Album Title: Vintage Cinema (various)
Erich Kunzel / Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
Label and #: Telarc, SACD 60708
Running time:
February 2008

For the 87
th time, Erich Kunzel directs the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for Telarc but there's no Ravel Bolero here, no Tchaikovsky Nutcracker, no Strauss or Russian delight. Kunzel leaves all the Pops favorites far behind. Instead, he takes us on a journey through musical scores of famous movies from the 30s to 60s.

As usual, the Cincinnati Pops under Kunzel's baton are exquisite of precision and oh-so-smooth. Not a note is out of order and all the pyrotechnics and Technicolor one has come to expect from a well-run Pops
are on massive display. Except here, Kunzel surprises not just with his musical choices but also by loosening his neck tie a fraction of an inch to let the orchestra charge forth into some exciting tempi. Mister Countenance & Control himself goes wild for a minute as in Rozsa's overture to El Cid, a welcome change.

The disc follows a chronological progression starting with Max Steiner's 1933 score to King Kong, a monumental affair with deep and powerful bass that will challenge any room that is not well damped. Kunzel's selection aptly demonstrates how from 1933 to 1962, film scores always incorporated the latest development in musical styles throughout this rich period of growth and transformation which then informed the cinematographic arts.

From Miklos Rozsa's 1945 introduction of electronic sounds adding to the Hitchcock classic Spellbound its surreal character to the Jazz inspirations for the sultry atmosphere of Elia Kazan's Streetcar Named Desire; from Aaron Copland's inimitable Americana voice in 1949's Red Pony to his student Leonard

Bernstein bringing contemporary concert music to On the Waterfront; the selections on this disc take us through three decades, almost three ages, of movies and the scores that so brilliantly enhanced their dramatic intensity.

As usual with SACDs from Telarc, the production quality is superlative, making this disc a must own not only for fans of vintage movies but also for anybody in search of a disc that illustrates the state of the art in recording technology. If you have lingering doubts that this disc was intended as much as audiophile bonbon as anything else, check out the list of recording equipment on the last page of the booklet. How often do you see multiple EMM Labs ADCs and monitoring gear in one single location all connected with MIT cables?

This superlative amount of exceptional gear can be heard on the SACD layer (far less so on the CD layer) with truly exceptional resolution, sweet and rich treble, deep and tight bass but above all, a tremendous rendition of ambient cues translating to the broadest and deepest soundstage I have ever heard from a recording wherein layers upon layers of instrument are easily differentiated. You want to know what SACD was all about? This disc will show you the opportunity our audiophile community missed when letting this superior format die. The average sound level throughout is much lower than with typical CDs of course to enable huge dynamic swings. If room and system are up for it, you're in for an audiophile treat.

Before I bought this disc, I knew very little about those movies to tell you the truth. Today, I definitely want to see them all. Just for that reason, Vintage Cinema is a good buy. Off the beaten path, it will open new horizons for you especially if, like me, you were born a long time after those little gems made it to the screen.