Theodore Kuchar / National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine

Prokofiev: Symphonies No. 1 "Classical" and No. 2; Dreams, Op. 6; Autumnal

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With one reservation, this 1995 recording by Theodore Kuchar conducting the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine of the early orchestral music of Prokofiev is among the best ever made. Their performances of the late Romantic Dreams, Op. 6, and almost impressionist Autumn Sketch, Op. 8, are lush, warm, and radiantly colorful, but Kuchar keeps control of the balances and tempos so that they don't get soft and sentimental. Their performance of the steel and iron modernism of the Symphony No. 2, Op. 40, is brutal, ferocious, and devastatingly violent, but Kuchar not only controls the balances and the tempos, he imposes order on chaos and, through sheer strength of will, saves the Second from degenerating into random industrial noise. There is, however, that one reservation: Kuchar and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine's performance of the brilliantly effervescent opening Allegro from the Classical Symphony, Op. 25, is thick, slow, and heavy, everything that the movement is not. And even though their remaining three movements of the symphony are light, witty, and graceful, the opening Allegro is so graceless and witless that it diminishes the rest of the performance. But aside from that reservation, this recording is still well worth hearing, not least because Naxos' sound is clear and immediate.

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