Dmitri Kabalevsky: Cello Concertos 1 & 2; Colas Breugnon Suite / Torleif Thedéen, cello


This new album is the third in cpo's survey of Kabalevsky's orchestral works. The NDR RadioPhilharmonie has performed on each, and its the second conducted by Japanese conductor Eiji Oue. On this recording, we hear Kabalevsky's Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, magnificently performed by cellist Torleif Thedéen, and the 'Colas Breugnon' Suite, Op. 24a (for this work, Adrian Prabava conducts). If you've been following it, you'll likely need little encouragement to pick up this latest release in the series, one that reveals the serious side of a composer best known for his lighter fare.

Kabalevsky's largest areas of output were his solo piano pieces, songs and choral works. Still, what he produced for orchestra is considerable. In addition to his four numbered symphonies and a dozen or so symphonic poems, overtures and suites, the other major area of Kabalevsky's orchestral oeuvre is the concerto. Having worked on a variety of cinematic and theatrical projects, in much of his music he treads on the decidedly conservative side among 20th century Russian composers. The concluding work on the program is in this vein. The two concertos however bear closer scrutiny. The earlier one was completed in 1949 and the second in 1964. While they are quite similar in terms of tonality, right from the opening measures of Cello Concerto No. 2, you can hear it is characteristically quite different from the First Concerto - enigmatic, dark and mysterious. The program concludes with the tuneful and sweeping "Colas Breugnon" Suite. There's an interesting blend of influences to be heard here, from Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov to Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

This music is definitely worth seeking out, but it's the performances that knock the recording out of the ballpark. Cello soloist Torleif Thedéen's gorgeous playing leaves nothing to be desired, and the performances by the NDR Radio Philharmonic are impeccable.