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Illuminations Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Composer Gregory Hamilton's extensive education largely focused on early music and organ/continuo instruments. It's a bit surprising, then, that the compositions heard on this Rosa Mystica album should be such a departure from the early music aesthetic. Rather, Hamilton's works seem to be rather Impressionistic in nature. His choice of instrumentation is also nicely varied, providing for some less-common but pleasing sound combinations like flute and organ (Breath of the Spirit), solo harp (Chant du Matin), and flute quartet (Fantasy-Variations on a Theme of Schubert). Hamilton's choices of what to put on the disc are rather perplexing. Two of the works (Breath of the Spirit and Little Suite for Piano) only appear as excerpts of the larger piece. Breath of the Spirit, which the composer cites as one of his most popular compositions, was originally intended as a work with two narrators reciting 10 "exquisite" poems, yet on this album there are no narrators and the poems do not even appear in the liner notes. This makes it difficult, to say the least, to judge the true merit of the work. While most of the performances on the album are sufficient, overall sound quality is far from it. The first piece, Breath of the Spirit, is recorded with an enjoyable, warm, round sound. For the rest of the album, Hamilton himself took control of the audio engineering and the sound quality greatly suffers. All of the instruments sound very distant, hollow, and one-dimensional.

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