William Tell & Other Favorite Overtures / Erich Kunzel

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There is a strong tradition in the United States of ‘Pops’ concerts, developing new audiences with appealing performances of music that people ‘know and like’. Most famous among them, over the years, was the combination of Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, the orchestra drawn from the Boston Symphony.

With their enduring relationship with Telarc, Erich Kunzel and his Cincinnati Pops Orchestra are another potent combination in this market. For example, they have recorded one of the most spectacular versions of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, both as performance and recording. This collection of well known overtures suits their artistic policy and their talents to perfection.

Proceedings get off to a spectacular start with the opening fanfares of Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture, the brass in resplendent form, vividly captured by the Telarc engineers. Thereafter the performance doesn’t quite succeed in maintaining the tension, since the rhythms do not always bite, but even so there is much to enjoy.

Likewise the Auber and Hérold pieces have plenty of orchestral colour to emphasise their vitality and emotional drive. In short, they are splendidly vulgar, in the best sense of the word. Rezniček’s Donna Diana is perhaps the highlight of the whole enterprise, with its cunningly balanced deployment of rhythmic drive and potent melodic phrases. Above all it succeeds because it is not a bar too long, and Kunzel adopts just the right tempi to maximize these effects.

The later stages of Offenbach’s celebrated Orpheus in the Underworld Overture, comprising the famous Can-Can, could have been more intensely driven, but there are some subtleties of orchestral detail that come across particularly well. Such details abound even more in Rossini’s William Tell Overture, of course. This veritable tone poem is heard to best advantage during the more lyrical and poetic episodes such as the ‘ranz des vaches’ with its cor anglais solo beautifully played and atmospherically recorded. While the final gallop is as exciting as ever, its initial release seems a little under-characterised.

With excellent and detailed insert notes by Richard Rodda, this is an appealing collection. Individually the performances may not be the best in the catalogue, but as a collection they provide strong competition and excellent value.

-- Terry Barfoot, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: MOB011627

  • UPC: 089408011627

  • Label: Telarc

  • Composer: Daniel-François Auber, E. Nikolaus von Reznicek, Franz von Suppé, Gioachino Rossini, Jacques Offenbach, Louis Ferdinand Herold

  • Conductor: Erich Kunzel

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Cincinnati Pops