Evocative Classical Masterworks Meld Nicely for the Scenic O
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 09/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm all for repackaging great music under the guise of something more digestible to the general public. That's why Sony Classical's Drive Time series is an intriguing marketing idea which groups classical pieces of a similar subgenre using a world-renowned roadway as the unifying theme. This one uses the Pacific Coast Highway as the constant imagery, and Gilbert Hetherwick (credited with the concept) and reissue producer Richard King have chosen pieces that have a pastoral, often Nordic feeling to them. Various world-class orchestras from London to the Boston Pops play the pieces impeccably under the batons of Lorin Maazel, John Williams and Sir Colin Davis among others.
The program opens appropriately with Beethoven's pastoral Symphony #6 (1808), which was actually subtitled "Recollections of Country Life", a stunning melding of woodwinds and strings somewhat similar in tone to Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons". Then we get music from a brethren of Scandinavian masters. Finnish composer Jean Sibelius is well represented here with two pieces from his symphonies, the introductory Allegretto movement of #2 (1902) and the concluding Allegro Molto movement of #5 (1915), both of which show a strong sense of his dramatic use of folk melodies. There is the famous "Holberg's Time Suite" (1869) by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg with its fanciful opening flourish, as well as Danish composer Carl Nielsen's Symphony #3 (1911), which works beautifully within the sonata form.
There are three modern pieces, tonally compatible with the other compositions - Joaquín Rodrigo's beautiful piece for classical guitar and orchestra, "Concierto de Aranjuez" (1939) - my personal favorite of the entire disc, Alan Hovhaness' contemplative 1955 "Mysterious Mountain" (Symphony #2), and Michael Torke's exciting "Javelin" composed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. All together, this is well over an hour of splendid music, and to Sony's credit, they do evoke the fog and cold breezes coming from the Pacific. Marketed as "specially mastered for the car audio experience", it is well worth keeping in your car CD case. Other CDs in this series include Route 66, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Autobahn."