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Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Piano Sonatas: No. 1 in F, Op. 6 (1927) [18:20]; No. 2 in E flat, Op. 45 (1945) [23:49]; No. 3 in F, Op. 46 (1946) [16:16]
Piano Sonatinas: C, Op. 13/1 (1930) [7:07]; G minor, Op. 13/2 (1933) [8:22].
Alexandre Dossin (piano)
rec. Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, 1-3 September 2007. DDD
NAXOS 8.570822 [74:17]
Experience Classicsonline

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 Paraphrases disc on Naxos was a MusicWeb International “Recording of the Month” in July 2007.
The 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.
Moving 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 Haas (Dabringhaus und Grimm Archive MDG 642 1086-2, part of a tremendous six-disc set) and Benno Moiseiwitsch 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 cantabile starts off as a dream and is delicately shaded here by Dossin. The pianist’s ability to conjure magical spaces by superbly weighted pianissimi is worth 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 can 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 recital 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 8.557794.
Anyone interested in the Soviet piano repertoire of the twentieth century need not hesitate. The recording quality is perfectly acceptable.
Colin Clarke


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