Orchestral Works of Kabalevsky

July 22, 2012

Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987), a household musical name in Russia but outside his country he pretty much identified with The Comedians (1940) a suite he created based on a children’s play he wrote music for. Within the suite is a Gavotte (no. 1), included as an audio clip Kabalevsky – 12 - comedians gavotte that has become something of a standard for pops orchestras along the same lines as the Sabre Dance of Khachaturian, from his Gayane ballet. Outside of this particular work he has never achieved the popularity of Prokofiev or Shostakovich also contemporary 20th century Russian composers. Hopefully this new CD offering from Delos in their continuing project of reissues from the defunct Russian Disc label will introduce you to an extremely accessible composer.

Kabalevsky was one of the founding members of the Union of Soviet Members and was considered an ideal example of what a communist party composer should be. While Shostakovich wasn’t afraid to experiment and we certainly are aware of what he accomplished it led to serious consequences and very nearly his life at one point. Dmitry played it pretty much along party lines filling his music with Russian folk tunes and emphasizing melodic lines and orchestrations like Tchaikovsky and he received nothing but praise from the party.

 Kabalevsky was born to a mathematician an interest he had as well as poetry and painting. Once he began the study of the piano and joined the Moscow Conservatory against his mathematical father’s desires his fate was sealed by one of his professors Myaskovsky another somewhat known composer and he became a professor in 1932. His body of work includes many areas of music which include choral, silent film, music for children, symphonies, concertos, chamber, and programmatic material like you’ll hear on this CD.

“Overture Pathetique,” Op. 64 (1960) begins with an upbeat melody filled with enthusiasm and hope from the woodwinds which is the basis for the entire work. There is no complicated harmony only each orchestral section offering this tune which is brought to a rousing conclusion.

“The Spring,” Op. 65 (1960) begins as one might think the very light and spritely flute which introduces the theme. Oboe and woodwinds are allowed to further develop the theme with strings providing the counterpoint. The bassoon is an important part of this equation as it offers its unique sound and flavor to the short tone poem.

“Overture to the Opera Colas Breugon,” Op. 24 (1938) begins upbeat with a vivacious fun melody that is offered from the entire orchestra with emphasis placed on the brass. It will instantly put you in good spirits and offers a snappy bright conclusion.

“The Comedians,” Op. 26 (1940) opens with a short prologue that will remind you of Shostakovich with the opening fanfare of brass slightly askew which leads into his well known gavotte, a melody that you’ll remember instantly. The remaining tracks include a Prokofiev style march, a somber funeral procession, valse, another gavotte, scherzo, and an epilogue which restates the prologue. The fifteen or so minutes will pass quickly as each movement is a separate and unique miniature. The work is definitely a fun listen.

The opening selection “Romeo and Juliet,” Op. 56 subtitled musical drawings after Shakespeare is the longest at 40 minutes and is a mixture of somber melodramatic material as well as fun and gaiety. The tone poem offers a fine example of the tonal colors and orchestration that Dmitry is capable of. While one can hear the Tchaikovsky it still has its own unique flavor. Again each section is a separate miniature that is capable of standing alone.

As an avid classical listener I found this material to be bright and extremely accessible. The Byelorrussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra perform like it was quite familiar with the material. Anatoly Lapunov seems to have chosen a comfortable pace that I found quite acceptable. The recording is clear and crisp with good separation and tonal range. I’m enjoying the reissue project from Delos and look forward to more in the future.

Delos DRD 2017

Anatoly Lapunov conducts Byelorussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra

Track Listing:

Romeo and Juliet, Op. 56

1… Introduction (Enmity and Love) 4:40

2… Morning in Verona (2:01)

3… Preparation for the Ball (1:35)

4… Procession of the Guests (3:46)

5… Merry Dance (1:33)

6… Lyric Dance (5:45)

7… In Friar Laurence’s Cell (5:16)

8… Scene in the Square (3:23)

9… Romeo and Juliet (3:35)

10. Finale (Death and Reconciliation) (9:30)

The Comedians Op. 26

11. Prologue (0:59)

12. Gavotte (1:30)

13. March (1:15)

14. Valse (1:24)

15. Pantomime (2:15)

16. Intermezzo (0:49)

17. Lyric Scene (1:29)

18. Gavotte (2:13)

19. Scherzo (1:49)

20. Epilogue (2:08)

21. Overture Pathetique, Op. 64 (4:44)

22. Spring, Op. 65 (6:26)

23. Overture to the Opera Colas Breugnon (5:13)

Total Time is 73:47

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