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Celtic Spectacular
With Special Guests
The Chieftains - James Galway - John McDermott
Liz Knowles (Fiddle) And Kieran O'Hara (Pipes)
Erich Kunzel And The Cincinnati Pops

Review by Karl Lozier
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Celtic Spectacular With The Chieftains And Other - Erich Kunzel And The Cincinnati Pops

SACD Stock Number: TELARC SACD 60571


  This recording was previously released on a "regular CD" as #80571. Since this is a dual layer hybrid playable on any CD or SACD player, the SACD version would seem to be the logical choice for most listeners. Checking out the album cover and liner notes certainly made me think this recording would be spectacular and so it is. The sound is about as spectacular as Michael Bishop gets without any of his famous sound effects. Spectacular also by trying to be all things to all listeners, which of course is simply not possible. It could have been slightly expanded and put on two discs, one entitled the Subtle Celtic. While Kunzel and the Pops stayed in Cincinnati, the guest artists were recorded in Toronto, New York City and Dublin (not all at the same time of course). I find the mix to be particularly well done with almost no hints that guests were not on stage with the Pops.

To my way of thinking, and I am not Celtic, the subtle sections with smaller instrumental group scoring were by far the more musically pleasing and satisfying. The full orchestral scoring sections are big, powerful and dynamic as often heard when the Pops is doing movie scores; in other words, spectacular is then appropriate, very appropriate. The first fourth of the disc is essentially the full orchestra quite beautifully and relatively naturally recorded, except for the world's largest flute. It is unnaturally highlighted (for my taste) as usual. I do believe that when attending a concert, visually focusing on a soloist somehow affects one's auditory senses resulting in a "spotlighting effect". So a bit of highlighting or spotlighting of a piano for example, does not bother me in the least. A flute, no matter who is playing it (James Galway in this instance) that is more prominent and larger sounding than a full orchestra simply bothers and irritates me to no end. Who knows, maybe Galway has become so famous that his contracts demand that he sound so much larger than life. Instrumental sections are nearly always well balanced here when the full Pops orchestra is featured.

The other performers on this technically fine recording are as well known in the booming field of Celtic music as Galway is in the popular music field. Liz Knowles' fiddling is prominently featured in many of the selections. As far as my knowledge of Celtic music goes, tenor John McDermott seems appropriately idiomatic here on Danny Boy as well as a couple of other well known selections. Those with a keen movie memory will spot the short selections as staged in the "third class party section" in the movie "Titanic".

Personally, I would have substituted a couple more subtle selections and placed all of the subtler pieces near the beginning and then created a continuing build up to a spectacular finish. Highly recommend and particularly so to anyone desiring either an introduction to Celtic music or simply a compilation type program featuring a wide variety of performers and well known tunes. Telarc continues its string of excellently recorded compilation albums.











































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