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Rad Bennett
RadsReferenceReviews, October 2014

Rimsky-Korsakov rearranged A Night on Bald Mountain, virtually recomposing it and smoothing out its harmonies. This is the version usually heard. But Mussorgsky’s wilder and woollier original has been recorded. You can get both versions on the same disc, in dynamic performances from Theodore Kuchar and the National Symphony of the Ukraine…with a sterling performance of Pictures at an Exhibition (Ravel orchestration) and some shorter pieces thrown in. © 2014 RadsReferenceReviews Read complete review

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, October 2014

…there’s no denying Maestro Kuchar’s disc sounds great and, more important, its musical content will satisfy a lot of people because there’s something here for everyone.

…Kuchar’s account…holds its own against almost any competition and should please practically anyone who doesn’t already have a favorite Pictures. © 2014 Classical Candor Read complete review

David Hurwitz, July 2012

These brilliant, hard-driving performances bring back (happy) memories of Russian orchestras of the 1960s and a style of playing that has all but disappeared. The performances aren’t subtle, but then neither is the music, and my how Theodore Kuchar and Co. deliver the goods! Why don’t we hear playing like this anymore in music that practically defines the word “excitement?” The other two short pieces, the Hopak and Golitsin’s Exile, simply put the icing on the cake. Don’t let the cheap price, the not-terribly-well-known performers, or the brevity of this review prevent you from trying out this really gutsy and very well recorded disc (probably the best sonics from this source thus far). You’ll be missing a real treat if you do. © 2012 Read complete review

Penguin Guide, January 2009

It was an imaginative idea to record both Mussorgsky’s original score—St John’s Night on the Bare Mountain—alongside Rimsky’s finished orchestral tone-poem, for in most respects they are entirely different works. Theodor Kuchar makes this plain by his contrasting interpretations, and he demonstrates that, however inspired and original Mussorgsky’s draft may be in its rough-and-ready conception, the far more integrated Rimsky-Korsakov piece is the finer work overall. With a superbly rasping opening from the heavy brass, Kuchar demonstrates its malignant force, deftly amalgamating Rimsky’s interpolated, very Russian brass fanfares, then producing a serenely peaceful close, with lovely playing from the strings and woodwind. St John’s Night begins in a comparable atmosphere of malevolence, but the witches jamboree which follows is bizarrely grotesque rather than evil. Yet Kuchar sustains the tension through the composer’s weird sequential repetitious before the brief, unearthly coda, which of course is without Rimsky’s radiant apotheosis.

Mussorgsky’s jolliest Russian dance, the Sorochinsky ‘Gopak’, is engagingly spirited, to be followed by a moving performance of the darkly mournful orchestral description of Prince GolitsÏn’s exile from Khovanshchina. Ravel’s incomparable orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition then proves an excitingly vivid showpiece for this superb Russian orchestra which paints the Tuileries and the cheeping Unhatched Chicks in glowing colours, while the solo saxophone sings his melancholy serenade touchingly outside the Old Castle. The percussion really make their mark in The Hut on Fowls’ Legs, and the bass drum adds dramatic impact, both here and in the triumphant climax of the closing Great Gate of Kiev, which is thrillingly expansive, with Kuchar broadening the final statement of the great chorale to produce a frisson of weighty spectacle, helped by the demonstration sound-quality. An outstanding disc in every way which is strongly recommendable, quite irrespective of its modest price.

Ivan March
Gramophone, May 2003

"This is a quite remarkable CD on all counts - outstandingly fine orchestral playing, vividly exciting and very Russian music-making, and a very tangible sound picture, consistently in the demonstration bracket."

Scott Morrison

"Throughout this CD I was really impressed with the work of the brass and winds particularly. They almost sound like the Cleveland Orchestra in Szell's famous recording of these pieces. Further, the sound on this disc is pretty darn good. Theodore Kuchar, an American conductor who has been appointed "Conductor Laureate for Life" of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine with which he has been associated since 1994 and with which he has made oodles of good recordings for Naxos, conducts taut, exciting performances that lack only the slightest degree of suavity. That's one of the great things about Naxos: they find a good orchestra (and make no mistake - this orchestra is GOOD) and a good conductor and they put them to work recording."

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