Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 10
The universe is not exactly desperate for more recordings of this repertoire, but this one, surprising as it might seem, is pretty excellent. Michael Stern and his Kansas City Symphony take to the music as if to the manner born. The Wasps, here given as the complete suite and not just the overture, is delightful. Perhaps the only slight miscalculation in the entire performance is the overly swift March Past of the Kitchen Utensils, which loses some of its comic swagger at Stern’s tempo. Otherwise the overture and (especially) the Ballet and Final Tableau offer pure enjoyment from start to finish. The Fantasia on Greensleeves, un-killable in just about any circumstances, sounds just fine as well.
Elgar’s Enigma Variations is even more impressive. Stern characterizes the piece unerringly, capturing the gusto of Troyte, the charm of Dorabella, the gruff humor of G.R.S., the lachrymose sentimentality of B.G.N. Nimrod is particularly moving here, flowing but with a nice emphasis on the inner harmonies at the variation’s start. The finale is extremely impressive, aided by state-of-the-art sonics that offer the finest integration of organ and orchestra yet captured in this work on disc. Beginning with perhaps a touch of restraint, the music builds to a final climax that is just thrilling. The disc is worth hearing for the final minute alone. So even if you have a million versions of this music, you may want to give this a shot if only to hear what can be achieved with it sonically.
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