on 24 August 2011
I came to this CD out of mild curiosity having browsed on amazon for some fresh orchestral music to add to my collection. I bought a handful of CDs - this one, and symphonies by Gliere and Schmidt. The other discs were so-so but Kalinnikov, I now realise, is criminally under-rated as a fine late-romantic composer. Listening to his First Symphony in particular, I have no idea why he is not regularly programmed in concerts in the UK; I believe he is still held in high regard in Russia.
Both of the symphonies here are fine examples of late 19th century symphonic writing in the tradition of Dvorak, Tchaikovsky et al. Both are full of memorable melodies, satisfying thematic development, and emotional weight. The composer died young, and (I think) these are the only two symphonies he composed. Their air of romantic sadness and regret is all the more powerful for that. The second movement of the First Symphony is just wonderful - a limpid, fragile, tuneful piece of music of which I doubt I will ever tire.
Very highly recommended for anyone who enjoys Romantic era orchestral music, the sound on this Naxos disc is clear and rich, thankfully, because these works do benefit from a sense of depth.
on 8 January 2012
I took a gamble buying this disc having no prior knowledge of the composer or his work. The gamble has paid off handsomely. The First Symphony in particular is melodic, atmospheric and well worth investigation by anyone who, like myself is interested in exploring lesser known reaches of the Russian symphonic repertoire.
The music reminds me very much of Borodin's melodic invention coupled with the orchestrating skills of Rimsky Korsakov. The symphony has delicate, ethereal passages and powerful climaxes but integrate nicely into a satisfying whole. Warmly recommended.
on 15 March 2014
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
on 22 February 2012
I'd heard some of symphony No. 1 a couple of times on the radio while in the car and enjoyed it. I had the title written down for some time before I got round to ordering it. The music is very lyrical and relaxing and, especially the first movement of No. 1, stays memorable. It's a pity the composer died so young but I'm glad to have found this CD which demonstrates what he might have achieved.
on 28 January 2013
No-one is going to live or die by Kalinnikov. He is a one-hit wonder - but what a wonder it is: the Andante Commodamente of his First Symphony.
If you have ever been enfiladed by Cupid - wham, bam thank you Ma'am - only for the Son of Venus to extract his arrowheads unceremoniously, this music is for you. Oh, how it stings! The transience of all such unions is glorified in Kalinnikov's unending pizzicato. Listen - with care - to this Catulline utterance if you want to rake over the ashes in search of old cinders.
The Naxos forces here are persuasive advocates of this minor composer. Isaac Levitan's last (and unfinished) painting graces the cover. How apt it is: of meridians.