In honor of Memorial Day, here’s the finale of Dmitri Kabalevsky’s 1963 Requiem, “for those who died in the war against fascism.”

Kabalevsky: Requiem (Finale: “Pomnite!”) (mp3, 7.2 Mb)
Valentina Levko, contralto; Vladimir Valaitis, baritone
Moscow Chorus
Children’s Chorus of the Art Education Institute
Moscow Philharmonic, Dmitri Kabalevsky, conductor

Kabalevsky (1904-1987) said that he dreamed for years of writing this piece; I don’t doubt that, but, given the timing, it’s hard not to hear his Requiem as some sort of Soviet response to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem of 1962. Coincidence or not, it’s a classic example of a good piece of music being overshadowed by a similar, great piece. Kabalevsky’s music is undeniably effective, and often inspired, but his socialist-realist vocabulary precludes any of the questioning of pro patria mori that produces such crackling tension in the Britten, and Kabalevsky’s text (by poet Robert Rozhdestvensky), while solidly dramatic, can’t compare with the combination of Wilfred Owen and the timeless Latin of the Mass (which, of course, Kabalevsky eschews). But if all you know of Kabalevsky is the overture to The Comedians and some of his often-anthologized piano pieces, the Requiem is worth a listen. And it’s hard to argue with the climax:

Lyudi zemli,—
ubeite voinu!
Lyudi zemli,
proklyanite voinu!
No o tekh,
kto uzhe ne pridyot nikogda,—
People of the world—
kill war!
People of the world,
curse war!
But them
who will never come back—
I beseech you—

One comment

  1. I’m dying to hear more of this Requiem but it is impossible to find anywhere except in little 30 second clips at amazon.com. If you have some free time could you please post more of it?

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