Sunday, October 22, 2000

New & Noted

Pops performs music of Vienna with gusto

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's a bigger seller than CDs that feature Broadway musicals or Hollywood's greatest hits. From the sound of Viennafest, the Cincinnati Pops' newest foray into the world of waltzes, marches and polkas could be as successful as its best-selling Ein Straussfest albums I and II.

Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.
Telarc, 4 stars
$15.99 CD, no cassette

        Conductor Erich Kunzel and the Pops dance through 19th-century Vienna in bonbons by the Strauss family, Franz Lehar, Josef Lanner, Oscar Straus and other contemporaries in the new album, which will be in stores Tuesday.

        The playing is polished and the sumptuous sound, recorded in Music Hall, leaps out at the listener. Although the album is “enhanced” with fewer special effects than, for instance, Mega Movies, be prepared to jump at cracking whips, train whistles and a corny braying horse.

        This music is Mr. Kunzel's forte, with his knack for knowing when to linger on a nostalgic tune, and when to whip up excitement.

        So, the swirling waltz rhythms and operetta melodies in Johann Strauss Jr.'s Overture to The Gypsy Baron and Lehar's The Merry Widow “Ballsirenen Walzer” go down as smoothly as whipped cream. The Overture to Die Fledermaus is a persuasive mix of warmth and spontaneity.

        Polkas, such as the “Nachtigall Polka” (with, of course, nightingale chirps), are buoyant, quick and stylish. If there's one criticism, it is their sameness of expression.

        The disc ends magically, with “Wien, Wien nur du allein.” It's the perfect vehicle for the sweet tone of concertmaster Timothy Lees, before swelling to the intoxicating texture of full strings.


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