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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

The Very Best of Cinema Classics
see end of review for details
NAXOS 8.578021-22 [70:06 + 67:42]

Experience Classicsonline

This double CD collection features a number of famous classical works which have featured in films, with many of the featured works appearing in numerous pictures. Norbert Kraft’s clean recording of Cavatina starts the ball rolling; this is an unsentimental performance which has clarity of sound and enjoyable phrasing. Pi-hsien Chen’s piano playing in the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations is similarly straightforward, and provides a delicate and well paced version. Leaping rapidly between styles, the slow movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto follows, as featured in the films Out of Africa, American Gigolo, Green Card and Stealing Beauty. This is a gentle performance which neither excites nor offends.

The Air and Variation from Handel’s Concerto Grosso op 6 No 12 follows, heard in a somewhat fragile recording, before Mozart returns with the wonderful slow movement of the Piano Concerto No 21. This is simple music at its best, and the performance is equally uncomplicated, giving a sense of space in Mozart’s wonderful orchestration. We stay with Mozart for a short extract from The Marriage of Figaro, taken from the films The Shawshank Redemption and Matchstick Man.

Barber’s Adagio for Strings follows, in a recording which is good but not as moving as some I have heard. The main theme from Schindler’s List follows, possibly the only piece of music in this collection which was specifically written for a film score. This recording by the Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra has a distinctive folk-music feel, mostly through the type of sonority used, which is different from the orchestral sound we are perhaps more used to hearing. The Flower Duet from Lakme follows, in an enjoyable recording by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra with Adriana Kohúková and Denisa Slepkovska. Next comes what is arguably Puccini’s most famous aria, O mio babbino caro, and no compilation of classical favourites would be complete without it. This is an enjoyable rendition by soprano Miriam Gauci.

Perhaps less expected in a compilation of this kind is the Prelude from Tristan and Isolde by Wagner, although it has featured in a number of films so deserves its place here. Puccini is further represented by Vogliatemi bene from Madama Butterfly, and the disc ends with Song to the Moon from Dvorak’s Rusalka.

Disc 2 opens, to the delight of X factor fans, no doubt, with O Fortuna from Orff’s Carmina Burana. This is a work which has captured the public’s imagination in recent years and never ceases to be dramatic. Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries follows, performed ably by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. I would have liked a more even balance between the brass and the rest of the orchestra, and the intonation suffers slightly on occasion, but the performance is nevertheless enjoyable.

Ebben? Ne andro lontana from Catalani’s La Wally is one of those arias which is frequently heard out of context without the audience necessarily knowing what it is or where it has come from. This recording is beautifully sung by Miriam Gauci. Verdi’s Forza del Destino overture follows, perhaps known best from its inclusion in advertising for a popular beer, as well as in the film Jean de Florette. Lila Larinova’s rendition of La mamma morta, featured in the film Philadelphia, is expressive and passionate, and the richness of her voice is memorable.

The Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana is predictably included here, in a recording by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. Piano concertos are represented by the slow movement from Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto, which is given a poetic performance from pianist Stefan Vladar under the baton of Barry Wordsworth, and an excerpt from Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2, performed by Jeno Jando and the Budapest Symphony Orchestra.

The finale of Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony provides some splendour to the disc, heard here in a rousing and energetic performance. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy continues the mood, and forms the longest track on the disc. Strangely, the last disc is the opening of Also Sprach Zarathustra, which seems a little incongruous as a closing work, especially after the stirring nature of the Beethoven. 

This is a varied collection of popular classics, which may be familiar to a wide audience through their appearances in feature films. The recordings themselves are variable too; rarely are they world-class but they are always good enough to serve their purpose, especially as this disc serves as an introduction to classical repertoire and provides much variety for the price of a double Naxos disc. The choice of repertoire is strong, with a wide range of music including many pieces which use big orchestral forces. There are many opportunities here to turn up the volume and enjoy the powerful nature of the music; hopefully this is a disc that might reach out to the public and encourage an interest in classical music.

Carla Rees 

Track listing
CD 1
Stanley MYERS
Cavatina [3:32]
J.S. BACH (1685-1750)
Goldberg Variations - Aria [3:18]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Clarinet Concerto - II Adagio [7:20]
George Frederic HANDEL
Concerto Grosso Op 6 No 12 - II Aria & Variation [3:45]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Piano Concerto No 21 - II Andante [6:47]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Le nozze di figaro - Canzonetta sull aria Che soave zeffiretto [3:05]
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Adagio for Strings [7:49]
Schindler’s List - Main Theme [4:15]
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Lakmé - Flower Duet [5:33]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Gianni Schicchi - O mio babbino caro [2:28]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tristan und Isolde - Prelude [8:49]
Madama Butterfly - Vogliatemi bene [7:29]
Antonin DVORAK (1841-1904)
Rusalka - Song to the Moon [5:54]

CD 2
O Fortuna from Carmina Burana [2:42]
Richard WAGNER
Ride of the Valkyries [5:25]
La Wally - Ebben? Ne andro lontana [3:32]
Giuseppe VERDI
La Forza Del Destino - Overture [7:44]
Andrea Chenier - La mamma morta [4:55]
Cavalleria Rusticana - Intermezzo [3 :42]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Piano Concerto No 5 - Adagio poco mosso [8:04]
Piano Concerto No 2 - excerpt [5:27]
Symphony No 3 - Finale [7:47]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Symphony No 9: IV - Ode to Joy [16:34]
Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) [1:48]
Norbert Kraft (guitar), Pi-hsien Chen, Jenö Jandó, Stefan Vladar (piano), Ernst Ottensamer (clarinet), Marina Mescheriakova, Judith Halász, Adriana Kohúková, Miriam Gauci, Jana Valaskova, Lila Larinova, Gabriele Lechner (sopranos), Denisa Slepkovska (mezzo), Diane Elias (contralto) Yordy Ramiro. Michael Pabst (tenor), Robert Holzer (bass) Imrich Szabo (organ), Vienna Mozart Academy, Capella Istropolitana, Concentus Hungaricus, Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia, Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic Orchestra, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Slovak Philharmonic Chorus, Czech-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Zagreb Philharmonic Chorus & Orchestra, Johannes Wildner, Jozef Kopelman, András Ligeti, Michael Halász, Yu Long, Alexander Rahbari, Antoni Wit, Stephen Gunzenhauser, Uwe Mund, Alexander Rahbari, Barry Wordsworth, György Lehel, Richard Edlinger, Zdenek Kosler (conductors)
Various recording dates. DDD  



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