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Brilliant Classics

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Suite for Variety Orchestra No.1 (Jazz Suite No.2) (1938) - reconstructed McBurney
Overture on Russian and Kirghiz Themes Op.115 (1963)
Jazz Suite No.1 (1934)
Novorossijsk Chimes
Festive Overture Op.96
Ballet Suites
The Bolt Op.27a
The Limpid Stream Op.39a (1935)
The Golden Age Op.22a (1930)
Film Music
Hamlet-Suite (1964)
Gadfly – Suite Op 97a (1955)
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/Theodore Kuchar
Recorded June 1-8 [year?], Grand Studio of the National Radio Symphony Company of the Ukraine in Kiev
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 6735 [3 CDs: 50.45 + 55.48 + 72.11]

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Bargain basement prices for this three CD set from Brilliant but the performances are anything but bargain basement. Crisp, clean, vital and engaged they are consistently bracing though the repertoire, it’s true, demands nothing less. In a sense there’s little analysing to be done with the series of upbeat vaudevillian pranks, waltzes and terpsichorean turns so expertly delineated by Kuchar and his forces. But it takes precision, authority and a good ear for balance to deliver such consistently enjoyable performances. The crystal clear trumpets in the Dance No.1 from the second Jazz Suite (Suite for Variety Orchestra No.1) show the level of precision as does the delightful Viennese waltz (full of percussive effect and brass blare) of the Waltz No.2 from the same set. Similarly there’s the quirky xylophone to add texture and colour to the Polka from the Jazz Suite No.1 and the God Bless America type chest swelling of Novorossijsk Chimes (it doesn’t sound too off it either). That’s another pleasure of this set – a little performed piece such as this is included as well as the longer Overture on Russian and Kirghiz Themes. The Festive Overture by the way gets a vigorous and very effective run down.

The Ballet Suites fare equally well. The Bolt especially allows the flair-packed brass section a free rein – punchy in the Overture – and with crude insinuation in the Polka, joined by the whistling high wind. The Finale is suitably riotous – but always well played. Kuchar encourages the lower brass in the Limpid Stream and gets real warmth from the Adagio as indeed the orchestra’s leader cultivates in the slow movement from the Golden Age ballet suite. The Hamlet Suite has been around before as a single release on ordinary CD [Naxos 8.557446] and CD/SACD hybrid [Naxos 6.110062]. This was apparently a first complete recording of the published score. Here we have just the suite – about twenty-eight minutes’ worth. Kuchar and his band respond to Shostakovich’s etched characterisation with considerable power, from the Prelude’s unease and poised baroque insinuation In the Garden through the quotation of the song How should I your true love know and elsewhere grandiloquence and the grimly exacting Duel. The light-hearted music for the Gadfly – ceremonial, Sarabande like nobility, galloping Waltz, with its admixture of Tchaikovskian ballet hints – is just as convincing – effervescent indeed in this performance though here there are a number of other contenders in the market place.

There is also some competition in the case of the Suites. Chailly has recorded a number though not as many as are here and certainly not at this price. In bold livery this Brilliant three CD set scores very highly indeed.

Jonathan Woolf 


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