The best that can be said of this recording by Theodore Kuchar and the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine of Tchaikovsky's least-known symphonic poems plus dances from his least-known operas is that is, far and away, the best recording of any of these works ever made. As they have shown in their recordings of the symphonies of Prokofiev and Lyatoshinsky, Kuchar and the Kiev orchestra make a marvelous team: they give him characterful, powerful playing and he gives them strong, inspired direction and together they seem capable of performing just about anything and performing it with insight and brilliance. The proof is this recording. While there are few recordings to compete with Kuchar and the Ukrainians in Tchaikovsky's poorly composed Fatum and Voyevoda -- the ill-fated Eliahu Inbal for Philips and the misguided Antal Dorati for Decca in the stereo age, and the misbegotten Mikhail Pletnev for Deutsche Grammophon in the digital age -- Kuchar and the Ukrainians bring more conviction to their incoherencies, more passion to their banalities and more flamboyance to their inanities. Similarly, in the dances from five of Tchaikovsky's early operas, Kuchar and the Kirov get more fire, more lift and more wit out of the music than any previous recording and more than some would have thought possible. For listeners looking to fill the nooks and crannies of their Tchaikovsky collection, this disc will be just the thing.
Naxos' sound is open and direct if a bit too close and a tad too dry.