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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Dimitri KABALEVSKY (1907-1987)
Piano Concerto No. 3 (1952) [18.01]
Robert MUCZYNSKI (b.1929)

Piano Concerto No. 1 (1954) [14.18]
A Serenade for Summer (1976) [8.07]
Suite (1960) [9.16]
James Johnson (piano)
Slovenian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paul Freeman
rec. 13-14 Sept 1989, Ljubljana, Slovenia (all apart from suite); 20 Mar 1990, Fairbanks, Alaska. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2089 [50.59]

Aside from a certain tubbiness in the Slovenian recording image this is a very agreeable disc. Johnson and Freeman deliver a joyous and excitable performance of the Kabalevsky which for its formula and gesture works a treat. The melodic content is excellent. Listen also to the Colas Breugnon references in the finale. The perspective and sound is better than that on the recent Chandos Kabalevsky collection with Kathryn Stott. The pattern adopted by this concerto also helped fashion Shostakovich's Second Concerto - a work which rises above the formula and serves to redefine it.

The Muczynski concerto is an early work which at first and later pours on torrents of romantic layering and protest like superheated Creston or Flagello. It lightens this element with a neo-classical cool (tr.4. 1.48, tr. 5, 00.14) and with bone china fragile vitality. The allegretto pastorale is a beauty of reflective writing. The favourable impact of the work is enhanced by its pocket dimensions - succinct and apt to its inventive material. The same can be said of the quicksilver solo piano Suite which emphasises rhythmic tightness over the lyric voice. The lovely orchestral Serenade is evocative of the composer's childhood days in the sultry summers of the Midwest. It is warmly written, a little like Barber, moonrisen and brimming with the razor edge of nostalgia. The celesta-painted moonlight is especially notable at 2.30 and the same instrument presides over the work's close. This is a most wonderful and neglected classic of the American repertoire.

A very successful mix though the playing time is short. Some extremely pleasing music here with playing to match.

Rob Barnett



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