in this body of works, including with Insight (2002) for string trio written for the Cheltenham Music Festival and her four works for string quartet to date: On a bench in the shade (2004), Organum light (2014), Highland Pastorale (2019) and The smile of the flamboyant wings (2019).
Choral music has been an important part of Tabakova’s output from the start. Praise (2002) for choir and organ was premiered by St Paul’s Cathedral Choir and received the Barclay’s Prize celebrating H. M. The Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.On the South Downs (2009) for solo cello, chamber orchestra and choir was written for Natalie Clein and the young musicians of West Sussex. The large-scale choral orchestral work Immortal Shakespeare (2016), a cantata for Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, was commissioned as part of her residency with Orchestra of the Swan, and her long-term residency with Truro Cathedral resulted in a number of new works including the Truro Canticles (2017). In 2019, City of London Sinfonia toured Centuries of Meditations (2012), for choir, harp and strings, around the major cathedrals of the UK.
Tabakova’s music has been used in films including Jean-Luc Godard’s Adieu au langage and Le livre d’image. She has also collaborated on contemporary dance productions including with Sydney Dance Company and American Ballet Theatre Studio Company.
Prizes for her work include the Lutoslawski Composition Prize and the Sorel Medallion in Choral Composition, and her Fantasy Homage to Schubert, nominated by the Bulgarian National Radio, was selected at the 2014 International Rostrum of Composers.
Tabakova’s music has been recorded for ECM, Bis, Hyperion and Delphian, among other labels. Her debut portrait disc String Paths was released on ECM New Series in 2013, reaching No. 2 in the UK Classical Charts and receiving a Grammy nomination in 2014. A second portrait disc, this time focusing on her choral works, was recorded at Truro Cathedral with the Cathedral Choir and BBC Concert Orchestra for Regent Records. The album received the 2019 Critic’s Choice of Gramophone Magazine.
New works in the 2022/23 season include a string quartet, The Ear of Grain, for the ARD String Quartet competition in Munich, a large-scale choral commission for the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, and a new work for the Hallé Youth Orchestra. In September, Tabakova becomes Artist in Residence with The Hallé Orchestra.
Tabakova's music is administered exclusively worldwide by Schott Music, London.