Maestro Kunzel’s bio in the note booklet credits him with an unbelievable 82 recordings with the Cincinnati Pops on the Telarc label, so this must be No. 82. It would also have been hard to miss one of his seven national PBS telecasts with the Pops. Kunzel and his crew have clearly inherited the top pops mantle formerly held by the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler. Most of the CDs quickly became audiophile must-haves, and some of the first Dolby matrix surround recordings issued by Telarc came from this source. Now with hi-res surround provided by SACD the Cincinnati Pops are surrounding listeners around the world with their spectacular recordings, all recorded originally to the advanced DSD professional format rather than being derived from PCM or analog multitrack masters as with some SACD labels.
Many Kunzel releases have delved into movie music, and this one continues the series. The music comes from three different sources, and all three sport multiple feature films with the same composer having penned all the music. Busy composer John Williams is responsible for most of the scores, with Howard Shore’s work being heard in the last three tracks with music from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. When the disc opened with the familiar Star Wars themes I was thinking, “Haven’t we had enough of that?” but only the first six tracks of the 16 total are music from the original Star Wars trilogy, and then we hear the much newer music for the prequel trilogy of Episodes I, II & III. The Cantina Band track from the early series sounds somewhat different from previous Pops versions, and in Duel of the Fates from the First Episode the Cincinnati May Festival Chorus joins the orchestra for the theme depicting the clash of the good Jedi and the bad Sith followers. The surround display puts one right back in the theater for this music.
Not having seen any of the Potter films I was surprised how familiar the themes sounded to me. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t be; I don’t find Williams the most original film music composer around. Howard Shore’s music may not have as many catchy themes as Williams but it provided very effective dramatic support for the epic tale, hewing rather closely to the tried and true Hollywood standard of Late Romantic style originally established by Korngold, Hermann and others. I was left wanting to hear more than just the three cues.
– John Sunier