TCHAIKOVSKY: Capriccio Italien, Op. 34. Romeo and Juliet (Fantasy Overture). Dance of the Tumblers from "The Snow Maiden." Marche Slave, Op. 31. 1812 Overture, Op. 49.
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/Theodore Kuchar, cond
NAXOS 8.555923 (B) (DDD) TT: 65:51

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18. Symphonic Dances, Op. 42. Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14.
Junko Nishikawa, pianist; Russian Federal Orch/Vakhtang Jordania, cond.
ANGELOK CD 9928 (M) (DDD) TT: 73:16

There are numerous collections of Tchaikovsky warhorses; the final Schwann/Opus (Volume 12, 2001) listed almost sixty recordings of Romeo and Juliet, about forty of 1812 Overture. And now here is this new Naxos budget issue with both of these plus other works listed above. Is it worthwhile for the collector? A definite yes, especially at budget price. The Ukraine NSO is a fine group indeed, evidenced by their recent Naxos Mussorgsky CD (REVIEW). Theodore Kuchar leads them in virile performance of these works, particularly Capriccio Italien and 1812. These recordings were made at the same time (August 2001) as the Mussorgsky issue, in the Grand Concert Studio, National Radio Company of Ukraine, produced by Alexander Hornostai and engineered by Andrij Mokrytsky. The sound is superb in every way, with clear, sizzling high frequencies, solid bass and hall ambience. The canon in 1812 is very well recorded but not overdone as so often happens. I enjoyed this CD very much.

Junko Nishikawa is a young Japanese pianist who has won a number of competitions. She and conductor Vakhtng Jordania give a broad, super-Romantic account of Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2. At 35:40, it is a few minutes longer than most recordings, as Nishikawa revels in the composer's rich, languorous tunes—but there are plenty of pianistic fireworks as well. Jordania already has to his credit a superb Angelok recording of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 (REVIEW). His performances of Symphonic Dances and Vocalise are equally impressive with only one debit—he omits the tam-tam crash on the final chord of Symphonic Dances. Odd he would do this; of course in a live performance it wouldn't be heard as the audience would be applauding, but on a recording it should be there. This CD was recorded in Radio Palace Hall of the Moscow Radio in May 2000 (Dances/Vocalise) and September 2000 (Concerto), produced by Vitaly Panchenko with Tamara Brill as audio engineer. They have produced a rich, detailed sound, with the piano in the concerto perfectly balanced with the orchestra.

R.E.B. (August 2003)