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Kabalevsky: Romeo & Juliet (Comedians/ Pathetique/ Spring) (Byelorussian Radio & TV Symphony Orchestra/ Anatoly Lapunov) (Delos: DRD 2017) Single
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The Soviet musical establishment considered Dmitry Kabalevsky a dream composer, as his compositions fit the prescribed Soviet formula for proper Russian music: his works were bright, straightforward, often folk-based, and made few demands on the listeners intellect. Still, his undisputed gifts as a melodist and orchestrator as well as his musical sincerity made him one of the most popular of the soviet-era composers among the masses. This appealing Russian Disc re-release offers some of his finest and best-known works, including the symphonic suites Romeo and Juliet and The Comedians, his tone poem The Spring, and the Pathétique and Colas Breugnon overtures. Anatoly Lapunov leads the Byelorussian Radio and Television Orchestra in sturdy, spirited and idiomatically true performances.
Both scores being genuine light music of natural charm and very well performed. --IRR, Nov'12
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Case in point: this Kabalevsky disc. This is not the Moscow Philharmonic; it is obviously a second-rate group. And my, oh my, it is pretty awful! It is not very well played and the recording sounds like it was made in a bathtub. It is a huge, empty, cavernous acoustic, thick with reverberation that obscures orchestral details and muddies the entire soundstage. Balances are odd too. For example, woodwinds are unnaturally spotlit - perhaps the engineers were trying to obtain some detail in this murky acoustic? Whatever the reason, the oboes and clarinets are jarringly thrust into the foreground, as if they are sitting up front by the conductor. And to make matters worse, these are the honking-est oboes ever! I laughed out loud at how awful they sound, while marveling why the engineers thought they should be highlighted.
As to the music-making, it is as stereotypical of a Russian orchestra as you can get. Remember those raw, brazen Melodyia discs from the 60s? Well, say hello to it all over again in 2012. Vibrato-laden trumpets; thin, screetchy violins; bang-em-up timpani. No, it's not quite as bad as those old Svetlanov recordings, but you get the picture. And this conductor - tempos are all over the place. Indeed, Colas Breugnon starts absurdly fast only to have Mr. Lapunov slam on the brakes 9 bars later when he realizes that no one can play it that fast. And it seriously sounds like they are sight reading it. So he keeps slowing down the hard parts then speeds up when it's easier. Good grief!
The Comedians Suite is surely the best thing here, and it's not bad. But for the rest of it - honestly, I can find nothing about this recording that should have prompted Delos to resurrect it. I have an enormous CD collection and can usually find something in each and every disc which makes it worth taking up precious space on my shelves. I am having a very difficult time justifying keeping this one.