Theodore Kuchar is an American conductor who has led the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in absolutely first-rate recordings of the orchestral music of Prokofiev and Lyatoshins'ky, a conductor whose passion, power, and precision made Prokofiev's symphonies sound as deep and moving as Shostakovich and made Lyatoshins'ky's symphonies sound as deep and moving as Prokofiev. But most of the orchestral works of Prokofiev are almost unknown and nearly all the orchestral music of Lyatoshins'ky is virtually unknown, so the question inevitably remains: how is Kuchar in standard-repertoire Russian music?
As it turns out, Kuchar is very, very, very good, but not quite great. In this 2001 recording of orchestral music by Mussorgsky, Kuchar leads passionate, powerful, and precise performances, but they are performances that do not quite touch the infinite. Both Kuchar's interpretation of the Rimsky-Korsakov and the Mussorgsky original versions of Night on the Bare Mountain start with the smell or hellfire and brimstone but never quite catch fire compared with the recordings of Claudio Abbado. Kuchar's interpretation of Golitsin's Journey from Khovanshchina is dark and heavy, but it lacks the pathos of Svetlanov's recording. And Kuchar's interpretation of Ravel's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition is fine as far as it goes, but his interpretation misses the depths and heights of the work compared with dozens of other recordings. Naxos' 5.1 Surround Sound SACD/CD Hybrid Disc is very, very, very, very, very, very loud, but that's about it.