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Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Twenty-Four Preludes, Op. 38 (1943-44) [44:20]
Four Preludes, Op. 5 (1927-28) [6:27]
Christophe Deluze (piano)
rec. Fondation Tibor Varga, Grimisuat, Switzerland, 28-30 December 2006. DDD
PAVANE ADW7513 [50:47] 
Experience Classicsonline

At the beginning of his booklet notes, Christophe Deluze makes an eloquent plea for reappraisal of the works of Kabalevsky. He is known to many, surely, exclusively through the rather poppy overture to Colas Breugnon. The Op. 38 set of Preludes is a great cycle, arranged in the manner of Chopin: in circle of fifths order: C/a; G/e and so on.

Christophe Deluze studied at the Neuchâtel Conservatory and then at the Guildhall. His biography states he has worked with Lipatti and Cherkassky as well as with Dagobert Bucholz in Vienna. Bucholz knew many eminent Soviet musicians and influenced Deluze in his choice of repertoire. Previously, he has recorded piano works by Cui for Pavane (ADW7494).

Deluze captures the characteristic bitter-sweetness of the first Prelude well, but immediately one becomes aware that the recording is a little on the boomy side. He is less scherzando than pretend-rustic for the second Prelude (actually marked “scherzando”). The continuous right-hand semiquavers of the third sound rather meek. The slower fourth serves to point up the deficiencies in piano sound, and it becomes clear that Deluze’s attacks really are being robbed of their effect by the microphone. The equally slow fifth serves to accentuate Deluze’s rather stolid phrasing. If he carries off the lyrical, beautiful No. 8 (F sharp minor) well, and similarly evokes the spirit of Mussorgsky in No. 10 (C sharp minor), he seems less happy in the technical challenges of the rapid No. 14 (E flat minor, Prestissimo possibile). Certainly it sounds fast, but nowhere near “as fast as possible”. The frantic final Prelude implies rather than delivers epic grandeur.

The booklet notes consider each Prelude of Op. 38 individually and, largely, perceptively.

The value here though, surely, lies in the four Preludes of Op. 5, which seem to be unavailable elsewhere. The booklet notes point to the influence of Scriabin and someone they refer to as “Miakvski” – presumably Miaskovky. Deluze changes the published order, so as to “aline (sic) these Preludes the most harmoniously possible with Op. 38”. The first three are very brief (1:20 is the longest) and they almost verge on aphorism. Deluze is delightful in the A major, Allegro molto. The final Prelude here, B minor and marked “Moderato quasi andante. Molto tranquillo” is liquidly beautiful. 

Nadia Reisenberg recorded a fine account of Op. 38 on Ivory Classics 74002. She fills the rest of her disc with works by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. Wolfram Schmidt-Leonardy usefully couples them with Kabalevsky’s Second and Third Sonatas on EBS 6124. Yakov Flier’s premiere recording of these Preludes (dating from around 1955, originally on D 03856/7) is available on a superb APR disc (APR5665) coupled with his Chopin Second Sonata and some Rachmaninov. Flier’s account is so stylistically aware, so full of wit, so very much of the Russian School in touch, tone and pedalling that it sounds so right and as such remains unassailable. Flier’s technique is fleet, fluent but granitic where need be. At 42:39 he is a little quicker than Deluze, but timings hardly count. Flier’s reading is pure joy and a hearing of it is surely enough to convince one that Deluze’s comments on the need for Kabalevskian reappraisal are indeed justified. 

In summary, unless you are absolutely desperate to hear Kabalevsky’s Op. 5, invest in Flier on APR.

Colin Clarke



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