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CD Review

Pops revisit Broadway and Hollywood

Email|Print| Text size + By Matthew Guerrieri
Globe Correspondent / January 6, 2008

OSCAR & TONY: AWARD-WINNING MUSIC FROM THE STAGE & SCREEN

Boston Pops Orchestra;

Keith Lockhart, conductor

(Boston Pops Recordings)

The new CD by Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops is their third self-produced and marketed recording. It's available for digital download, and it's being cross-promoted on the group's new online video channel, bostonpops.tv. It's a very modern rollout for what is, in fact, a fairly old-fashioned record.

The title is "Oscar & Tony" - as in the awards - but those anticipating a Pops rendition of 2005 Oscar winner "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" must bide their time. The film music is firmly in the hyper-Romantic tradition founded by European immigrants such as Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The Broadway playlist either revisits the Golden Age or borrows from shows that themselves self-consciously do the revisiting. The most recent selections - the razzmatazz of Mel Brooks's "The Producers" and a Steineresque sequence from Howard Shore's "Lord of the Rings" scores - could plausibly date from almost any time within the last 70 years.

Some stage material appears in big-screen translation, such as the title sequences to the film versions of "The Sound of Music" and "My Fair Lady," in gleaming arrangements by Irwin Kostal and Andre Previn, respectively. Lockhart and the orchestra excel in this music, as well as Lerner and Loewe's direct-to-celluloid, Previn-arranged "Gigi," with easy, elegant phrasing and a smooth blend. The Pops opt for expanded orchestrations throughout the Broadway selections, the best being Daniel Troob's reworking of the overture to Frank Loesser's "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," the group's boppy nonchalance and urbane tenderness in sly repartee.

Grandeur predominates in the pure movie music. The Hungarian-American master Miklós Rózsa, for example, is represented not by the film noir innovations of "Spellbound" or "A Double Life," but by the biblical pageantry of the overture to "Ben-Hur," given a solid, weighty reading. John Williams's "Immolation" cue from "Schindler's List," featuring full-throated cantillation from the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, is imposingly somber, the slowly arching string lines amassing power as they go. But the best of the bunch is the lightest, Victor Young's overture to "Around the World in 80 Days": The creamy orchestration and the velvety lilt of the familiar theme are a straight shot of Hollywood polish.

Two Oscar-winning songs get highbrow trappings. Michael Starobin's use of Debussy's "La Mer" as a canvas for James Horner's pernicious "My Heart Will Go On" from "Titanic" is clever, but more than the song deserves. On the other hand, a whirling graft of the Sherman brothers' "Mary Poppins" hit "Chim-Chim-Cheree" onto Saïnt-Saens's "Danse Macabre," courtesy of Richard Hayman, one of Arthur Fiedler's favorite arrangers, charms with eccentric sparkle.

The Fiedler brand of mischief isn't otherwise much in evidence. In its place are the pleasures of luxury goods: familiar comforts embellished with plush sumptuousness. It's never less than enjoyable, and given the genre fragmentation in the music industry nowadays, the Pops are perhaps ideally suited to claim the debonair niche. But if Fiedler were still around? He probably would have had a go at "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp."

MATTHEW GUERRIERI

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