Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Night Music Collections

Before diving into the music cabinet, I thought I'd start with an overview of some of the CD's that live on the night stand, and are used for late-night relaxing music.

The first CD I picked up for this purpose is entitled *Meditation - Music for Relaxation and Dreaming*. This is a Decca release, featuring such artists as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Neville Marriner, Zubin Mehta, and others. It includes some of the more common pieces you find on this type of collection, such as Pachelbel's *Canon*, Barber's *Adagio for strings*, and the *Adagio* from Mozart's *Clarinet Concert in A major, K622* (as well as Mozart's *Andante* from his "Elvira Madigan" Piano Concerto No. 21).

A new work for me is entitled *Meditation*, from Jules Massenet's opera *Thais*. This is such a pretty piece that I had to find a DVD of the entire opera, which I'll discuss here someday (perhaps).

Naxos is a record label known for recordings of lesser-known works by lesser-known - but still talented! - artists and ensembles. The CD's tend to be a lot lower priced than those of the major labels. However, this has not stopped Naxos from winning Grammy's and similar awards. At one time they had a series entitled *Night Music*, a twenty CD set of "classical favorites for relaxing and dreaming." The series has changed titles, so that now they are named after music forms, such as "Prelude" and "Pastoral." I have two of the series, "Liebesleid" and "Rhapsody". The former contains an oft-recorded work of Rachmaninov's, *Vocalise*, this version recorded on piano and cello. The second CD has a part of his *Rhapsody on a Theme by Pagainini*, Variation 18, probably the best known of all the variations.

Naxos also has a wonderful CD entitled *Andante Cantabile - Romantic Music for Cello and Orchestra*. It opens with the Romance of Carl Stamitz's Cello Concerto No. 1. This recording, too, has a recording of *Vocalise*, this time with an orchestra. Not surprising, there is a movement from Antonin Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor. What does seem out of place is "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Rimsky-Korsakov. This has never struck me as a particularly romantic piece.

EMI has a series of "The Most Relaxing Piano/Guitar/etc. Album in the World...Ever!" These are two-CD sets. I often listen to the Piano recording, as well as the guitar recording when wanting to hear something different. For piano, Beethoven weighs in with the "Moonlight" and "Pathetique" sonatas, as well as "Fur Elise," and the adagio from the "Emperor" concerto. The Guitar recording starts the second CD off with Rodrigo's "Concerto de Aranjuez," the adagio second movement. This is a particular favorite of mine.

Aside from these anthologies, there are also recordings featuring individual performers or composers. I'll review these in my next entry.