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Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, December 2009

This useful collection of Kabalevsky’s three piano sonatas is played commandingly by Alexandre Dossin, a prize-winning Brazilian pianist…

…the Third Sonata…bright and witty exception and when played with Horowitz’s spine-tingling bravura or Moiseiwitsch’s feline elegance it quickly becomes the star offering among the composer’s piano works…the Two Sonatinas remind you that Kabalevsky was a skilled composer of children’s pieces. More generally Dossin is well if not outstandingly recorded and Naxos’s accompanying notes are detailed if flattering.

Jed Distler, October 2009

Although Richard Whitehouse’s program notes accurately pinpoint Prokofiev’s influence on Kabalevsky’s youthful First piano sonata, late Scriabin often lurks behind some of the music’s harmonic ambiguity and impassioned dynamic surges. In fact, the slow movement’s gorgeous chord voicings and gentle melodic polyphony wouldn’t be out of place in a Ned Rorem sonata! With all of that, a vibrant composing personality makes itself felt. By contrast, Kabalevsky’s Second and Third sonatas (respectively dating from 1945 and 1946) are formally tighter and better “stage-managed” pianistically, yet are more derivative from a creative standpoint. However, in the right hands (Vladimir Horowitz’s, for example), they sound like near-masterpieces and Alexandre Dossin’s well-drilled fingers emphasize musical considerations over virtuoso effect.

He downplays the percussive drive in the Second sonata Presto assai’s motoric piano writing by emphasizing melodic shapes and long lines, and does the same with the Third sonata’s spiky Allegro giocoso. At the same time, the little Sonatinas’ fast movements are appropriately incisive and aggressive. The distant ambience lacks warmth and depth yet preserves a concert-hall perspective from which you can assess Dossin’s strong powers of projection…Dossin has the field to himself.

Paul Ingram
Fanfare, September 2009

Dossin easily beats the available competition.

James Harrington
American Record Guide, September 2009

…Given these performances by Dossin, one could hope for a reevaluation and possibly an awakening in the piano world that this is good piano music, demanding of the pianist and worthy of study and performance. While I’ve never heard these works programmed, I would go well out of my way to hear Dossin play them. He has the sensitivity and flair for the poetic moments as well as the drive and excitement necessary…In the First Sonata, Dossin convinces me that, despite the similarities with Prokofiev (and to a lesser extent Scriabin) this is a good first effort.

The middle movement especially has a beautiful melodic fabric woven by a master pianist. The Second Sonata is, perhaps, the high-point of Kabalevsky’s piano compositions. It is overtly virtuosic, and I hear the ghost of Horowitz in almost every bar. Were it not for the exceptionally good modern sonics, it would be easy for a listener to mistake Dossin for the departed legend. Not to say that this is simply a good pianist copying an old one. Dossin surely has spent some time listening to the older recording, and certainly has been influenced by it, but it is his own interpretation, and quite worthy of comparison. The last sonata is a little bittersweet and easily the best recording I have heard of it. The sonatinas make this a very generous and complete collection. Anyone found of the Russian piano works of the 20th century should listen to this. It will favorably alter any feelings you might have towards Kabalevsky and give you a chance to hear a terrific young pianist.

James Manheim, June 2009

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.

Colin Clarke
MusicWeb International, May 2009

Brazilian-born Alexandre Dossin is new to me. He won both First and Special prizes at the Martha Argerich International Piano Competition in 2003. He holds a Doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin and currently teaches at the Oregon School of Music. Dossin’s Liszt/Verdi Paraphrases disc on Naxos was a MusicWeb International “Recording of the Month” in July 2007.

The First Sonata is an early work, yet the clouds that darken the final pages of the first movement reassure us that it is of serious intent. Richard Whitehouse’s excellent booklet notes point rightly to the influence of Prokofiev here. The cantabile, wistful middle-register melody of the Andantino semplice central movement seems to be pure Kabalevsky, though. The finale moves from the virtuosic to the playful to the whimsical with remarkable speed. Dossin is keenly alive to every nuance.

