I read once that Arthur Fiedler had sold more classical albums than any conductor who ever lived. I can easily believe that, considering the man lead the Boston Pops Orchestra for something like a half a century. Nevertheless, music critics always seemed to consider Fiedler something of a lightweight when it came to classical conducting, despite his enormous experience and popularity. I suppose it was the nature of the repertoire he worked with, mostly well-loved light classics like this collection of marches for orchestra.
Fiedler recorded the present album in 1958, and it has remained a perennial favorite with music listeners ever since. In fact, among the drawbacks of the JVC audiophile remastering reviewed here is that it costs well over two or three times as much as RCA's regular "Living Stereo" issue, and it does not include an additional four marches that RCA added to their mid-price CD.
The conductor's rather prosaic readings of a few other items, though, didn't charm me as much: "Yankee Doodle Dandy," Meredith Wilson's "76 Trombones" from The Music Man, Morton Gould's "American Salute," and George and Ira Gershwin's "Strike Up the Band," for instance.
The JVC engineers probably brought the sound up to its best possible specs through the meticulous care they lavished in their XRCD remastering process, and when it's at its best the sound is, indeed, pretty good. Bass appears solid, highs extended, and dynamics wide. But, oddly, there doesn't seem to be a lot of depth to the orchestral field, individual instruments sometimes get spotlighted and miked too close up, with a touch of congestion crowding some of the loudest passages.
In all, the whole package--the performances and the sound--comes up a somewhat mixed bag, maybe showing its weaknesses more so than some other recordings from the era.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow: