Epics by Erich Kunzel available at Telarc.com



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Epics by Erich Kunzel


Epics by Erich Kunzel

Erich Kunzel


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Category    Score

Originality 8
Music Selection 9
Composition 10
CD Length 8
Track Order 6
Performance 8
Final Score 8/10


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Music conducted by Erich Kunzel
Performed by The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
Album Produced by Robert Woods
Released by Telarc on September 23, 2003

Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra have had a long, successful relationship. They have become mainstays of the Telarc label, releasing a plethora of quality compilations of various kinds of orchestral music. Of course, we here at Tracksounds appreciate classical music, but are concerned with film scores. Kunzel has not left our preferred genre untouched. His catalog consists of many soundtrack compilations, including Mega Movies, Symphonic Star Trek, a compilation of Jerry Goldsmith music, and more. These releases have frequently featured cutting edge sound quality, lively concert arrangements, interesting new takes on old favorites and even sound effects (never quite liked that feature)!

Kunzel continues his tradition with Epics, a compilation of epic themes, naturally. This is an interesting album. One may expect such an album to include only grand themes from classic films. Granted, some of the included pieces are undisputed classics, but Kunzel has included selections from some very recent scores, which is nice to see. I appreciate the classics, but being relatively young, many of my favorite scores are from relatively recent films (but I’m not blind to the fact that many older scores often trump newer works in terms of overall quality). It’s fun to listen to some new orchestral performances. Also, Telarc has chosen to maintain their cutting edge sound quality, releasing Epics in a hybrid SACD format (an SACD player was not available to evaluate the feature).

Titles vary widely. As previously stated, the classics are well represented, ranging from the work of Alex North to Maurice Jarre. Themes from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gone With The Wind Track 4, Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and more provide the required mainstays. However, the album really shines when new arrangements and performances of recently successful scores blast from the speakers. The album includes new suites from Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and best of all, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Unfortunately, new arrangements and interpretations are sparse.

This is a decently sized album, clocking in at 62:11. Ultimately, the rating of an album of this type lies in the quality of the performances. All of the tracks are proven, successful pieces—after all, that’s why they made it on a compilation! I will discuss a few highlights:

Hans Zimmer’s “Suite from Gladiator” Track 3 is a well arranged aural montage of the major themes from the score, and even some of “travel” themes that enhanced Ridley Scott’s brilliantly visual film. This is a fun listen, though the portions from “The Battle” fall short performance-wise—the sheer speed and viscous momentum found on the original album is missing.

Another entry from Hans Zimmer, “War from Pearl Harbor” is one of my favorite tracks from Zimmer’s underrated score for the overblown Michael Bay epic. Once again, this is a fine performance, but the raging string underscore, which is so characteristic of the original track, is somewhat lacking.

One of my favorite classic film themes, Alex North’s “Love Theme from Spartacus.” This is a gorgeous, delicate theme that is captured perfectly by the Cincinnati Pops. As a side recommendation, check out the superb DVD of Spartacus from the Criterion Collection. Over the main menu, you will hear this classic theme.

After coming down from the cloud that was “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” I am still elated. Peter Jackson’s film epic is probably the finest film trilogy ever made. Are large part of the film’s credit must go to Howard Shore, whose thematically rich, powerful compositions made the films come alive. In “May It Be And Themes From The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring,” Track 10 the best themes from the first score blend seamlessly into an epic suite. It is interesting to hear the orchestra filling in the portions where a choir once performed—not as effective, but neat to hear.

Maurice Jarre’s fine work for David Lean is recognized in two performances, one bold and one delicate. The brassy “Overture From Lawrence of Arabia” and string heavy “Prelude and Lara’s Theme from Doctor Zhivago” are fine renditions.

Three efforts from the maestro John Williams are rightly represented: “Love Theme From Star Wars, Episode II: Attack Of The Clones,” “Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “ Sean’s Theme from Minority Report.” The latter is one of my favorite themes of recent years and is well represented here.

In fact, these newly recorded renditions are very faithful to the original tracks, with little interpretive license taken. This is almost a letdown. For me, one of the reasons I enjoy compilations is the new performances and interpretations that usually take place. There is little rhyme or reason to the track order, but the album flows well, bridging past and present with a similar, epic sound. In the end, this is a solid compilation of some first rate themes. A fine sampling of the bygone eras and the modern blockbusters, Epics is recommended to newcomers looking for a variety of classic tunes. However, since most sound very similar to their original counterparts, those who have the full albums of the films represented are advised to stay away. Unless, of course, you wish to revel in the sound quality provided by Telarc’s well-mastered SACD.

Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 Fanfare From Also Sprach Zarathustra From 2001: Space Odyssey 1:51  ****
2 Parade Of The Charioteers From Ben Hur 3:30  ****
3 Suite From Gladiator Track 1 5:34  *****
4 Tara's Theme From Gone With The WindTrack 4 3:34  *****
5 Themes From Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 5:47  ****
6 War From Pearl Harbor 5:01  ****
7 Love Theme From Spartacus 2:54  ****
8 Overture From Lawrence Of Arabia 4:11  *****
9 Love Theme From Star Wars, Episode II: Attack Of The Clones 3:24  *****
10 May It Be And Themes From The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring Track 9 6:21  *****
11 Hedwig's Theme From Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone 4:52  ****
12 Prelude And Lara's Theme From Doctor Zhivago 5:49  *****
13 Sean's Theme From Minority Report 3:21  ****
14 The Magnificent Seven 5:54  *****

Total Running Time


Epics by Erich Kunzel

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


Referenced Reviews
Gladiator  |  Pearl Harbor  |  Minority Report




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