Vasily Shcherbakov

Kabalevsky: 24 Preludes; Sonata No. 3

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In its time -- that is, right after the end of the Great Patriotic War -- Dmitry Kabalevsky's Third Piano Sonata was a huge hit. There were recordings by Vladimir Horowitz and Benno Moiseiwitsch, both expatriate Russians living in the West, but, curiously, no known recordings by Emil Gilels or Sviatoslav Richter, the great Russian pianists living in the USSR. While the reasons for this are necessarily purely conjectural, one might guess that it was easier for Russians who left than it was for Russians who stayed to get behind the sonata's facile virtuosity and its simplistic surface. Be that as it may, Kabalevsky's sonata has yet to find a place in the standard repertoire comparable to Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata from the same period. This light and lively recording by Vasily Shcherbakov from 2006 may go some way toward changing that situation. Shcherbakov's virtuosity is beyond question and he clearly believes in the music, making its opening Con moto dance, its central Cantabile sing, and its closing Giocoso laugh. Whether this is enough will depend on the listener but the argument could be made than Shcherbakov's less emotionally fraught approach works better than Horowitz's heaven-storming approach or Moiseiwitsch's death-defying approach. But while Kabalevsky's sonata was a hit, his 24 Preludes were hardly a hit then or now. Infrequently recorded in their time and rarely recorded since, Shcherbakov's brilliantly witty performance here may, indeed, go a long way toward bringing the cunningly wrought work into the standard repertoire. Classical Recording's digital sound is close and dry, but very clean and thus not altogether without merit.

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