Friday, July 6, 2012

Pops Caviar

Arthur Fiedler has been criticized for emphasizing high energy and garish color at the expense of subtlety, but too often “subtlety” is a code word for efficient, uninflected, beautiful but dull playing, the sort of thing we’ve gotten from too many single-rehearsal pops concerts in the post-Fiedler era. True, there have been more voluptuous accounts of the Russian fare constituting this “Pops Caviar” collection, but few have equaled Fiedler’s flair. Don’t you dare accuse Fiedler and his orchestra of Svetlanov-like coarseness; this music is, first of all, beautifully played by what is, remember, the Boston Symphony Orchestra shed of its usual principals (but not its principles).

It’s also performed with tremendous spirit, without ever succumbing to battering. Fiedler whips up excitement through careful pacing, dynamic control, balance, and articulation, not through tempo extremes (although much of this program does move at a good clip). In other words, Fiedler has fun with this music by taking it seriously.

This is part of RCA’s latest batch of SACD reissues of old Living Stereo material. The three-track recordings date from 1958–59; the bass lacks the last bit of realism and presence of a modern production, but the instruments are precisely positioned across a wide soundstage. The acoustic space is a bit dry, though not as dry as Mercury’s American recordings of similar vintage. All in all, it’s hard to resist. --FANFARE: James Reel 

MP3 320 · 151 MB

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