Classical Dreams: Music to Inspire (CD review)

Various composers and artists. Virgin 7243 5 67734 2 4 (2-disc set).

Think of the most dreamy, most tranquil, most serene musical works you can imagine, put them all together in a two-and-half-hour package, and you'll get some idea of what this album is about. Back in 2001, compilation producer Robert Laporta (currently of MSR Records) collected twenty-seven individual items here from the Virgin Records catalogue, ranging from two to ten minutes each for a two-disc Virgin set. The result is, well, dreamy.

There are too many things on the set to name individually, but let me give you some idea of the contents by naming just a few. The contents include Mahler's Adagietto from Symphony No. 5; Satie's Gymnopedies Nos. 1 and 3; Faure's Pavane; Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun; Elgar's Serenade for Strings; Barber's Adagio for Strings; Sibelius's Swan of Tuonela; Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on "Greensleeves"; Ravel's Pavane pour une infante defunte; Massenet's Meditation; Rachmaninov's Vocalise, and a ton more.

Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Some of the conductors involved are Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Paul Tortelier, Sir Charles Mackerras, Christoph Eschenbach, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Andrew Litton; Richard Hickox, Paavo Jarvi. Ensembles include the English Chamber Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Northern Sinfonia, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and a host of others.

Laporta drew the recordings from the years 1988-1995, and all of them have a homogeneity of sound that complements one another. Mostly, it's smooth and natural, wide spread, and not very dynamic (because it doesn't need to be). I have no idea if the Virgin engineers altered the audio of these pieces in any way for them to sound so similar, but the results, especially with the works themselves played almost without breaks between them, appear to flow like one continuous stream.

This may be the ultimate in music for relaxation. What's more, it's great music well played, too, not New Age stuff  unworthy of actually paying attention to. So, I can easily recommend the set, even though you've probably got every piece somewhere else in your collection.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa