ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
DMITRI KABALEVSKY - COMPLETE SYMPHONIES (1-4)


DMITRI KABALEVSKY - COMPLETE SYMPHONIES (1-4) - EIJI OUE (CONDUCTOR) - NORTHWEST GERMAN RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA - NORTHWEST GERMAN RADIO CHOIR - HUNGARIAN RADIO CHOIR - 2-Disc Set - CPO 999833

Dmitri Kabalevsky, who lived from 1904 to 1987, eventually became an important figure in Soviet Russia. The main reason for his popularity and for the constant presence of his music in the public eye, is that the brunt of his creative output was music written for the Russian school and educational systems. Music that was highly valued as a solid foundation in music training for young children. In 1948, when the Russian regime came down hard on composers guilty of formalism, Kabalevsky's name was removed from the list, because of his high profile in official and academic circles. He became active in the Union of Soviet Composers and was one of those to denounce the music of Shostakovich.

His symphonies, although quite simple in structure, academic in form, and fully loaded with traditional Russian melodies and styles, show enough expressive freedom and ear catching themes and patriotic hymns, to capture our attention and make us aware of the fact that Dmitri Kabalevsky had a very solid musical backbone. All four symphonies show a commited composer, and one who could very well have written a book on how to write a good symphony. The Symphony No. 3, Op. 22 (Requiem for Lenin) for example, the closing movement of which uses a large mixed choir singing a funeral march, never loses its focus and becomes very rousing and uplifting as it comes to a patriotic and triumphal end. When compared to Shostakovich or Prokofiev for example, this music tips the emotional scale towards the opposite end of the spectrum. No doom and gloom or bleak despair here. The bright future of the nation lies ahead.

The competition at the present time for recordings of these fine symphonies is rather slim. There are still a handful of recordings of the first 2 symphonies on the market, but as far as I know, nothing readilly available of symphonies 3 and 4. Therefore it is very nice to have all 4 symphonies packaged together in this excellent recording on CPO. These are strong and commited readings by Eiji Oue, a conductor who studied under Leonard Bernstein, and who made many great recordings for the audiophile label Reference.

Shostakovich's music became very popular in the West because it was black-listed by Kabalevsky. Because it became popular, everyone in the world began to show more interest in Russian music in general, and therefore Dmitri Kabalevsky himself obtained a higher profile. Had he not spoken against his compatriot, he himself might have faded in obscurity. One of life's great ironic moments.

Jean-Yves Duperron