Summer in the Park (CD review)

Various selections, conductors, and orchestras. EMI 50999 0 82658 2 1.

Bits and pieces. In this case, the disc contains "summertime" music, culled from EMI's vast back catalogue of stereo material. I'm never sure how to approach these kinds of discs, collections of short works, in this case fifteen selections. It's not really something most serious classical-music fans might sit down and listen to, since everything is incomplete--a movement here, a movement there.  Maybe as background music. Maybe as music for the car. Or maybe, just maybe, as a sampling of what's out there in longer form. Because all of the tracks on the disc come from well-known conductors and orchestras, it may be a good chance to hear something you might want to buy complete. Or, who knows, maybe among all the bits and pieces, there's something you've never heard before, something to explore in greater depth. In any case, the music, brief and fragmented as it may be, is enjoyable.

EMI's jewel box describes the program saying, "Summer is the season of music--from the chirping of birds to the buzzing of flies, the rushing river to the rustling of flowers in the breeze, that infinite stillness that hangs in the air as the sun sets behind the trees. This collection of timeless recordings celebrates the sounds of those hot summer days and cool summer nights."

I won't try to comment on everything; let me just list the items on the disc and then point out the ones I enjoyed most.

Grofe: Grand Canyon Suite - Sunrise (Slatkin, Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra)
Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann - Barcarolle (Marriner, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart)
Handel: Water Music - Suite No. 1 - Bourre (Linde, Linde Consort)
Debussy: Petite Suite - En bateau (Pommier, Northern Sinfonia)
Chopin: Waltz No. 6 "Minute" (Fliter, piano)
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker - Waltz of the Flowers (Previn, London Symphony Orchestra)
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition - Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks (Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic)
Saint-Saens: Carnival of the Animals - The Swan (Chang, cello; Brewer, harp)
Bizet: Jeux d-enfants - No. 1 Marche (Jarvi, Orchestre de Paris)
Elgar: Salut d'amour (Hickox, Northern Sinfonia of England)
Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A - Allegro (Meyer, clarinet; Wiener Strechsextett)
Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3 - Air (Ledger, English Chamber Orchestra)
Delius: Summer Evening (Hickox, Northern Sinfonia of England)
Stravinsky: L'Oiseau de feu - Disappearance of the Palace (Rattle, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra)
Part: Spiegel im Spiegel (Little, violin; Roscoe, piano)

I liked the Linde Consort in the Handel number for its full, spirited approach to the music. The Debussy moves along lightly and gently under Pommier. Pianist Ingrid Fliter plays the little Chopin waltz with dazzling but expressive technique. I've always thought Previn's Tchaikovsky ballet music was among the best available, and his Nutcracker excerpt reinforces that opinion, the piece also being among the best recorded in the collection. The Mozart Clarinet Quintet with Sabine Meyer is charming, as is the Bach Air with Ledger and the English Chamber Orchestra. Finally, Arvo Part's Spiegel im Spiegel fairly floats across the sound stage and makes a fitting conclusion for the tranquil mood of the program.

EMI recorded most of the sound between the 1960's and the present (or 2008), and it lives up to the company's high sonic standards. However, the opening number, Sunrise from Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite with Leonard Slatkin and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, one the oldest recordings on the disc, is rather dull and hollow by comparison to the other selections. The rest of the items display commendable transparency, clean highs, maybe not the deepest but adequate bass, and fine orchestral depth and breadth, with Marriner's Stuttgart Offenbach, Rattle's City of Birmingham Stravinsky, and Previn's LSO Tchaikovsky standing out for their sonic quality.

This 2011 release, Summer in the Park, is the fourth in a series of similarly themed collections from EMI, the first three being Autumn in the Park, Springtime in the Park, and Christmas in the Park.


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa