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Work

Dmitry Kabalevsky

Dmitry Kabalevsky Composer

The Comedians, suite for small orchestra, Op.26   

Performances: 12
Tracks: 48
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Musicology:
  • The Comedians, suite for small orchestra, Op.26
    Year: 1940
    Genre: Suite / Partita
    Pr. Instrument: Chamber Orchestra
    • 1.Prologue
    • 2.Galop of the Comedians
    • 3.March
    • 4.Waltz
    • 5.Pantomime
    • 6.Intermezzo
    • 7.Little Lyrical Scene
    • 8.Gavotte
    • 9.Scherzo
    • 10.Epilogue
In 1938, Dmitri Kabalevsky provided incidental music for a play produced by the Central Children's Theater in Moscow, entitled Inventor and Comedian. The score is light and witty and its expressive language quite direct, as was expected in Stalin's Soviet Union at that time. But here Kabalevsky was aiming at young audiences and had good reason to write tuneful, rather simple music. The play's plot deals with a traveling group of entertainers who are more clowns than comedians.

Two years later Kabalevsky extracted ten numbers from the score for his suite The Comedians, which would become his most popular work, with only the overture to his opera Colas Breugnon even remotely rivaling it. His effort was quite successful in distilling the work's best moments into a 15-minute suite, which he scored for small orchestra. The first number is the Prologue, a light and effervescent piece featuring colorful orchestral writing, the xylophone in particular enhancing the playful, mischievous atmosphere.

The Galop comes next; it is probably the most famous single number Kabalevsky ever wrote. Many a man and woman on the street know this galloping, descending, rhythmic tune, which again is colorfully punctuated by the xylophone. The music is joyous and witty, quite effectively capturing the tumbling actions of the clownish entertainers. The ensuing March is slow and amusing in its drunken gait, while the Waltz that follows is lithe and gossamer, subtly giddy and colorful.

"Pantomime" struggles to get going, it seems, remaining in the lower ranges of the orchestra and prodded in its laggardly manner by the snare drum at the outset. Its glum theme sounds like a parody of a funeral march. The Intermezzo is light and, in contrast to the previous number, scored mostly for the upper ranges of the orchestra. The "Little Lyrical Scene" is gentle and sweet, but features a melody which, especially when taken up by the horn, sounds Romantic and heroic. The delightful and very Russian-sounding Gavotte follows, masking the French origins of this dance form.

Next is a busy and colorful Scherzo whose main section alternates with somewhat exotic music of calmer demeanor. The Epilogue closes the work with the most boisterous sounds in the suite. Its ecstatic and brilliantly-scored ending seems to be the perfect orchestral incarnation of hysterical laughter.

All ten numbers in this suite are short, but Kabalevsky clearly demonstrates that his brevity of expression does not reduce the artistic impact of the music. While it is light, it is seriously light and must be judged a masterpiece of its type.

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