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Kochanovsky makes impressive U.S. debut with NSO

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Washington Classical Review by Charles T. Downey | 23 March 2023
Although Hough, a favorite with local audiences, seemed to be the main draw for the sold-out crowds at the Kennedy Center, Stanislav Kochanovsky’s conducting proved the evening’s real payoff. From the mournful slow introduction to the Sixth Symphony’s first movement, Kochanovsky’s confident gestures and careful balancing of sound put the orchestra at ease. The NSO musicians sounded exceptionally unified and accomplished some surprisingly fresh  results in this familiar work.
Kochanovsky took his time building up the opening section, supporting the wistful bassoon solos and viola melody over the rumbling basses. When the faster section of the movement finally exploded, the brass gave the climaxes of the piece a dark, forbidding edge, with some of their melodic material drawn from the Russian Orthodox funeral liturgy.
The high point of the symphony was the second movement, which from the opening cello melody was a picture of elegance. The irregular meter, 5/4, felt not at all lopsided, as it is often conducted, but even more refined somehow. The trio of crescendo swells over pedal points surged in beautifully shaped phrases.\
Kochanovsky made up some of the time he had lavished on the first movement in a lithe, rapid pacing of the third movement. Each climax of the heroic theme triumphed louder and louder, leading to the inevitable burst of applause at its big finish, in spite of Kochanovsky diving right into the Finale. Here the strings yearned and pined with lush poignancy, as the piece churned to its sad, muted conclusion. Now, finally, the conductor was able to hold the audience silent for a long, welcome moment of contemplation.