Alexandre Dossin

Kabalevsky: Piano Sonatas (Complete)

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The Naxos label is perhaps at its best in reviving composers like Dmitry Kabalevsky; figures, perhaps associated with a national school, whose music stands apart from the grand trends of the twentieth century yet is marked by craftsmanship in which one can find undiminished enjoyment. In its day, the piano pieces heard here attracted no less an admirer than Vladimir Horowitz. "Not the least of their attractions," notes annotator Richard Whitehouse, "is the acuity with which they reflect the spirit of the time without venturing into overtly radical or inherently reactionary musical territory." Kabalevsky owed a debt to Prokofiev, especially in the early Piano Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 6, but his voice is distinctive. He adheres to traditional tonality, but the structures of the individual movements, except in the two little sonatinas that round off the album, owe little to the neo-classical idea. Instead Kabalevsky breaks up the outer movements into well-wrought sections that often reach a peak of considerable virtuosity. The most serious piece here is the Piano Sonata No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 45, which reflects the wartime conditions under which it was composed in 1945. Granted that it is not on a level with Shostakovich's response to the war, but the contrast between the chilly melancholy of the central movement and the formal, resolute speed of the finale is reminiscent of late Beethoven. The graceful Piano Sonata No. 3 in F major, Op. 46, is entirely different in mood and in many places brings to mind Kabalevsky's only really well-known score, The Comedians. Brazilian-American pianist Alexandre Dossin surmounts the technical difficulties of these works with aplomb. A professor at the University of Oregon School of Music, he may have inspired his students to get to know the keyboard music of Kabalevsky. It is ideally suited for student recitals at all levels, for the two sonatinas make only moderate technical demands.

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