Moving on a full 18 years, the Second Sonata immediately follows the famous 24 Preludes in Kabalevsky’s output. It shares with them a magnificent confidence of utterance and complete mastery of contrapuntal working. Ostinato is used as a device to generate heat in the first movement, a movement which concludes with a passage marked “festivamente”. Dossin carves the stark canvas with sure hands. Contrast is needed, and it is found in the shape of the subdued opening of the central Andante sostenuto. This middle section of the sonata is quite an emotional journey in itself, making one wonder why this piece is not heard more often. This is lovely, mature, strong music of the utmost integrity. The finale, is essentially a toccata with a distinctly muscular gait. This is the longest of the sonatas and Dossin has the will to make it seem not a bar too long.

The Third Sonata is the best known piece on the disc and so brings with it the most competition… Dossin proves his immersion in Kabalevsky’s sound-world by making this Third Sonata seem natural but not over-simplistic. The latter would be an easy trap to fall into in this piece. At 16:16 this is the shortest of the three sonatas and the composer’s terseness of utterance works to the music’s advantage. Whitehouse’s reference to the Haydnesque leanings of the first movement is spot-on. Dossin’s ability to change from hard attack to a legato-based line that is as fluid as flowing water is most laudable. To sample this try around the four-minute mark of the first movement). The central Andante cantabile starts off as a dream and is delicately shaded here by Dossin. The pianist’s ability to conjure magical spaces by superbly weighted pianissimi is worth the price of the disc alone. The finale’s light playfulness seems to include a palpable stream of the daemonic under Dossin’s hands, making spiky, more forceful passages all the more effective and not isolating them in the process. The shadow of Prokofiev once more comes to the fore here.

The two Sonatinas of Op. 13 are of distinctly neo-classical inspiration. The first lasts a mere seven minutes. Kabalevsky shows himself a master of the poignant statement. The acerbic Allegro assai e lusingando sets the tone. The ensuing Andantino can perhaps be best described as a staccato whisper, leading to a swift, almost hectoring Presto. The second Sonatina dates from three years later. Dossin’s fingers have no problems with the necessary rapid articulation - the music begs for Russian steel. The first movement’s deliberately inconclusive ending leads to a bare skeleton of a Sostenuto before a playful, kittenish finale rounds off the disc in the most charming of fashions…Interested readers wishing to explore further might wish to try the recording of Kabalevsky’s Piano Concertos on Naxos: Nos. 1 and 2 appear on 8.557683, while No. 3 appears on Naxos 8.557794.

Anyone interested in the Soviet piano repertoire of the twentieth century need not hesitate.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, April 2009

Dmitry Kabalevsky’s popularity as a composer rests to a large degree on his symphonic suite The Comedians (of which he was reputedly not overly fond.) Indeed, there is little in The Comedians of the neoclassical style found in his later, larger-scale works. Pianist Dossin’s style is perfectly suited to these sonatas, even if a mite overpowering at times in the sonatinas. In my experience, the piano is surprisingly difficult to record, but there is no such problem in this 2007 production.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2009

Those who think of Dmitry Kabalevsky as the composer of populist music, to please his masters in the Soviet regime, should now listen to his three piano sonatas. True they owe much to Prokofiev, but Kabalevsky did have the knack of producing attractive thematic material, and here he puts it to good use. The First was a student score dating from 1927, and points to the influence from his mentor, Nikolay Myaskovsky, the driving rhythms of the final Vivo being a powerful and technically exacting statement. Then turn to the opening Allegro of the Second Sonata to find music that would have graced anything coming from Prokofiev, its mix of powerful sections with creamy-smooth bitter-sweet melody being immediately engaging. The finale is a virtuoso Presto where hands flash around the keyboard. It dates from 1945, the year before his final sonata, a work where he seems torn between gentle elegance and the brutality that had become fashionable. If this had come from Shostakovich we would be reading all types of hidden messages into it, and I find the quiet sadness, in which the movement ends, probably telling us of the inner Kabalevsky. The two short three-movement Sonatinas, both from the 1930s, have their profound moments but are generally lightweight. Of course everything on the disc took place before the commissars brought him to heal, the last sector of his life offering music that ensured his survival. The soloist is the Brazilian-born Alexandre Dossin, a product of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, and now combines teaching at the University of Oregon with an international concert career. Admirably equipped to provide the brand of technical prowess that hides the sonatas inherent difficulties. Sound quality is good.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group