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CD Review

Russian Nights

Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Erich Kunzel
Telarc CD-80657
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Also available on SACD-60657: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan

This is a hugely enjoyable and rewarding Russian pops program, with a welcome mix of larger and shorter works. The Liadov works in particular get almost zero exposure, and the Prokofiev and Ippolitov-Ivanov are usually only found in march collections. The two Tchaikovsky selections are time-honored favorites that are well done here, and the rest in equally standard fare.

The Glinka is exciting and well played; it lacks only the bestial nature of the classic recorded versions. All of the remaining short pieces are enthusiastically rendered, and if none of them blow your preferred readings out of the water, it must be said that these are all worth having anyways. The larger pieces feature superlative first-desk playing and outstanding attention to detail; again, if none of these qualify as reference material, they come very close all the same. The Borodin in particular sounds fabulous, and I have to say I prefer the chorus omitted, as here. The Capriccio is also terrific, full of zest and imagination. It's a hard piece to mess up, but in such good sound there is no reason to complain about something this good.

Throughout the program, the late Erich Kunzel demonstrates what made his film recordings so successful; energy, excitement, and a commitment to the cause. The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra is captured beautifully, and plays commandingly, too. A winner.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman