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Overtures

2 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 15, 2003
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 15, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • Run Time: 66 minutes
  • ASIN: B00009NJ1F
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,678 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
I must vehemently disagree with the aforementioned review. I found this CD to be simply an abomination. I don't know what he was listening to, but as far as I'm concerned, it is without question among the worst of the worst of Naxos' very large repertoire. When I bought this CD, I was quite hopeful. I thought that Naxos had eradicated the mediocrity found in many of its earlier recordings. (And the label's recent price hike also raised my expectations). Theodore Kuchar and the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine have made several brilliant recordings for the Naxos label, foremost among them being Kalinnikov's two magnificent symphonies. THAT performance is virtually unassailable. So here is the short list of the many problems which I encountered with this CD.

1. The sound and recording quality is ghastly. Throughout the whole CD, I needed my CD player's volume on max just to hear anything. Even then I would say well over 1/3 of the Capriccio Italien is inaudible.

2. The tempo and spacing of all the pieces is decidedly to slow. Kuchar has managed to take these masterpieces and turn them into lumbering hulks. When listening to them I honestly had images in my mind of an old tired train sputtering with all its might up a hill that it will ultimately fail ascend.

3. Finally the performances on the whole are underwhelming at best. I must particularly point to the 1812 Overture. It is pathetic endeavor. It's literally one step up from a second rate high school band. The cannon's were for me the greatest sadness here. They sound like someone popping a paper bag full of air. I have heard this piece live with real cannons, and these do not compare.
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Format: Audio CD
This disc was something of a puzzlement to me when I first received it for review some time ago. Why in the world, I thought when I first saw it, would Naxos believe anyone needed another 1812 Overture? Likewise with the attendant material on the program. I mean, even at a low Naxos price I can't imagine too many people willing to invest in something of which they probably already have multiple copies. Of course, there may be young people who have just bought their first audio system, who don't own Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture, and who want something to show off their new gear. But in that case, why chose this particular 1812 or this particular disc?

The album begins inauspiciously with Maestro Theodore Kuchar's somewhat prosaic, almost lackadaisical rendition of the Capriccio Italien. Part of the fault here may lay in the Naxos sound, which for the first three-quarters of the piece sounds as though someone had turned off the bass. Then the highs start to come forward and recede as though the engineer were fiddling needlessly with his mixing board. Only by the last notes does the piece come to life and does the bass finally make an appearance. Odd. In any case, to my ears Kuchar's interpretation seems far too underpowered to be of much value to the seasoned listener.

In the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture Kuchar and his ensemble come off a little better, although the music doesn't evoke the all-out sensuality of some of the finest competitors in the field. Then, the "Dance of the Tumblers" from The Snow Maiden appears more loud and boisterous than anything else, but that's probably as much the composer's fault, so I can't blame Kuchar. After that, the March Slave makes an appearance, but it, too, comes in sound so soft and round it seems almost lifeless.
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