These works are not unknown, but they deserve to be more widely played and admired. Kallinnikov has a beautiful lyrical gift and a feel for powerfully intense orchestral sound and structural organisation. To have written at this level of achievement in his short life and experience as a composer is truly remarkable. The works are a delight - perhaps most especially the first symphony (though the second is hugely enjoyable too.) The first movement of Symphony no 1 is pure sunshine, lyrically rich and expansive, in an orchestration which though it resembles his older contemporary Tchaikovsky, is neither imitative or derivative, for in every way and even at a relatively young age, Kallinnikov has his own distinctive voice which shine through all the movements of his two symphonies. To give some perspective on this, I'd suggest the first is probably a greater achievement than any of Tchaikovsky's first three of the genre. The comparison is not meant to denigrate one great Russian for the benefit of what in Kalinnikov's case was ever only an emerging talent. It's simply a way of saying here is a stunning achievement for one so relatively young. What he left for posterity is depply joyful.
It's worth mentioning too that Kuchar's performances with the Ukraine NSO are very good indeed, with lovely playing from all sections of the orchestra. The brass and woodwind are wonderful players, and sound especially fine on account of the excellent mix and engineering. Both brass and woodwind are miked up close, and the strings too have plenty of bloom. I suspect, though I can't be sure there has beed a tad of artificial reverb added to achieve the attractive homogeneity of this recording. There's nothing wrong with that, as there's no excess and it sounds natural and well possible. But whether so or not, the acoustic is powerfully alive - more the feel of London's RAH than our RFH. As I say, the performances are very good - indeed excellent in their own way. Even so it's possible to imagine these scores played with even more fiery intensity, and there's a place for that. But you are unlikely to find better advocacy in the way Kuchar reads Kalinnikov's intentions here. I love this music and the recording too. It's also a complete bargain, but at any price I would say it's must have. Michael Lawson
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