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Dmitry Borisovich KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Violin Concerto in C major, Op. 48 (1948) [16:08]
Cello Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 77 (1964) [29:49]
Lydia Mordkovitch (violin)
Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
rec. St Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, London, 5-6 May 1987 (Cello Concerto); Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 5, 7 September 1990 (Violin Concerto)
CHANDOS CHAN10011 [46:10]

Aram Il'yich KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Violin Concerto in D minor (1940) [37:03]
Cello Concerto in E minor (1946) [35:29]
Lydia Mordkovitch (violin) Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Raphael Wallfisch (cello) London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
rec. St Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, London, 5-6 May 1987 (Cello Concerto); Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow 5, 7 September 1990 (Violin Concerto)
CHANDOS CHAN9866 [72:37]

Ingenuity and Chandos are inseparable when it comes to harnessing and re-harnessing recordings. After all, a classical market in flux needs to be approached from fresh perspectives. New recordings continue to be made but somewhat older ones can have their sales life freshened if done with imagination. It’s not always about huge boxed sets either; welcome though they are. In the present case these logically impeccable and decently annotated couplings started out as two separate mixed composer discs: CHAN8918 (violin concertos by Kabalevsky and Khachaturian) and CHAN8579 (cello concertos by Kabalevsky and Khachaturian) from well before the dawn of MusicWeb International.

The two inspired soloists are Chandos stalwarts. These discs also bears witness to Chandos’s long-term recording relationship with two conductors, Bryden Thomson (1928-1991) and Neeme Järvi – the latter still vigorously fruitful. As ever, these reissues are most attractively presented and annotated. A swan-flight depicted in the luminous ‘Blue Expanses’ by Arkady Rylov adorns the front of the Kabalevsky. The only complaint is the short running time; not something that can be said of the Khachaturian which marries two 35+ minute concertos.

Kabalevsky’s succinct Violin Concerto was the first of a trilogy of his concertos dedicated to Soviet Youth. It was premiered in Moscow in 1948 with 18 year old Igor Bezrodniy as the soloist. It was quickly taken up by David Oistrakh. What this composer lacked in nationalistic flavour he more than made up for in catchy melodic riches. These are truly on display in the violin concerto which, in terms of performance values matched up with superb recording quality, outpoints the Oistrakh and other Russian accounts. This is where recording quality can make a difference. We here get a succulence and refinement that is not won at the expense of poetry and excitement.,

The First Cello Concerto - which is not on this disc - dates from 1949 and like the violin concerto is lustily approachable. The Kabalevsky Second Cello Concerto came from broadly two decades after the First Concerto. It’s a longer work and one with a frankly more gritty substance. The emotional range is mature and here Kabalevsky is no stranger to tragedy. Here Wallfisch benefits from a transparent yet virile sound that places the music-making right in front of you. This is the way to follow the full score: every detail asserts itself in its dynamic place. This is a deeper work and is closer to Shostakovich's desolation. The movement schema is slow-fast-slow. It’s nuanced and tender music and even the fast central movement is not a sell-out. A nice balance is struck between interpretative clout and audio-technical excellence. The classic version by Daniil Shafran is sui generis.

This disc complements the Chandos disc of the Kabalevsky piano concertos 2 and 3. If you want to hear the First Cello Concerto then try the Tarasova disc on Alto. Curious about the First Piano Concerto? That too can be heard on Alto. All four piano concertos can be found on CPO 777 658-2.

The Khachaturian disc matches up two three-movement Soviet concertos of the 1940s. The Violin Concerto gets an epic reading and a shade more. It is in fact very touching in the hands of Mordkovitch not that she doesn't revel in the pyrotechnics. She may lack the last gramme of beefy sweetness that one gets from Oistrakh and Kogan but her silvery slender tone delivers an approach just as valid as the others and on occasion more refreshing. In this sense she can be compared with Mullova and Chung, neither of whom have, I think, tackled the Khachaturian on record. The sessions date from 1990 and the orchestral sound suffers from a measure of density that more recent recordings avoid. This is a marginal thing. Järvi and the SNO put across a good facsimile of Soviet garishness yet preserve sufficient western sophistication to yield other rewards. Although three years older, the recording of the less glamorous Cello Concerto feels more open with the music being put across in an eloquent and accessible way.

Rob Barnett

 

 



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