There’s something particularly fascinating about the composers who labored in the Soviet Union in the 20th century. These artists had to walk a very fine line between personal expression and the creation of art that would earn the approval of the State’s apparatus, and many composers found themselves drifting into and out of favor. (Shostakovich in particular had to deal with this.)
Dmitry Kabalevsky was one such composer, and he managed to pretty much avoid internal controversy, perhaps by being more conservative and less adventurous than some of his musical colleagues. Nevertheless, you listen to his music and you can’t place it anywhere other than 20th century Russia.
Kabalevsky’s suite The Comedians is one of his most popular works. A ten-movement musical depiction of clowns, the piece abounds with invigorating rhythms and with plaintive melodies. The second movement, the Galop, gave me pause when I listened to the work this weekend. I’m certain that I actually got to perform it at some point, but digging a little deeper, I’m not sure if that’s the case or if it’s just the fact that the Galop is itself one of Kabalevsky’s most popular compositions. Sometime I’ll have to dig out all my old orchestral programs and see if I did in fact play this piece.
Meantime, here is The Comedians by Dmitry Kabalevsky.