Various Artists

Essential Relaxing Classics

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Unless one has scrupulously avoided all compilations, one is bound to have several of the selections on EMI's double-disc Essential Relaxing Classics, and it's likely that many of these pieces will be well-known even to the most casual listener. However, such a collection is aimed more at a mainstream audience that has only dabbled in classical music but values its qualities of calmness and beauty and finds it to be more soothing and more suitable to play as background music than other genres. Naturally, the program includes the most famous slow pieces, such as Pachelbel's ubiquitous Canon in D, Bach's indispensible Air on the G String, and the spurious Albinoni Adagio (actually by Remo Giazotto), but on the whole most of the selections are not as predictable or as frequently anthologized as those three staples of classical music samplers. Listeners need to be aware that some of the pieces here are merely excerpted, so Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata, Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, and several other tracks are much shorter than the complete works. The recording dates range from 1965 to 2003, yet in spite of the mix of ADD and DDD recordings, EMI's sound is clear and well-balanced, and the volume is generally quite even throughout the album.

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