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Classical - Released January 1, 2003 | Decca Music Group Ltd.
As its title implies, Heavenly Adagios is a collection of slow, reflective pieces of an inspirational nature, though it is not limited to sacred works. The two discs offer a sampling of religious music, excerpts from symphonic movements, intermezzos from operas, and orchestral arrangements of piano pieces, all of which are presented with an emphasis on beauty and tranquility. The quality of the performances is high, and Decca's roster of artists is stellar, with many great conductors, soloists, and orchestras turning in good work. While some of the arrangements will not satisfy purists -- the Bach chorales and Handel's Ombra mai fu are too lush -- the playing is polished and consistent with the album's generally romantic tone. Another concern is the variability of recording quality between the tracks, which is noticeable on a superior sound system. As is sometimes the case with such compilations, the dynamic range and variety of ensembles may be problematic for the listener, calling for occasional volume adjustments. There are a few jarring surprises, such as the great crescendos in Walk to the Paradise Garden by Delius and the fortissimo passages in Fauré's Pavane and Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending. However, if played at a moderately low level, this album works fairly well as music for contemplation.
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