Any modern ambient artist who thinks that modern music has a monopoly on meditative and sedative qualities should listen to Edward MacDowell's Woodland Sketches, Opus 51. As performed by the Beau Hunks, it is among the deepest and gentlest pastoral ambient recordings of this or any other era. Back when MacDowell wrote this (1896), there were no samplers or field recordings to enhance a performance. The composer relied solely on acoustic instruments to supply the atmosphere. This particular opus is, indeed, pastoral and ambient. The recording has two versions of the suite. The first version is performed by a small ensemble of violins, a violoncello, clarinets, and flutes. There is no percussion. There are no brass instruments. This is true minimalism as defined by the works of Erik Satie. And it fits Brian Eno's definition as well. It is interesting enough to be the focus of deep listening and innocuous enough to be the background. The other version is an acoustic piano transcription of the opus performed by Guido Nielsen. It generates new and different imagery in this style. Again, this is true minimalism as defined by both Satie's music and by Eno. This classic CD is a treasure. It will appeal to fans of Satie and Charles Ives. It is essential music.
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AllMusic Review by Jim Brenholts
|Woodland Sketches (10) for piano, Op. 51|