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CD Review

Serge Prokofieff

Symphonies #3 & 7

  • Symphony #3 in C minor, Op. 44 (1928)
  • Symphony #7, Op. 131 (1953)
Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra/Theodore Kuchar
Naxos 8.553054 - 66min
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Kuchar serves up an appropriately demonic rendition of Symphony 3:I that is notable for its widely varied tempos, crisp rhythms, and hair-raising intensity. II is well paced and dramatic, with just the right admixture of seductiveness and sensuality. By contrast, III is stiff and perfunctory, and the Ukranian strings become dangerously thin when divided as called for by the score. IV seems sluggish, though Kuchar's tempo is, in fact, slightly faster than either Weller or Järvi, both of whom bring more energy and drive to this music.

Prokofieff's tenderly reflective Symphony 7 is treated to a square, stiff, and joyless reading. After the lurid eroticism of Symphony 3, Kuchar seems to have little patience or enthusiasm for this work's many subtle charms. The Ukranian band's threadbare strings are a real liability. Weller - in a memorable recording not currently listed in Schwann - has the sublime London Symphony at his disposal, and he brings to this music a warmth and sensitivity that is utterly lacking here.

The sound is some of the worst I've ever encountered on a commercial release. It's a heavily reverberant sonic mush with shrill violins and nearly inaudible percussion. A treble cut helps take a bit of the edge off the strings, but some higher frequencies still blast from the speakers and threaten to impale the eardrums. Despite the low, low Naxos price, this is no bargain.

Copyright © 1997, Tom Godell