Wait! I know the disc is called "Bolero!" and you probably already own that, but don't let this disc pass you by. Of the selections here, only the Ravel and Liszt qualify as big pieces, the rest are delightful miniatures of impressive contrast. Eiji Oue did some amazing work in Minnesota, and while I've previously mentioned that he's not always at his best in showpieces like this, he's in really fine form here. His orchestra plays superbly throughout, and Reference Recordings provides its usual sound up to the standards of the house.
Bolero is pretty good, building to a wonderful climax, but it's the rest of the disc that is the real treat. From Deems Taylor to Klemperer, this disc stands out for daring to be different. Sure, Flight of the Bumblebee is here and Brahms makes an appearance, but when was the last time you heard the third dance on a program like this? As for the former, it's masterfully played but happily not rushed; every detail is present. Chabrier's Habanera gets pride of place over Espana, and Dvořák's lovely Slavonic Dance #2 gets picked over the more famous #1 or 8. Choices like these separate this album from others. The Dvořák in particular gets a lush, gorgeously sustained treatment that is well worth hearing.
This disc is an orchestral favorites disc for people who hate orchestral favorites discs. If you think you've heard one too many of them, give this one a try. It features one of America's great orchestras in an expertly chosen program and excellent sound. Even if Bolero isn't your favorite piece – and it isn't mine – you can skip the last track and still get almost 55 minutes of great music. Go ahead, indulge.
Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman