What do Steven Spielberg, Erich Kunzel, and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra have in common? Aside from this disc, only the city of Cincinnati, OH; an old river town that author Mark Twain famously dubbed as being "20 years behind the times." Even though the city has been the victim of large-scale urban sprawl, the arts have always flourished within the city limits in an astonishing and unprecedented way.
Spielberg, although raised in New Jersey, was born in Cincinnati. Kunzel, a native of New York City, has spent the better part of four decades in the Queen City as the invigorating conductor of the Cincinnati Pops, an orchestra made up of the fine musicians of the Cincinnati Symphony, an orchestra often regarded as among the top 10 in America (in addition to its fame as one of the oldest).
Although the cover of this album indicates that the music is by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and Quincy Jones, the music of Williams, a long-time collaborator of Spielberg's, is featured on nearly every track with the exception of the finale to The Color Purple (Jones) and the end titles of Twilight Zone: The Movie (Goldsmith). And while Goldsmith can generate serious electricity (at least toward the finale) and Jones has an innately musical lyricism -- neither composer is a match for Williams' superb craftsmanship and emotional intensity.
The disc begins with a guitar and harmonica rendition of the main title of Spielberg's first film, Sugarland Express -- a cheesy though appropriate opening. The rest of the album contains many of Williams' classic full-orchestral scores: Jurassic Park, Schindler's List (violinist Alexander Kerr gives a heart-wrenching performance), E.T., Saving Private Ryan, and Jaws. This compilation also features several of Spielberg's lesser-known film scores, though; some of which are quite beautiful. In the film score for Always, Spielberg's aviation romance and box-office flop, features some especially soaring melodies that Kunzel shapes beautifully. Some of the more original selections are from Spielberg's two Indiana Jones films. The exotic "Parade of the Slave Children" from the Temple of Doom is particularly enjoyable and original, as is the nerve-wracking "Escape from Venice" from the Last Crusade.
Kunzel, an experienced master with this music, draws a taut, whistle-clean but emotional reading from the Cincinnati Pops, coaxing full and luxuriant brass sonorities from the orchestra. Telarc's famously dynamic sound is showcased well by the combination of these powerhouse works. Great performances and great music make this disc one that can be highly recommended.