Constantine Hvatynetz

Serengeti: A Natural Symphony

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For those who love nature documentaries or films, and beautifully composed orchestral music (rather than popular music) as a soundtrack, Serengeti will indeed delight. This blend of orchestral music with nature sounds takes the listener right into the eponymous area of the African continent. "Serengeti Sunrise" is indeed a sunrise, with animal sounds and an orchestra coming alive, much like the morning. The oboe solo is quite nice. In fact, the overall quality of the musicians is undisputedly high: it would be hard to find a listener who would doubt their skill and technique. Animal lovers will rejoice with pieces like Pride of Africa, where there are actual lion roars woven into the piece, and "We Are All One," with its birds and nature sounds. The sweeping string lines and gentle melodies are calming, and they feature prominently throughout the album. As this music is, naturally, very programmatic, one can hear how composer Yuri Sazonoff used his orchestration to convey the various places in the pieces: a solo flute conjures up watching clouds wafting across the sky in "Beneath a Quieting Sky," the use of chant-like songs makes one think of local peoples living in the "Endless Plains," and there are drums (likely from some region of Africa) that add to the Natural Symphony. Yes, the music can tend to sound rather similar after a while; the lush strings, thumping percussion, and chorus of voices are used repeatedly. This is not to say the music is not enjoyable, or that the pieces lack nuance. "Chasing the Rains" is the most simply orchestrated piece, while "Mara River Crossing" is a brighter melody with a variety of musical moods. The violin solo in this piece sounds very much like an excerpt of a major violin concerto, evidence that the composer is quite skilled at and knowledgeable about the classical canon. It is possible that this album is not of interest to everyone; classical music purists may dismiss this as lightweight, commercial material. But those who are willing to give the album a chance will find it a relaxing journey that conjures up places in one's imagination, whether or not they are truly places in the Serengeti.

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