Since the term sacred music usually suggests chants, hymns, motets, cantatas, and other forms of religious vocal and choral music, it seems a little odd that Denon's The Ultimate Most Relaxing Sacred Music in the Universe should be made up of mostly instrumental selections, with the only choral track being the Agnus Dei from Gabriel Fauré's Requiem. Granted, there are religious connections to all the works, whether they are chorale preludes by J.S. Bach, movements from Christmas Concertos by Antonio Vivaldi, Francesco Manfredini, and Pietro Locatelli, or non-liturgical meditations, such as the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, the Pifa from Handel's Messiah, and the Prayer by Ernest Bloch. Listeners will find that much of the program is focused on Baroque music of Catholic or Lutheran origins and that music from other traditions is under-represented or missing outright, so the true universality of this collection can be called into question. Still, the music is performed with elegance and taste, and the performances by Denon's top artists, including organist Helmuth Rilling, cellist Janos Starker, and I Solisti Italiani, among others, are up to the label's usual high standards. The sound quality of this disc is well-balanced and even in dynamics, so the volume won't require any emergency adjustments.
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