In his insert-note to the present record, Per Skans compares Kabalevsky to Gian Carlo Menotti, for their mutual understanding of the stage but also for sharing “a never failing melodic inspiration, a reliable harmonic imagination and a superb command of the orchestral palette”. It is a surprising comparison, but one not without some point. Kabalevsky was never at home with large-scale forms, and even in the Piano Concerto recorded here, which is made the most of by Anatoly Sheludyakov, the most attractive movements are the Moderato and the final Vivace marcato. Here Kabalevsky’s lively tunefulness can be given rein without the necessity of building his invention into something more substantial.
The Pathetique Overture is a brief burst of energy. Spring has its moments of genuine charm, but, even in a piece lasting a little over eight minutes, he seems puzzled as to how to relate his ideas one to another. The Rhapsody is essentially a set of variations, a form that naturally suits Kabalevsky nicely, on a song of his own composing. The music from The Comedians, a play written for children in 1939, has been recorded quite frequently, and represents the composer at his simplest and most charming. It nips along cheerfully here.
Gramophone, September 1997