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  Telarc -
  Miklos Rozsa: Three Choral Suites - Kunzel
  Miklos Rozsa: Three Choral Suites - Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis and King of Kings

Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
Erich Kunzel (conductor)
Track listing:
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 6 show all

Review by toddao April 30, 2005 (7 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
The Three Suites represented on this disc come from the high point of Miklos Rozsa’s career. He wrote them in the 50s through to the early 60s when he was composing both for Hollywood and the concert hall.

Ben Hur (1959) is the most well known music in these suites. Film music buffs would cite this score as in the best half dozen or so scores created for a dramatic motion picture, ever. This, like the two others on the SACD, are made up of separate movements and there has been no attempt to create a continuous piece of music by providing bridging. At first this put me off but on subsequent playing seemed fine. The film’s two most well known and memorable cues are here – the Rowing of the Galley Slaves and the Parade of the Charioteers – the latter only recently recorded by same Telarc team for their “Epic” SACD collection. With the addition here of the electrifying overture and finale, this suite provides a good selection from the score but there is, of course, still much more memorable music omitted.

Quo Vadis was made in 1951 – pre-Cinemascope and stereophonic sound and Rozsa was always upset with his music’s low recording level on the soundtrack. It sounds glorious here with a clear mix revealing the orchestra and choir in great clarity although I’ve never been able to understand all the words in the “Fertility Hymn” even in Rozsa’s 1978 recording for Decca Phase 4(which with the classic rerecording of Ben Hur made the year earlier would make a great SACD remaster) and it’s the same here. More importantly a few lines of dialogue have been added to the finale. In the Decca recording this was sung and much better. I found this dialogue insert jarring and preferred Rozsa’s original conception.

King of Kings (1961) was really Ben Hur 2 as MGM bought into its production when it was already half completed in Spain realizing that Ben Hur would still be in release when it was anticipated King of Kings would be premiered. MGM didn’t want any competition so decided to take it over. They put in money, and added spectacle and Rozsa, who was sent to Spain to score it. After a great working experience with Wyler on Ben Hur, he found the experience here less than enjoyable. However it is a still a vibrant and heartfelt score with a stirring and memorable theme for Christ and with much to enjoy.

In all of these suites the contribution of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is exemplary. Their voices clearly and cleanly recorded by the Telarc team. Although recorded in Utah months after the orchestra, the result betrays no artifice. Strings are rich and sweet with that lovely depth that SACD brings. The brass, so essential in these scores, and especially in Ben Hur, are beautifully caught with just the right amount of presence. Special praise to Cincinnati’s woodwinds who make a major contribution to the recording. The sound stage is wide and deep in Telarc’s usual fashion with the percussion firmly anchored at the back of the hall. The word I keep coming back to to describe this recording is clean but with richness and body. Perspectives are excellent – from the front quarter of the concert hall.

I have never had many Kunzel discs – their typical programme of short film music themes has never been a satisfactory listening experience for me. Here with more substantial music, he shows himself more than up to the task. These are excellent performances, full of life, and impact bringing out all the colour of the orchestration.

In one hit these Three Suites may be too much for those other than with a really sweet tooth, but given that each suite runs about 20 minutes, separately they made a great “dessert”. If you like late romantic music, richly scored with a large orchestra with voices and organ, sumptuously recorded and with tunes that remain in your head long after you have heard them, don’t wait-buy!!

Each suite is also an ideal demonstration of SACD.

Telarc’s notes are excellent on Rozsa’s background, sketchy concerning the films involved, and non-existent in respect of the actual music.

Unfortunately I’m missing my subwoofer and surrounds which are in for repair, so I can only listen at the moment to SACD 2 channel. I can’t wait for the full surround experience and will update this review then.

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Review by mwagner1962 May 10, 2005 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I am going to rain on the parade and dump on this SACD. And I do not need to be told to listen more closely.

I listened to this SACD on a system (that I know extremely well) at my local audio dealer. This system includes JMLabs Nova Utopia Be speakers, a Boulder 1012 Preamp, a pair of Boulder 1050 monoblocks, with an Accuphase DP-77 SACD player as my source. All cabling was Silent Source cables.

This recording is not good, and does not even begin to sound like a Telarc. First, why didn't Telarc simply record the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the Tabernacle itself instead of the Maurice Abravanel Hall?? If you do not believe me, then go and compare the sound of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the Rozsa and then compare the sound of the choir on the Telarc SACD "The Sound of Glory" (SACD-60579). The Cincinnati Pops (recorded in their Music Hall home) sounds unlike any other Kunzel/Pops recording that Telarc has released, on either redbook or SACD.

I offer one track (from two different SACDs) for comparison: "Parade of the Charioteers" by M. Rozsa. The track from this SACD (Track 5) in question was compared to another Telarc, "Epics" (SACD-60600) by the SAME orchestra, SAME conductor, SAME concert hall, etc. The recording are not even close. The "Epics" performance was substantially better in clarity, space, air, presence, and every other silly audiophilia term you can name.

Remember, this was on a system that was about $150k, but it sounded poor on any system I have since heard it matter what the gear.

Sorry, but this recording is not up to Telarc's normal standard (and I have at least 40 other Telarc SACDs, including SACDs of both the Cincinnati Pops AND Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra).

My $.02!!!

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Review by Patrick317 May 7, 2005 (5 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Unfortunately, this latest offering from Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops is a major dissapointment. Both the sonics and the performances leave a lot to be desired.
To begin with, there is very little that is new here regarding the works themselves. I was expecting some major rewriting or rethinking by the late Mr.Rozsa; but,for the most part, these orchestrations are the same ones we've heard for decades. Only a few tracks (like the Alleluia)have been altered to take advantage of the "choral" nature of the enterprise.
Mr. Kunzel must be taken to task for seriously misinterpreting some of the cues. The Rowing Of The Gallely Slaves is a prime example. As almost everyone knows, this cue has FOUR distinct tempi--ranging from slow to frenzied. For some reason, Mr. Kunzel conducts the whole cue at whiplash tempo from beginning to end!!
Sonicly this is also subpar. I've never been a fan of recording orchestra and singers in two completely different venues and this disc only reinforces that belief. The whole thing sounds like it was recorded in some dank, humid cavern in a rainforest somewhere. The sound is thick and heavy with no life, no sparkle. I hate music that has been tweaked to sound overly "brite", but this almost makes me, not quite. In short, every past redbook edition of this music sounds better.
I was really looking forward to this release, to say it's underwhelming is putting it mildly.

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