Pleasant, Unadventurous Kabalevsky Symphonies

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Dimitri Kabalevsky was a composer of very limited range. Hearing his orchestral music reminds me of looking at that old, pre-marked staff paper for typical modern orchestra, with lines already included for piccolo, harp, and percussion (bass drum and cymbals on one line, snare drum and triangle on the other, xylophone and bells on a third). There’s no special reason why every piece of orchestral music has to have these instruments, but there they are, so you might as well use them frequently. In short, Kabalevsky’s sound is formulaic, but unfailingly bright and pleasant.

The First Symphony of 1932 is the most interesting work here, formally and expressively. Cast in two movements–one slowish, the other quick–it progresses from tepid sadness to the obligatory happy ending tunefully and efficiently. No. 2 has three movements, fast-slow-fast, and its thematic substance is less interesting, but it covers much the same territory as the First, taking a few extra minutes to do so.

The two overtures are brief and perky. Colas Breugnon is, after the Comedians’ Gallop, Kabalevsky’s best known piece. No one will match Reiner’s old mono recording for Columbia, but Darell Ang and the Melmö forces play with verve in all of these works, and the performances convince–even in the Pathétique Overture, Kabalevsky’s none too convincing effort to strike a deeper expressive note. The sonics are a bit distant, but otherwise as clean and clear as the music.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Colas Breugnon: Reiner (Columbia-mono)

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