WORKS: Cello Concerto No. 1 in G minor; Cello Concerto No. 2 in G; Spring
PERFORMER: Alexander Rudin (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553788
If the name Dmitri Kabalevsky (1904-87) brings to mind only sparkling, high-spirited pieces like The Comedians and the Violin Concerto, his cello concertos will greatly enrich your impression of his style. The First (1949) inhabits an expressive world that masterfully blends wistful melancholy with untroubled happiness. Like Mozart and Schubert, Kabalevsky achieves this mixture in part by juxtaposing major and minor inflections of the same key within melodic phrases. Though ubiquitous, this trait occurs most memorably at the beginning of the slow movement, where the soloist crowns a majestic major arpeggio with a poignant shift to the minor. The Second Concerto (1964), sprawlingly lyrical and dramatic à la Shostakovich, is a powerful work which, like its predecessor, employs themes that recur from one movement to the next. The symphonic poem Spring eschews both sentimentality and floods of passion for a sober but honest take on the season.
I’m quite pleased with these performances; they convey the flow and character of the music admirably. Numerous details could be cosmetically improved – in particular, soloist Rudin occasionally wanders into thickets of sour intonation, especially in cadenzas. But the drawbacks are of surprisingly little account, and should not discourage one from getting to know these appealing works at Naxos’s bragain price. David Breckbill