In-Ju Bang

Kabalevsky: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

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Sent right down the middle of the alley, Dmitry Kabalevsky's piano concertos are bound to strike a familiar note to fans of early twentieth century Russian music. Composed in 1928 and 1935, Kabalevsky's piano concertos are tuneful, colorful, vivacious, and altogether charming. The brilliant First won him his initial fame and the Second comes from the time of his opera Colas Buregnon and shares its exuberant style. When it was released in 2004, this recording of both concertos performed by young Korean pianist In-Ju Bang with Dmitry Yablonsky leading the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra was one of only a handful of available recordings. Unfortunately, while Bang is a fine young pianist with a light touch and a nimble technique, Yablonsky is a more than capable conductor, and the Russian Philharmonic is a more than competent Moscow studio orchestra, their only competition outgunned them by including more of Kabalevsky's music on much longer discs. So while this disc was an easy and very attractive way to become acquainted with an interesting new pianist, it couldn't quite beat Walter Mnatsakanov's 1996 recording of the First or Nikolai Petrov's 1984 recording of the Second, both on Olympia, much less Kathryn Stott's 2002 recording of the Second on Chandos, because not only were those performances at least in the same class as Bang's, but their discs were far more generously filled. Naxos' recordings were clear and clean, but lacking in presence or atmosphere.

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