Friday, November 25, 2016

Kabalevsky, Dmitri. Symphonies No. 3 & 4.

From my collection.
Bought in September 2015.
First listen: 13-10-2015.
Second listen: 25-11-2016.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: 2001/2002.
Recording venues: Symphony No. 3, Athanasius Kirche, ( Symphony No. 3 and the Grosser Sendesaal des NDR Landesfunkhauses, ( Symphony No. 4. No city names added.
Recording engineer: Bjorn Brigsne, Symphony No. 3 and Martin Lohmann, Symphony No. 4.
Running time: 61:00.
Classical relevance: Essential.

Works performed: 

Symphony No. 3, opus 22 in B flat minor for Orchestra and mixed Choir.
"Requiem for Lenin".

Symphony No. 4, opus 54 in C.


Works performed by:

NDR choir and the Choir of the Hungarian Radio.
NDR Radiophilharmonie, Eiji Oue.



If we just forget for the sake of the argument the namesake of this Symphony and its dedication, then there remains a really good symphony, for he did not compose garbage notes for comrade Lenin. Kabalevsky is not the man to smear his reputation by delivering less than excellence, and so it is. It is not at all clear that he willingly dedicated this symphony or that he was forced by circumstances. No text was added in the booklet, but then we all know that propaganda language is rarely of interest. You can hear in this work how Kabalevsky matured in his compositional style. He is constantly growing at such a rate, that it is always a surprise what comes next. The change in writing can differ hugely from earlier works, and it is so in the third Symphony. His excellence in orchestration is clearly heard throughout the work. The Hungarian choir sings well and brings the effect the words need, to the music. There is no lashing out of screaming sopranos thank God. So in the context of the music this is all acceptable.

After listening to the Fourth Symphony I can affirm that this is the best of the four.
Kabalevsky is a composer with a distinctive style, not wholly comparable with others in his sphere. But what he did in the Fourth is to my ears wholly unique.
The work is drenched in musical comments by the likes of Prokofiev. Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky, but in such a clever way, that it made me gasp more than one time, in fact it kept me gasping for the whole 41 minutes of this work. It takes some expertise and compositional cunning to make this work fly, but he did it effortlessly. It's Kabalevsky talent that enables him to merge all elements so cleverly. Unbelievably good. 
The second movement is surely one of the finest Kabalevsky wrote, the way he mingles Thaikovskian strings with Shostakovian woodwinds is something to marvel at.
The third movement sports bouncing motives all over the place at a quick rate, much like Prokofiev use to do, but with some added spice in the form of sounds from the hands of Rimski-Korsakov. The colours you get are amazing.
The fourth movement begins in a dark mood, almost elegiac in style. It meanders a little before it gets a fast stream with aggressive waterfalls.  To write such a work, and to keep your own identity must be something of a miracle. The use of percussion is cleverly done and effective in its use. 
A glorious finale powerful and melodically as sound as a clear bell, as the strings enter yet again that bears Tchaikovsky influence.
The sound is  state of the art and the performance first rate.




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