The Netherlands-based violinist and conductor Andre Rieu has become a genuine Eurozone phenomenon with his pops-concert extravaganzas, and he even has a substantial following in the U.S. thanks to the broadcast of video versions of concerts like this one on the periodic fundraisers of the Public Broadcasting Service television network in that country. The market is awash in Rieu discs of various kinds, some of them going back to his early years as a sort of modern-day Waltz King, but this one is current, marketed on Rieu's present label Denon. His recent programs have been big thematic productions, and Andre Rieu in Wonderland is no exception. Recorded in audiophile sound and filmed at an amusement park called Efteling in the Netherlands, it combines classical selections and Broadway songs in a loose evocation of the wonder of childhood and of fairy tales, with standards such as music from Swan Lake mixed in with less expected items such as Max Steiner's "Tara's Theme" from the soundtrack of Gone with the Wind.
At the center of the program are a pair of selections from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, but much of the music is American. The unnamed vocal soloists may grate on anglophone ears; "The Impossible Dream" is pretty hard to take in a heavy Netherlandish accent, although the soprano on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is better. That's a "bonus" track; the program proper ends with one of Rieu's massed-voice arrangements applied to "What a Wonderful World," which is undeniably effective in showing how Rieu can compete with arena rock big boys atop European ticket sales lists. Yet one notes that Rieu's own violin, which used to be the main attraction, is getting increasingly sidelined by his own juggernaut, and he looks a little worried as he saws away on it on the cover of the album. Be that as it may, this is a reasonable choice for those who enjoy pure pops discs and want to try out the Rieu experience.