A Colorful Bolero


Ravel's sensual, hypnotic "Boléro" was described by one American critic in the early 1930s as the "most insolent monstrosity every perpetrated in the history of music." That "monstrosity" has since become an audience favorite and is given a colorful, vibrant performance on Boléro: Music of Ravel, Borodin and Bizet -- a new Telarc disc with Erich Kunzel leading the Cincinnati Pops.
Classical composers, long fascinated by the music of foreign countries, have frequently woven exotic melodies and timbres into their compositions -- from Mozart and his "Turkish" marches to Rimsky Korsakov's "Scheherazade" to the many contemporary composers who continue to experiment with foreign instruments and sounds.

The Kunzel recording also includes the Suites nos. 1 and 2 from "Carmen," Bizet's musical foray across the Spanish border. Kunzel coaxes vivid playing from the Pops musicians in the various movements, such as the seductive "Aragonaise," with its castanet rhythms, the sultry "Seguidilla," the whirlwind excitement of the opening of the swaggering "Toreadors" and the famous, slinky "Habanera."

Spain is in the spotlight again with Albéniz's "Féte-Dieu a Séville," originally written for piano and performed here in an orchestrated version. The musical map extends to Baghdad with Kunzel's medley of excerpts from works by Borodin, whose music inspired the score to the 1953 musical "Kismet" (set in Baghdad in 1071).