- Piano Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 9
- Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 19
- Piano Concerto No. 4 ("Prague"), Op. 99
The big news here isn't that Kathryn Stott has turned in another impressive recording of Kabalevsky's piano concertos. The virtuosic English pianist had already done that with her previous recording of his second and third concertos in 2005. The big news here is that Neeme Järvi, once the most recorded conductor in the world, has turned in his third recording for the Chandos label since the two bitterly and publicly parted company more than a decade ago. A talented conductor with a prodigious ability to learn scores, Järvi benefited greatly from the increased popularity of classical music with the introduction of digital technology. By the early '90s, Järvi had recorded enormous amounts of music outside the mainstream -- the complete symphonies of Berwald, Schmidt, and Kalinnikov, for example -- and he came to believe Chandos ought to give him a shot at more standard repertoire. After the artistic and financial disappointment of his Brahms cycle, however, Chandos declined to expand Järvi's territory. Breaking the unofficial code of silence, Järvi took his complaints to the media -- and Chandos let his contract expire. But following two discs of Busoni's orchestral music, this 2006 Kabalevsky disc reaffirms Järvi's primacy in second-rank repertoire. In the "Concerto," pianist Stott tears into the bravura and almost Romantic "First" with gusto and brio and the brilliant and not quite Modernist "Fourth" with zest and strength while Järvi supports her with a colorful, characterful, and powerful accompaniment. But in the disc's central "C minor Second Symphony," Järvi leads the superb BBC Philharmonic in a performance that makes the "social realist" work sound as much as possible like first-rate music for as long as it's playing. And after it's over, if its themes seem too heroic, its forms seem too dramatic, its rhythms seem too driven, its colors seem too bright, and its gestures seem too familiar to be believed, these doubts do not exist while Järvi is pushing its tempos, inflating its rhetoric, and enhancing its climaxes. With only a handful of other recordings of the "Second" available -- the antique 1949 recording with Jacques Rachmilovich leading the Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra, the classic 1973 recording with David Measham leading the New Philharmonia, the strident 1977 recording with Erwin Acél leading the Szeged Philharmonic, and the vigorous 1998 recording with Loris Tjeknavorian leading the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra -- Järvi and the BBC's rises right to the top of the list. Chandos' sound is appropriately loud and direct.