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Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
Eric Kunzel conductor
TELARC Hybrid Surround SACD-60657
This release is a particularly thoughtful and delightful compilation of some extremely popular Russian compositions juxtaposed with some that are not particularly familiar to many listeners. Just a couple of listening sessions convinced me of the excellence of the selections. The brilliant Russian and Ludmilla overture starts the program. The Capriccio Espagnole and the Polovtsian Dances occupy much of the middle section of the disc. Change of pace is provided by the Procession of the Sardar (an old favorite of mine) the gorgeous Enchanted Lake by Liadov as well as his rarely heard, The Music Box. The other selections are equally varied and offer a particularly good introductory selection for those relatively new to classical music as well as those of us who are old timers. The biggest surprise here on this recording is the performance by conductor, Eric Kunzel. Often faulted for seemingly pedestrian and inflexible performances of so called light-classical music, here he does just fine. In fact I would go so far as to say that overall with these widely varied selections, he is probably the equal of any currently performing conductor. It must be that he is simply improving with time and has paid attention to criticism over the years. Music lovers who grew up in that "Golden Age" of recording listening to the great Arthur Fiedler with his famous knack for superbly appropriate interpretation of light- classical music might still disagree. With this recording, I would ask those listeners who they think could be compared more favorably with the late great maestro Fiedler? In most fields of endeavor there is a person who stands out from all others. Conducting a wide variety of light- classical music that person was Arthur Fiedler. He has passed away but many of his great performances live on, some even in re-mastered SACD.
In any event, the outstanding musical selections with good conducting leading the orchestra's fine performance results in an automatic recommendation. Consider the sound quality as being extremely close to as good as it gets with SACD easily revealing it all. Audiophiles will get full measure again from Telarc's well-known drum reproduction and generally excellent detailed reproduction most of the time, if not quite all the time.