Kabalevsky: Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 4 (Prague)

COMPOSERS: Kabalevsky
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Kabalevsky
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 4 (Prague)
PERFORMER: Kathryn Stott (piano); BBC Philharmonic/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10384
Although a great deal of Russian music from the mid-1930s onwards carries the shackles of politicisation all too obviously, Kabalevsky at least avoided becoming emotionally manacled by underlying subtexts of heavy irony and political protest.

Advertisement

This luxuriously recorded follow-up to Kathryn Stott’s fine 2003 coupling of the Second and Third concertos (CHAN 10052) broadens one’s appreciation still further of this most underrated of all Soviet composers. The First Concerto, as Eric Roseberry points out in his absorbing booklet notes, is a surprisingly reflective work for a 27-year-old composer wishing to make an impact on 1930s Moscow. All manner of influences go into the musical melting pot ranging from Rachmaninov to Prokofiev, which may explain why the central theme and variations – mirroring Scriabin’s Piano Concerto and Prokofiev’s Third – comes off best. In complete contrast to the First Concerto’s expressive opulence, the Fourth turns out to be a 12-minute concertino of the utmost economy and concision. Stott plays both works with compelling flair and imagination, making light of their considerable technical demands.

Advertisement

Kabalevsky found the give and take of the concerto more conducive than the symphony. Yet under Neeme Järvi’s sympathetic direction, the Second emerges as thoroughly engaging and skilfully written, if rather short on memorable ideas. Julian Haylock