Erich Kunzel

Offenbach's World

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Even though this album by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra gives a well-rounded presentation of Jacques Offenbach's music, drawing on his most popular works listeners may find that the shallow audio is a serious drawback. Recorded in 1980 and 1983 for Vox's album Vive La France!, the sound is all-digital, but it has the coldness and lack of dimensions that many DDD recordings of the time suffer from, and there is a recessed quality to the orchestra, as if heard through a filter. Beyond the flat reproduction, the music itself is fairly entertaining, if a little heavy-handed -- one usually doesn't hear Gaîté Parisienne (Manuel Rosenthal's arrangement of Offenbach tunes, though presented here in a truncated version) played with such a deliberate beat; the overtures to Orphée aux enfers and La belle Hélène are a little tired feeling, and not as elegant, humorous, and pointed as they should be. Perhaps the best reason to get this CD is for the less familiar selections, the waltz Souvenir d'Aix-les-Bains, the Overture d'une Grande Orchestre, and the showcase for a young Ofra Harnoy, the Concerto Rondo for cello and orchestra; these pieces are quite hard to find elsewhere, so having them here is a plus. But if obscure Offenbachiana is not your interest, there are better recordings of the overtures by other conductors and orchestras, and the classic recording of the complete Gaîté Parisienne remains Arthur Fiedler's brilliant version with the Boston Pops on RCA.

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