About this Recording
8.553411 - KABALEVSKY, D.B.: Romeo and Juliet / Colas Breugnon / Comedians (Moscow Symphony, Jelvakov)

Dmitry Borisovich Kabalevsky (1904 -1987) Suite from Colas Breugnon, Op

Dmitry Borisovich Kabalevsky (1904 - 1987)

Suite from Colas Breugnon, Op. 24a

Suite: The Comedians, Op. 26

Suite: Romeo and Juliet


The son of a mathematician, Dmitry Borisovich Kabalevsky was born in St Petersburg in 1904 and was intended by his father for some similar vocation to his own. Kabalevsky, however, showed considerable artistic promise, whether as pianist, poet or painter. After the Revolution he moved with his family to Moscow, where he continued his general education, while studying painting and, at the Scriabin Musical Institute, the piano. It was his interest in this last and his obvious proficiency that led him to reject the course that his father had proposed at the Engels Sodo-Economic Science Institute in 1922 and he turned instead to the piano, teaching, playing, like Shostakovich, in cinemas and now beginning to compose. In 1925 he entered the Moscow Conservatory, resolved to further his increasing interest in pedagogical music. Here he studied first with the leading theorist Georgy Catoire and then with Prokofiev's friend and mentor, the composer Myaskovsky. At the same time he became increasingly known for his writing on musical subjects, notably in the Association of Contemporary Music Journal, although he was careful not to distance himself from the much more musically conservative and politically orientated Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians. While the former espoused progressive forms of music that might, nevertheless, fit the principles of Sodalist Realism, the latter favoured a simpler and more popular form of music that the people might understand.


In 1932 Kabalevsky became involved in the Moscow organization and activities of the now established Union of Soviet Composers that replaced the earlier groupings, although, over the years, the leadership, like that of the Association of Proletarian Musicians, lacked musical credibility , whatever their political correctness. He worked for the state music publishing house and taught composition at the Moscow Conservatory, while continuing to write a large quantity of music. Although, like others of his generation, he supported the general principles of the Revolution it was not until1940 that he became a Communist Party member, continuing during the Great Patriotic War to write music likely to instil patriotism and help the war effort.


Problems arose for many Soviet composers in 1948. Already in 1936 Shostakovich had been condemned for his apparently socialist opera A Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, stigmatized by Stalin as chaos instead of music. 1948 brought official condemnation of formalism, involving Shostakovich and Prokofiev by name at the head of the list of those proscribed. Kabalevsky succeeded in having his own name removed from the list and replaced by that of another composer, although he might well have been to some extent implicated by his earlier association with the Organization Committee of the Composers' Union, the Orgkomitet, which earned particular criticism. His future compositions, however, proved acceptable and he continued as an educator, composer, administrator and writer, retaining favour with the authorities, while treated with obvious suspicion by distinguished composers now in a more precarious position. He died in 1987, and while due respect is given to his music, there are those who have found an opportunity to speak openly of what they have regarded as a combination of insincerity and self- interest, in the very difficult circumstances of the day.


Kabalevsky's opera Colas Breugnon had its first performance in Leningrad in 1938 and was revised in 1953 and again in 1969. The libretto was based on Romain Rolland's novel Le martre de Clamecy, a work that suited the political principles of Soviet Russia, with its general theme of the unprincipled exploitation of the people by their masters. The overture is a portrait of the protagonist and the opening Prologue has Breugnon writing an account of his life. The first ac t is set near Clamecy in Burgundy. Peasant girls are working in the vineyards. Colas Breugnon, a gifted wood-carver, joins Selina. They are in love, but Colas Breugnon will not propose. Gifliard, equerry to the Duke, enters and tells him that he will marry Selina. The two men fight, with Colas Breugnon encouraged by the girls, especially by Jacqueline, who is in love with him. A bell is heard, announcing the return of the Duke from Paris, accompanied by soldiers and guests. An Intermezzo accompanies an exchange between citizens and soldiery .In the second scene, set in a meadow near Clamecy, the people are assembled to meet the Duke, according to custom. Musicians play, joined by Colas Breugnon. He is noticed by one of the Duke's guests, who questions him. He replies lightly and the Duke shows her a fountain carved by Colas Breugnon, who is invited to the Duke's castle. Gifliard tells them that Colas is to go to study in Paris. He dances with Selina, who now agrees to marry him.


In the second act Colas is in his workshop, finishing a statue of Selina, helped by an apprentice. Jacqueline comes in and then the Duke, who takes the statue to his castle, when Gifliard shows it to him. Brooding, Colas is joined by a drunken priest. There is a sound of drum and pipe outside and of children singing the Dies irae, since the soldiers have brought the plague to Clamecy. People plan to leave to escape infection, but Colas Breugnon resolves to stay. The following Intermezzo is in the form of a funeral procession. In the next scene Colas has the plague and in a delirium wanders through an abandoned vineyard, seeing visions of death. He survives, however, even after the priest and his apprentice tell him that, on the Duke's orders, his workshop and house and all they contain has been burned to the ground leaving only his flute. An Intermezzo follows, as Colas Breugnon limps away along the road.


In the next scene Colas Breugnon meets Jacqueline, now dying, and near Clamecy meets Selina, recalling past happiness. She reproaches him for not proposing to her. People warn him against entering Clamecy, which is on fire. In the castle, where Colas Breugnon's carvings have been taken, the Duke asks if the artist is alive and is told by Gifliard that Colas is stirring up the people against him. He orders all the carvings to be burnt. At this moment Colas Breugnon enters, laughing when he sees the destruction. After another Intermezzo the scene changes to a procession to celebrate the town's patron saint. The Duke and his courtiers celebrate the Feast of St Martin and a statue by Colas Breugnon is unveiled, to reveal a representation of the Duke sitting on a donkey. To the amusement of the people, the Duke and his guests withdraw. The Suite from the opera is taken by the composer from the first version of the work.


The Comedians, a suite for small orchestra, was written in 1940, taken from music for the play The Inventor and the Comedian, by the Soviet writer M. Daniel. The Galop enjoys particular popularity in music that demonstrates Kabalevsky's light touch with a score that is pure entertainment.


A more sombre note intrudes into the Suite from incidental music for Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Written in 1956, the music starts, in its Introduction with enmity and love, the division between the love of Romeo and Juliet and the enmity of Montagues and Capulets. Morning in Verona is followed by Preparation for the Ball, at which the two lovers will meet, and a Procession of the Guests. A Quick Dance is followed by a Lyrical Dance, as the lovers meet, and a scene in the cell of Friar Laurence, whose well intentioned intervention is the cause of the tragedy. A rapid Tarantella leads to music for the lovers and their final death in the Capulet tomb.



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