Kabalevsky Cello Concertos – Serious music

Dmitri Kabalevsky is pretty much known for just one work — “The Comedians’ Gallop.” But there’s much more to this Russian composer, as this new release demonstrates.

The two concertos, are serious compositions that showcase the solo instrument in a somewhat traditional fashion. Though written 15 years apart, and for different soloists, both concertos are quite similar in sound. Both feature languid slow movements supported by lush harmonies, both require the cello to nimbly skitter around in the fast movements, and both let the solo instrument sing out in the opening movement (and show off a little, too).

For those who like the “Comedian’s Gallop,” the Colas Breugnon suite, which rounds out the disc, delivers more of the same. Taken from the incidental music to a play, the short movements in this work are brimming with good natured hi-jinx. It reminded me quite a lot of Prokofiev’s 1st symphony — and with good reason. Kabalevsky was tasked with completing and orchestrating Prokofiev’s Op. 132 Cello Concertino after his death.

Cellist Torleif Thedeen plays with a warmth and sincerity well-suited to these compositions. And he has no trouble executing the technical challenges Kabalevksy throws in along the way. My only complaint is the recording itself, which to my ears sounded a little out of focus. The ensemble has a smooth, blended sound, but missing some of the detail.

Dmitri Kabalevsky: Cello Concertos 1 & 2; Colas Breugnon Suite
Torleif Thedeen, cello; NDR Radiophilharmonic; Eiji Oue, conductor

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