Various Artists

Sileo - The Music of Serenity

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Normally it's the new age-friendly buyers of North America who provide an audience for CDs with words like "serenity" in the title, but this is a German release. Sileo: Musik der Stille (here translated as Sileo: Music of Serenity) is one of several "Sileo" discs with similar meditative content. The browser in search of music for relaxation is encouraged to sample the performances here; you may or may not like them, but the disc is distinct from other albums with a similar purpose. It's not just the opening orchestral arrangement of the variations from Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" string quartet, which most people would call anything but serene. Even the Matthias Claudius text of the song on which Schubert based the movement is provided (in German): "Give me your hand, you picture of beauty and tenderness! I am your friend, and I do not come to punish you. Cheer up! I am not crazy. Soon you will sleep gently in my arms." Only in the land of Schopenhauer would this qualify as serenity. But the performance by the Kammerorchester "Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach" is lush and indeed somewhat calming. Lushness is a keyword for many of the selections on the album, which includes the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 and the "Nimrod" section of Elgar's Enigma Variations. The second disc is more oriented toward piano music, but orchestral, chamber, and piano music are mixed throughout, with one choral piece by Max Reger (someone else you wouldn't be likely to hear on a similar American release). The performances are compiled from recordings of the 1990s and early 2000s, but they hang together better than do those on many releases of this type. If you're down with the idea that German serenity is a weightier, more philosophically ambitious thing than the American version, you may well enjoy this double-disc set.

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