a tempting target for those who confuse
odious political views with musical
values. This is especially the case
with the concertos - the four piano
concertos in primis.
What he wrote always
embraces the listener who appreciates
the language of Russian romance. Some
of his works however aspire to more
serious realms such as the Requiem
(long gone now but once on Olympia)
and the Second Cello Concerto. He certainly
deserves his own complete edition and
Olympia were well along that way when
The present collection
comprises two of the four piano concertos
written 1928, 1935, 1952 and 1979. None
are difficult works. They offer much
in the way of Slavonic romance and glitter.
The last two are compact and represent
the composer's contribution to the genre
of populist pocket piano concertos.
They are remarkably ingratiating works
and the Third has quite rightly made
a hit all over the world with its catchy
playfulness and memorable melodic content.
It is sad that all four have been eclipsed
by the supreme example; namely Shostakovich's
Second Piano Concerto.
The first two of the
four mark out the territory with extended
homages to two models. The First Concerto
is much in the debt of Rachmaninov though
the first of its three movement sounds
rather like a hybrid of John Ireland
and Kabalevsky's teacher Miaskovsky.
The moderato quasi andantino (9:45)
has that autumnal sighing melancholy
so much the signature of Miaskovsky.
The cut glass clangour of Prokofiev
makes a fine display in the finale of
both concertos. Some may remember a
Supraphon LP of the Kabalevsky Third
Concerto with Prokofiev 3. The pianist
there was Frantisek Maxian. The coupling
was adroit although Kabalevsky seems
to have had a more consistent facility
for memorable melody than Prokofiev.
An attractive work for sure.
The Second Concerto
begins conspiratorially and confidently.
The version we have here was revised
by the composer in 1973. It carries
an even stronger imprint of Prokofiev
and Miaskovsky puts in another appearance
in the first movement theme. The andantino
semplice uses an appealing theme
heard on clarinet and cor anglais. Surely
Shostakovich took away with him the
sound of this movement and it returned
when he wrote the hyper-romantic middle
movement of his own Second Piano Concerto.
An excellent showing
from In-Ju Bang and the orchestra. They
negotiate the rhythmic trickiness of
both finales with delicate skill and
Incidentally am I the
only one to note the similarities between
the Harry Potter film music and
Kabalevsky's writing in the finale of
the second concerto?
The notes by Richard
Whitehouse are useful if overly taken
up with technical descriptions of the
music. More biographical background
would have been welcome.
The way now lies open
for a second volume including concertos
3 and 4.