Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Colas Breugnon Overture (1938) [4.40]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1936, rev, 1973) [23.49]
Piano Concerto No. 3 (1953) [18.07]
The Comedians - Suite (1939) [14.59]
Kathryn Stott (piano)
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Vassily Sinaisky
Rec. 21, 24-25 June 2002, BBC Studio 7, Manchester. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10052 [61.45]


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Outside the USSR Kabalevskyís music has met with condemnation or condescension. He has a ready knack for melodies and rhythms of instant catchy appeal. No wonder a generation or three of music critics have chosen to slate his stuff. Those who choose to mix politics and music also find time for a swipe that mixes outrage at dogma with judgement on musical merit. I am not making any claims to greatness or depth for this music but I will take a little time to tell you about its many appealing qualities. If we can listen to Coates, Gillis, Rutter and Respighi and also accept the lighter works of Tchaikovsky, Walton, Barber, Bax, Shostakovich and Arnold, why is it that we have such difficulty with Kabalevsky? It is not, horror of horrors, that he wrote only music that is shallow but captivating. For example there are satisfying ambiguities and challenging depths in both his Second Cello Concerto (listen to the Shafran performance on Cello Classics CC1008 and Wallfisch on Chandos) and the Requiem (Olympia OCD290, with Symphony No. 4). I am sure that ideology has more to do with his standing than anything else.

The Overture is utterly unsubtle: blasted with colour and driven by the sort of energy that rips through Shostakovichís Festival Overture. Colas is a sort of Soviet echo of a lost generation of overtures: Reznicekís Donna Diana, Smetanaís Bartered Bride and Charbrierís España. The complete opera Colas Breugnon is on Olympia OCD291 conducted by Georgy Zhemchuzhin. After a pocket overture we get a pocket concerto. The piano sound is cosseted; rather warmly recorded. I would have preferred a greater clarity or coldness. The work perhaps formed a subliminal model for Shostakovich when he came to write his own great populist piano concerto (No. 2) twenty-five years later. This work is certainly fun if at times relentless; the nature of the beast. In the second movements there are troubled aspirations towards profundity but Kabalevsky returns to type for the hectic and thunderous rush of the finale. The Third Concerto (once wonderfully carried off on Supraphon by Frantisek Maxian) has a really cracking tune. The sound is not at all congested and the piece is very well orchestrated. Kabalevsky dallies with a Hispanic-accented theme but the finale with its fun-at-the-sprint returns to the first movementís grand nostalgic theme. Glorious stuff! The suite from The Comedians is as bright as a polished Soviet star. This is circus frivolity without the macabre element you might have found if Shostakovich had taken this on. Prokofievís Peter and the Wolf is a strong presence in track 7.

Complete with good liner notes this is a fun disc - not too profound - for those prepared to loosen their strait-lacing.

Rob Barnett

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