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Album Review

Dubbed the "Prince of Pops" by the Chicago Tribune nearly 30 years ago, Erich Kunzel — one of the most successful classical crossover artists of all time — has recorded over 70 albums for Telarc; one of the most popular of those is 1990s Christmas with the Pops. The warm and wonderful Christmastime Is Here, named for the Vince Guaraldi classic from A Charlie Brown Christmas that's given a spirited reworking here, is something of a sequel to that collection. With the exception of a punchy Dixieland arrangement of "Jingle Bell Rock," Kunzel and the orchestra — working with the Indiana University School of Music Singing Hoosiers, under the direction of Dr. Michael Schwartzkopf — play most of the classics here very straightforwardly. That is to say, charming, elegant and engaging, just not overly innovative. Telarc's true stroke of genius is having some of its top jazz vocalists perform on lush but smartly restrained arrangements of various classics — like Tierney Sutton on "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and John Pizzarelli on "Silver Bells." The disc also showcases two of the label's newest artists, Ann Hampton Callaway (a haunting "I Wonder as I Wander") and Tony DeSare (doing Mel Tormé proud on a dreamy version of "The Christmas Song"). This is 2006's premier holiday disc for lovers of jazz, pop and classical music.


Formed: 1977 in Cincinnati, OH

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra has roots going all the way back to the 1870s, but was not officially distinguished from its parent organization, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, until 1977. The early Cincinnati orchestra society programmed popular music concerts and that continued with the Cincinnati Symphony, particularly under conductor Max Rudolf, who became its director in 1958. In 1965, Rudolf hired Erich Kunzel as assistant conductor and asked him to conduct the first "8 O'Clock Pops" concert....
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