This is quite a spectacular disc for a number of reasons. For one thing, Naxos ingenious plans to include both the Rimsky-Korsakov and the original versions of Mussorgsky's "Night on Bare Mountain", the folkloristic Hopak dance from "Sorochinsky Fair", and Entr'acte to Act IV, Scene II of "Khovanshchina" with the "Pictures at an Exhibition" pays off extremely well. What's more is the quality of the recordings, which are among the most vivid and spectacular in the catalogue. These recordings capture the essence of the works flawlessly yet authentically, and huge dividends must be given to engineer Andrij Mokrysky and editor Vyacheslav Zhadanov for placing the microphones exactly at the right places. Editing does indeed pays off.
And Kuchar with the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine are among the biggest stars here. Kuchar's renditions are perfectly ideal and his treatment of the orchestral witches' sabbath have bite and raw...
I own several versions of "Pictures of an Exhibition" and "Night on Bare Mountain" (e.g. Fritz Reiner, Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein) and this version conducted by Kuchar is one of the best. It is equal to (if not better than) higher priced versions. Under Kuchar's skillful direction, the National Symphony Orchestra gives exciting and powerful performances of these famous pieces and those additional works (like the delightful "Hopak"). It is great to have the more familiar Rimsky Korsakov orchestration to compare with the original version of "Night on Bare Mountain" --(personally speaking, I like the Rimsky Korsakov version better, since I'm so familiar with it). The performance of the Pictures of an Exhibition is excellent, and the National Symphony captures the different moods of each piece really well, leading up to an exciting climax in "The Great Gate of Kiev." This is a wonderful bargain of a CD, with great performances of these pieces, excellent sound quality, and a...
We've all heard jillions of recordings and performances of both Rimsky-Korsakoff's orchestration of "Night on Bare Mountain" and Ravel's orchestration of "Pictures at an Exhibition." If you don't already have a good recording of these two pieces, you can find both of them here in more than creditable performances and at a bargain basement price. Plus there is a performance of "Bare Mountain" in Mussorgsky's original orchestration; I've never found it as satisfying as Ravel's version, which is a virtual re-write, but it's nice to have side by side with the more familiar version. There is something fitting that "Pictures" is played by an orchestra based in Kiev, since that piece ends with the spectacular "Great Gate of Kiev." And they don't let us down. Indeed, 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...
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