Various Artists

Sunday Music, Vol. 4: Classical

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Sunday Music Classical, part of a series of Sunday Music releases that are presumably similar in tone, is a rarity among compilations of previously released material: it actually makes musical sense, and it might stimulate a listener to further investigate some of the composers and artists involved. The compilers set out to strike a consistent tone -- appropriately meditative -- and they succeed in staying close enough to it that they are able to tie together an attractively diverse set of materials. To create a program in which traditional and crossover music from different sources comfortably coexist is not the easiest trick in the world, but it is accomplished here. There are instrumental and operatic pieces from various eras, with several young stars (Hilary Hahn, Anna Netrebko) featured; there are new crossover compositions, as well as "Somewhere" from Bernstein's West Side Story; there are contemporary choral pieces, which exist in a world distinct from that of "new music"; there is Sting's experiment in singing Renaissance vocal music, resting comfortably among other music with unusual timbres; there is an unclassifiable and really lovely version of Albinoni's Adagio in G minor, performed on the Armenian duduk with strings. Being "relaxing" is not what most classical music is about, of course, even classical music intended for Sundays. But the impressive range of textures revealed in this program does get to something distinctive about the genre, taken as a whole. This disc will serve the background-music purposes for which some will buy it, and it may push some of those listeners a little beyond that goal.

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