A mere 16 years after Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops recorded their now-classic Christmas with the Pops, Christmastime Is Here is their 2006 follow-up. It sticks to the same basic formula: a mix of orchestral, choral, and solo numbers performed by the Indiana University Singing Hoosiers (a Kunzel favorite, succeeding the original's May Festival Chorus), the School for Creative and Performing Arts Children's Choir (who sang on the original, though presumably with a different roster), and an entirely new crop of soloists. While the original relied on classic veterans such as Rosemary Clooney and Doc Severinsen, Christmastime Is Here makes use of hip jazz vocalists (and, not coincidentally, Telarc recording artists all) Ann Hampton Callaway ("I Wonder as I Wander"), Tierney Sutton ("I'll Be Home for Christmas"), Tony DeSare ("The Christmas Song"), and John Pizzarelli (""Silver Bells") as well as British sextet the King's Singers ("Silent Night").
…Kunzel's Ruslan and Ludmilla overture is suitably festive, even if it doesn't quite achieve the breathless intensity exhibited by Bernstein or Pletnev. But then, being "definitive" isn't the point of this album–enjoyable music-making is, and in that respect it's a triumph. Especially so as the Cincinnati Pops plays masterfully and with great enthusiasm throughout the program. (Listen to the bold trombones in Mussorgsky's Polonaise or to the singing strings in Spartacus.) Telarc captures it all in its signature vivid, high-impact sound. Yes, I know you already have a couple of Russian favorites discs in your collection, but this new Telarc release is special enough that you'll want to make room for it.
A memorable soundtrack, the result of the association that Stanley Kubrick made between the spinning motion of the satellites and the dancers of waltzes, which led him to use "The Blue Danube" waltz by Johann Strauss II, and the symphonic poem "Also sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss, to portray the philosophical concept of the Übermensch in Nietzsche's work of the same name.
The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, founded in 1977 from the Cincinnaty Symphony Orchestra, plays this music under the baton of Erich Kunzel (1935-2009), the 'Prince of Pop'. The CSO has published over a hundred albums, with sales of over ten million copies, and has achieved a Grammy Award in 1998. This work, set on Russia, offers fifteen classic tracks using a repertoire of great masters such as Glinka, Prokofiev, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Khachaturian, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and others.