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Kabalevsky: Piano Concertos No 1 & 4, Symphony No 2 / Stott, Järvi, BBC PO


Release Date: 11/21/2006 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10384   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Dmitri Kabalevsky
Performer:  Kathryn Stott
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



KABALEVSKY Piano Concertos: No. 1 in a; No. 4, “Prague.” Symphony No. 2 in c Neeme Järvi, cond; Kathryn Stott (pn); BBC PO CHANDOS 10384 (67:41)


Dmitri Kabalevsky appears as a bogeyman in numerous authenticated stories about the state-run Soviet musical establishment. Though to be fair, Nikolai Sokolov once wrote of observing Kabalevsky running interference for Shostakovich and his family with an officious train conductor, during the confused Read more 1941 evacuation of Moscow-resident artists. When the composer wasn’t insisting on ideological purity or hurling literary thunderbolts at young iconoclasts, however, he was busy writing music. He wrote a lot of it, including four piano concertos and four symphonies. This is the second release in a series devoted to those works. The first included his Second and Third Piano Concertos, and was issued two years ago on Chandos 10052.


I can’t help but quote from Peter Rabinowitz’s wry assessment of the Piano Concerto No. 3, because it applies even more so to the Fourth Concerto: “ . . . expertly crafted, lightweight, relentlessly optimistic . . . offers catchy tunes, zippy rhythms, and bright colors, with no intellectual challenges or emotional confrontations whatsoever.” It could be argued that Kabalevsky’s last piano concerto was deliberately self-effacing, since it was intended as a concert piece for the 10th Kuybishev Competition in 1980, and everybody wrote works like that from time to time in the Soviet, since the youth-concerto formula was ideologically without blemish. That still doesn’t make the Piano Concerto No. 4 especially pleasing to hear, despite the craftsmanship it displays.


The Piano Concerto No. 1 is a very different matter. Premiered in 1931, it breathes the spirit of Myaskovsky’s melancholy manner; not surprisingly, as the Russian composer, pianist, and pedagogue was Kabalevsky’s primary teacher. Whereas later large-scale orchestral works of Kabalevsky are often terse to the point of musical insolvency, this concerto’s opening movement is leisurely discursive and occasionally complex. Splashy fireworks are abundant, but they don’t interfere with the density of argument. By way of contrast, the second movement is a series of variations that are individually attractive—with plenty of direct references, too, to Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Rimsky-Korsakov—if too short to make much of a lasting impression. Rather than the usual, unreservedly cheerful finale, the third movement hearkens back to somber first movement material, without any optimistic resolution.


Finally, there’s the Symphony No. 2. Actually the third Kabalevsky wrote, it was completed in 1934, when the Soviet government’s clampdown on the arts was in full swing. Its three movements easily fit the model of Socialist Realism that Stalin demanded: conflict, painful rumination, and renewed conviction in a bright future. The themes are both melodically accessible and Russian in character, while the musical logic is taut. The weakest point in the work is the emotional transition between the soulful second movement, which never resolves its angst, and the optimistic finale (whose machine-like accompaniment might be taken to mean the joys of work, for what that’s worth). Despite this, the Second Symphony remains one of Kabalevsky’s most convincing and popular orchestral compositions.


Kathryn Stott is again the featured pianist on this release. I find her playing clear and a bit cool without being hard-edged, all very appropriate for a pair of works that draw frequently for the shape and substance of their figuration upon such works as Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto and Rachmaninoff’s later, less romantically imbued pieces. I think that Järvi is, if anything, a trifle too withdrawn in the opening movement of the Symphony No. 2, which could use an intensity of treatment to match its breathless nature. Elsewhere, he and the BBC Philharmonic offer an attractively poised performance.


The sound is well balanced, and the liner notes are pleasant if superficial. Definitely of interest to those who want to sample the works of one of the more important politicians of Soviet music.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in A minor, Op. 9 by Dmitri Kabalevsky
Performer:  Kathryn Stott (Piano)
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; USSR 
Venue:  New Broadcast House Studio 7, Manchester 
Notes: New Broadcast House Studio 7, Manchester (07/06/2005 - 07/07/2005) 
2.
Symphony no 2 in C minor, Op. 19 by Dmitri Kabalevsky
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Venue:  New Broadcast House Studio 7, Manchester 
Notes: New Broadcast House Studio 7, Manchester (07/06/2005 - 07/07/2005) 
3.
Concerto for Piano no 4 "Prague" by Dmitri Kabalevsky
Performer:  Kathryn Stott (Piano)
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; Moscow 
Venue:  New Broadcast House Studio 7, Manchester 
Notes: New Broadcast House Studio 7, Manchester (07/06/2005 - 07/07/2005) 

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