"LIGHT CLASSICS - Volume II" PUCCINI: Prelude to Act III of Tosca.  MUSSORGSKY: Prelude to Khovantchina.  VERDI: Ballet Music from Aida. OFFENBACH: Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld.  BINGE: Elizabethan Serenade. DVORAK: In Nature's Realm.  KABALEVSKY: Overture to Colas Breugnon.  SMETANA: The Moldau
Various Orch/Charles Gerhardt, cond.
CHESKY CD 108 (F) (ADD) TT: 64:17
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This CD and its companion, Volume I (mentioned later), are superb examples of the wide range of interests of the late Charles Gerhardt, orchestral showpieces that show his extraordinary gifts as a conductor, and as a producer/engineer as well. Volume II is my favorite of the two, gathering together performances recorded over a wide period of time (April 1954 to October 1971), originally issued in various Reader's Digest multiple-LP albums. Of most interest to me is the magnificent conception and performance of the Tosca excerpt, recorded in 1964 with the Royal Philharmonic. It surpasses any other recording of this music including DeSabata's; this is perfection, and tintinabulation of the varied chimes and bells is recorded with remarkable perspective. The brief boy soprano solo is well sung by David Sellers. I have treasured this performance from the original LP issue; now here it is minus the inevitable LP surface distractions. This is followed by the earliest recording on this CD, the Mussorgsky, recorded in April 1954. I don't know of any other recording of this with more impressive gongs; this was among Gerhardt's first recordings as conductor, and shows uncommon sensitivity to the score. Other works on the CD are beautifully played and recorded. All except the Puccini are played by a pickup group of London's finest players identified as Philharmonic Pops Orchestra, London Promenade Orchestra and London Pops Orchestra, but in 1970 the group was incorporated as "National Philharmonic Orchestra." The players are virtually the same; only the name is different.

Volume I of "Light Classics" (Chesky CD102) is equally impressive, recorded from 1965 through 1987, featuring Arnold's Four Scottish Dances, Lalo's overture to Le Roi D'Ys, Weber's overture to Der Freischutz, Borodin's Polovtsian Dances, and shorter works of Gliere, Grieg, Bizet, Monti and Rossini. Both of these CDs offer the listener natural, wide-range sound. Highly recommended!

R.E.B.