Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 49 (1949) [18.49]
Cello Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op. 77 (1964) [30.59]
Improvisato for violin and piano Op. 21 No. 1 (1934) [4.16]
Rondo for violin and piano Op. 69 (1961) [6.57]
Marina Tarasova (cello)
Symphony Orchestra of Russia/Veronika Dudarova
Natalia Likhopoi (violin)
Ludmilla Kuritskaya (piano)
rec. July 1993, Moscow Radio Studio 5
ALTO ALC 1116 [61:31]

The two Kabalevsky Cello Concertos, as recorded here, take up all but about ten minutes of this CD’s playing time. They are substantial works – especially the Second. The First rather fits the profile created by Kabalevsky’s four piano concertos: rooted in a great gift for catchy melody, youthful joy and vigorous dance. They first appeared on Olympia OCD 292 then, when Olympia’s ‘ship of state’ sank, were licensed to Regis and now to Alto – both Musical Concepts’ labels.

Olympia and the long defunct Russian Revelation made great inroads into the Kabalevsky oeuvre; not to mention that of his dissenting nemesis, Mieczyslaw Weinberg (Vainberg). Olympia in rapturous confidence even commissioned new recordings in Russia and the ex-Soviet bloc as well as securing the rights to existing recordings – often analogue – from the Soviet era. In the background companies such as ASV and Chandos filled in – and in one case (the first two symphonies) duplicated - with other new recordings (ASV and Olympia). In particular there was the Sinaisky/Stott disc of Piano Concertos 2 and 3. More recently Chandos put together Wallfisch’s reading of Cello Concerto No. 2 with Mordkovitch’s version of the Violin Concerto. This composer’s ‘presence’ in the West rested on his uproarious overture to the opera Colas Breugnon. Olympia decided to find the opera itself and issued a 1973 analogue taping by Moscow Music Theatre forces conducted by Georgy Zhemchuzhin on OCD 291 A/B. Also notable was the revival of the composer-conducted Requiem on OCD 290.

Kabalevsky was not one for dissonance although by the time of the 1960s his expressive sinews had stiffened and sometimes an emotional complexity undreamt of in the 1930s and 1940s began to assert itself. More often than not though, he makes welcome use of his facility for writing whistleable and euphonious music. That’s certainly true of the First Concerto. This comprises songful movements framing a moving threnody for the Soviet millions fallen during the Great Patriotic War against fascism.

The Second Concerto was written for and premiered by Daniil Shafran who had already recorded the First Concerto with the composer. Shafran’s 1952 First can be heard on Russian Revelation RV10103 – if you can find it. He recorded the searing Second Concerto and this can be heard on Cello Classics. Its three movements are played attacca and follow the typical Miaskovsky layout: slow-fast-slow. The middle movement is relentless and although it provides contrast for the complex and mournful legato nature of its companions it seems rather like a nod in the ‘right’ direction. If the facile criticism of ‘Prokofiev and water’ means anything for the First Concerto you might substitute Shostakovich's name in the case of the Second Concerto. The work develops an emotional head of steam in the long finale ending with subtly flavoured understatement.

The two fillers are Improvisato which blends Shostakovich and Fauré while the Rondo motors along with all the torque and mercury of a Leningrad Khachaturian.

These are successful performances that are impressive for Tarasova's sense of flow and colour as well as for the mercurial fantasy and power of Likhopoi. A sensible and logical coupling which, collector symmetry aside, provides a satisfying and varied musical experience.

Rob Barnett

A sensible and logical coupling which, collector symmetry aside, provides a satisfying and varied musical experience.