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KABALEVSKY PIANO CONCERTOS 1 & 2

Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky
In-Ju Bang (piano)

NAXOS 8.557683

The music of Dmitry Borisovich Kabalevsky (1904-1987) is lesser known than Shostakovich's. It is usually accessible, melodic and easy on the ear, despite which he was still cudgelled by the evil Zhdanov in his famous 1948 decree against musical formalism and anti-socialist realism.

With the coming of the CD, Kabalevsky's violin concerto has superseded his overture Colus Breugnon as his best-known piece. Naxos' admirable interest in rare repertoire is also bringing to life a number of his other works.

A haunting little melody on the bassoon begins the first Piano Concerto of 1928. This is followed by clarinet, then solo piano, in an almost Vaughan-Williamsian mode. But soon there are swift solo arabesques on the piano, rather more Prokofiev than dear old V-W. All are gentle, however - one writer said that much of Kabalevsky is watered-down Prokofiev. This is, however, beautiful music, well-crafted and beautifully played. The bright, glittering finale is reminiscent of Prokofiev's first piano concerto. Although derivative, this is worthwhile music ,written at a time that was artistically difficult.

Piano Concerto No 2 (1935 revd.1973) is more acerbic, but retains something of the mood and tenor of the first. The form is classical and everything is easy to follow. The final Allegro molto is another typical galloping jaunt, as have characterised Russian music since Glinka. There is a hint of deeper angst in the slow movement. This is music to really enjoy, if not to die to.

The more Kabalevsky I hear, the more I like him. But how might he have written in a freer society?

The young Korean soloist, In-Ju Bang, was fourteen when she made this recording. Her playing is assured and one can hear strength, passion and refinement. Here is a very fine young artist, with musicality in abundance - her filigree passages never overwhelm accompanying instruments. The Russian Philharmonic Orchestra is splendid under the very controlled direction of the cellist/conductor Yablonsky. The recording is in line with the increasing amount of very fine issues from this source and deserves to be popular.

Dennis Day


see also Kabelevsky - Seven Nursery Rhymes:
(Children's Songs by Russian Composers: Simon Woolf & Steuart Bedford) Old King Cole; If all the seas were one sea;- I saw a ship a-sailing; There was an old woman; For want of a nail the horse-shoe was lost; Five little pigs; The Key of the Kingdom

 

 

© Peter Grahame Woolf