Not so long ago we were able to make the acquaintance
of an interesting but not invaluable Kabalevsky solo piano
disc. It was on Pavane ADW7513 by Christopher Deluze and
included the 24 Preludes (see review
). Now, along comes
a Naxos disc to further add to the Kabalevsky discography.
Brazilian-born Alexandre Dossin is new to me. He won
both First and Special prizes at the Martha Argerich International
Piano Competition in 2003. He holds a Doctorate from the
University of Texas at Austin and currently teaches at
the Oregon School of Music. Dossin’s Liszt/Verdi
disc on Naxos was a MusicWeb International
of the Month” in July 2007.
First Sonata is an early work, yet the clouds that darken
the final pages of the first movement reassure us that
it is of serious intent. Richard Whitehouse’s excellent
booklet notes point rightly to the influence of Prokofiev
here. The cantabile, wistful middle-register melody of
the Andantino semplice
central movement seems to
be pure Kabalevsky, though. The finale moves from the virtuosic
to the playful to the whimsical with remarkable speed.
Dossin is keenly alive to every nuance.
on a full 18 years, the Second Sonata immediately follows
the famous 24 Preludes in Kabalevsky’s output. It shares
with them a magnificent confidence of utterance and complete
mastery of contrapuntal working. Ostinato is used as a
device to generate heat in the first movement, a movement
which concludes with a passage marked “festivamente”. Dossin
carves the stark canvas with sure hands. Contrast is needed,
and it is found in the shape of the subdued opening of
the central Andante sostenuto
. This middle section
of the sonata is quite an emotional journey in itself,
making one wonder why this piece is not heard more often.
This is lovely, mature, strong music of the utmost integrity.
The finale, is essentially a toccata with a distinctly
muscular gait. This is the longest of the sonatas and Dossin
has the will to make it seem not a bar too long.
The Third Sonata is the best known piece on the disc
and so brings with it the most competition. My personal
favourite interpreters of this piece are Werner
(Dabringhaus und Grimm Archive MDG 642 1086-2,
part of a tremendous six-disc set) and Benno
on Naxos Historical 8.110675. There is
also a Horowitz recording from 1947 (RCA Victor 60377-2).
Horowitz can also be found in the Second Sonata, on Urania
SP4206 and RCA 09026 62644-2. Dossin proves his immersion
in Kabalevsky’s sound-world by making this Third Sonata
seem natural but not over-simplistic. The latter would
be an easy trap to fall into in this piece. At 16:16 this
is the shortest of the three sonatas and the composer’s
terseness of utterance works to the music’s advantage.
Whitehouse’s reference to the Haydnesque leanings of the
first movement is spot-on. Dossin’s ability to change from
hard attack to a legato-based line that is as fluid as
flowing water is most laudable. To sample this try around
the four-minute mark of the first movement). The central Andante
starts off as a dream and is delicately shaded
here by Dossin. The pianist’s ability to conjure magical
spaces by superbly weighted pianissimi
the price of the disc alone. The finale’s light playfulness
seems to include a palpable stream of the daemonic under
Dossin’s hands, making spiky, more forceful passages all
the more effective and not isolating them in the process.
The shadow of Prokofiev once more comes to the fore here.
The two Sonatinas of Op. 13 are of distinctly neo-classical
inspiration. The first lasts a mere seven minutes. Kabalevsky
shows himself a master of the poignant statement. The acerbic Allegro
assai e lusingando
sets the tone. The ensuing Andantino
perhaps be best described as a staccato whisper, leading
to a swift, almost hectoring Presto
. The second
Sonatina dates from three years later. Dossin’s fingers
have no problems with the necessary rapid articulation
- the music begs for Russian steel. The first movement’s
deliberately inconclusive ending leads to a bare skeleton
of a Sostenuto
before a playful, kittenish finale
rounds off the disc in the most charming of fashions.
No free download with this Naxos issue. Collectors will
probably own the Olympia disc of Murray McLachlan in these
pieces (OCD267). McLachlan gave a memorable
of Kabalevsky – the Third Sonata – Miaskovsky,
Shchedrin, Shostakovich and Stevenson at the Wigmore Hall
in September 2006. Interested readers wishing to explore
further might wish to try the recording of Kabalevsky’s
Piano Concertos on Naxos: Nos. 1 and 2 appear on 8.557683
while No. 3 appears on Naxos
Anyone interested in the Soviet piano repertoire of
the twentieth century need not hesitate. The recording
quality is perfectly acceptable.