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The Best Ever Music for Relaxation Collection
CD 1 [63:03]
BACH Air from Orchestral Suite No.3
MUSSORGSKY Dawn on the Moscow River from Khovanshchina
CHABRIER Idylle from Suite Pastorale
CHOPIN Prelude in D-flat ‘Raindrop’
ELGAR Chanson de Matin
RESPIGHI The Dove from The Birds
FAURÉ In paradisum from Requiem
HANDEL Ombra mai fú (Largo) from Serse
MARCELLO arr.BACH Adagio from Concerto in D minor
MOZART Adagio from Clarinet Concerto
FAURÉ Pavane
SAINT-SAËNS The Swan from Carnival of the Animals
VIVALDI Allegro from Flute Concerto No.3 ‘The Goldfinch’
DVOŘÁK Largo (excerpt) from Symphony No.9 ‘From the New World’
CD 2 [60:53]
BOCCHERINI Minuet from String Quintet No.5
HOFFSTETTER Serenade from String Quartet in F major
OFFENBACH Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann
BACH Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from Cantata No.147
HANDEL Courante from Keyboard Suite No.1
TCHAIKOVSKY Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet
RESPIGHI Italiana from Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No.3
DEBUSSY Clair de lune from Suite Bergamasque
WALDTEUFEL The Skaters’ Waltz
BORODIN orch. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Nocturne from String Quartet No.2
VIVALDI Concerto in G ‘Alla Rustica
GRANADOS Spanish Dance No.2
TCHAIKOVSKY Andante cantabile, Op.11
CD 3 [68:08]
MASCAGNI Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana
BEETHOVEN Adagio sostenuto from ‘Moonlight’ Sonata
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Fantasia on Greensleeves
SATIE Gymnopédie No. 1
MOZART Ave verum corpus
ALBINONI arr. GIAZOTTO / MOTZING Adagio in G minor
GLUCK Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orphée et Eurydice
GRIEG Morning Mood from Peer Gynt
HANDEL Pifa from Messiah
DELIBES Flower Duet from Lakmé
RAVEL Pavane for a Dead Princess
ELGAR Nimrod from Enigma Variations
ABC Philharmonic Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Australis, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs & Orchestra
ABC CLASSICS 476 2882 [3 CDs: 63:03 + 60:53 + 68:08]
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Designed for a specific purpose, such collections as these have incidental value as showcases for a particular orchestra or label. ABC Classics have done themselves proud, with a seemingly bottomless reserve of sumptuously performed and recorded core repertoire.

For consistency’s sake there are no ‘authentic’ instrumental ensembles for the Baroque pieces: no jangly solo harpsichords (although they do appear as continuo parts in Bach, Pachelbel and Vivaldi), single-player-to-a-part interepretations or vibrato-free winds. There are also hardly any wobbly soprano singers (Delibes’ Flower Duet being the exception), very few minor chords and certainly no jarring dissonances. Pieces originally for string quartet appear in arrangements for orchestra, smoothing out anything which might smack of passion or emotional intensity or anything else which might offend the relaxing ear. Possibly the most dramatic moment is ‘the hard bit’ in the middle of Beethoven’s Für Elise, which invariably takes piano pupils by surprise. Talking of solos, many of the piano pieces are well played by David Stanhope, who also appears as conductor in a number of tunes. If there is an further unifying factor, then it has to be a lack of Northern Hemisphere ‘grit’. Hunting for highlights and taking a potent masterpiece such as Rachmaninov’s Vocalise one has to be a little disappointed by the rather pedestrian treatment it gets here. It might be in the nature of such sequences that everything begins sounding a bit flat and samey; I found myself urging the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra to ‘come on’ in Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves which misses the point somewhat. Having said that, Elgar’s Nimrod is given a strong outing by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Myer Fredman, so there are gems to be found.

There is very little to criticise here, and as quiet background music this set will be a boon for any chic restaurant, tasteful candlelit supper, elevator or telephone holding service. The serious collector will of course run for the hills before being seen with this in his shopping cart at The effect of so many beautiful movements or moments taken out of context and placed back to back would be like a three hour film which consisted entirely of chaste, elegantly filmed love scenes, one after the other. It is a kind of Classic FM ‘Music for the Millions’ hell, but again, serious listening is not what this is about. I could quite happily fall asleep with these CDs on as an ambient backdrop, and with the disc changer on ‘repeat all’ could also imagine never waking again.

Dominy Clements



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