Monday, October 19, 2009

RIP Erich Kunzel

It is only because of an off-hand comment by an NPR announcer that I learned of Erich Kunzel's passing today. That is to say, I learned of it today but the great conductor of the Cincinnati Pops succumbed to a 4-month battle with cancer back on Sept 1. Conductors are often the unsung puppeteers of the orchestral world, pulling together not only music numbers but performers of all kinds to create a unique experience for an audience. I first learned of Kunzel in the late 80s/early 90s when my friend Ryan introduced me to a particularly good album of soundtrack bits called Star Tracks II.

My musical tastes were still developing (a process which is probably life-long but these were formative years) but I knew I enjoyed soundtracks. However, tracks not from the original albums? Would the renditions of some of my favorites be any good? Turns out they were quite good and I gained an appreciation for orchestras and the conductors that took on my own favorite pieces. Not all performances sit right with me, of course, but Kunzel could always be counted on to deliver solid interpretations.

Over the years I've collected a few of Kunzel's cds but none were quite as good as 1994's The Great Fantasy-Adventure Album. If memory serves, at that time, everyone had a copy but me. I finally grabbed my own from a record chain called Coconuts for what I'm certain was full price (likely $16.99). Let me say that this disc is worth twice that. Sound effects aside, there is not a bad track on here. From Conan to Jurassic Park, these tracks (a good many of which I'd never heard) merge seamlessly into a great blend of, as the title indicates, fantasy adventure! I've brainstormed many an adventure to the tunes of Kunzel's Pops. His discography is quite extensive and deserves perusing no matter what your musical tastes.

I want to thank Mr. Kunzel for the countless hours of enjoyment and inspiration he's given to me and to the world. May he rest in peace but not necessarily in silence.


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