Kabalevsky: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Kabalevsky
LABELS: Kabalevsky,review
ALBUM TITLE: Kabalevsky: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2
WORKS: Works by Kabalevsky
PERFORMER: Torleif Thedeen (cello); NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover/Eiji Oue


This is no run-of-the-mill album of diverting Kabalevsky pieces. These works are so emotionally ambivalent, even fraught, that they positively invite speculation as to the motivation behind their composition. The First Cello Concerto (1948-49), one of Kabalevsky’s three ‘Youth’ concertos, has an emotional depth untouched by its carefree companions: recalling the then recently composed Cello Concertos of Khachaturian and Myaskovsky – works which Soviet officials had condemned – it sounds in Torleif Thedéen’s hands far from placid. Its moments of sunlight seem forced, and its major final cadence sounds bitter-sweet.

Darker still is the Second Cello Concerto (1964). Thedéen and Eiji Oue rather underplay its chilling opening; yet as the music unfolds, particularly through the solo cadenzas, and finally reaches a gently and stoically conciliatory end, one is struck by the work’s manifest sincerity, even as it borrows from Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto and fleetingly from his ballet The Prodigal Son. As Kabalevsky effectively acted as Prokofiev’s ‘minder’ after the older composer’s official disgrace, might the Concerto have been his way of exorcising a particular demon or sense of guilt over Prokofiev’s fate?


The Colas Breugnon Overture, of Bernstein-like liveliness and once popular as an encore, is joined by three orchestral Entr’actes from the original 1938 opera (subsequently revised in the late 1960s), as atmospheric and as full-blooded as a Max Steiner Hollywood score. Daniel Jaffé