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Dmitry Borisovich KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Piano Concertos: No. 1 in A minor, Op. 9 (1928) [31'35]; No. 2, Op. 23 (1935, rev. 1973) [24'36].
In-Ju Bang (piano)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky.
rec. Russian State TV & Radio Company KULTURA, Mosc, 24-28 December 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557683 [56'01]


Fascinating, both from the viewpoint of the pianist - a new name to me - and the repertoire. First, the pianist, Korean In-Ju Bang, who took First Prize in the 1004 Puigcerda competition (Spain) and who 'from 2006' will be studying at the Juilliard School in New York - presumably 2006 refers to beginning in the Autumn semester. To have a high-profile release underneath her belt already is quite an achievement. She is already a well-formed artist.

The First Concerto reveals a kinship with Rachmaninov in its long-breathed melodies - as does a certain harmonic progression around 2'40 in. Whilst bombast is an easy accusation to level at this music - try after 8'00, with its long melody and 'big' chords on the solo piano this is eminently listenable to. Same goes for the melancholy-tinged Moderato second movement with its compensatory sparkly later section and its lovely clarinet solo around ten minutes in. Listen also to how the pianist finishes this off with lovely descending staccato chords. The finale begins with a great glissando that heralds both exuberance and a gentle consideration of themes. Well worth hearing and superbly played. Yablonsky handles his orchestra sensitively.

The Second Concerto recalls Prokofiev, perhaps even more strongly in its spiky and sparkling writing. The recording here somehow seems not to do the trumpets justice; it seems fine with just about everyone else. The passage around 6'40 in does rather tend towards the filmic, though. Far preferable is the identifiably Russian warmth of the 'Andantino semplice' before the bright sparkle of the concluding Allegro molto rounds things off in an exciting way.

For those who only know Kabalevsky by his Colas Breugnon Overture, this release will be valuable in filling out the picture somewhat - and I look forward very much to hearing more from In-Ju Bang.

Colin Clarke

see also Review by Rob Barnett


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