Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I recently purchased Sarah Brightman's newest album, entitled Symphony off iTunes. It is her first studio album in five years, following her middle-eastern influenced recording, Harem.

Unlike Harem which had a very consistent mood and tonality throughout-even classic operatic songs had an Eastern flare-Symphony is significantly more diverse in its content, spanning several genres, from songs fit for showtunes-harkening back to when Brightman ruled Broadway-to Gothic influences, to entries that sound more mainstream and produced, although I have to say I do enjoy some of these latter songs despite their overtly "pop" nature. Symphony's "I Will Be With You (Where The Lost Ones Go)" featuring Paul Stanley is one of those for me. On the flip side, there is much to be lauded in terms of Brightman's operatic abilities especially in "Canto Della Terra" with Andrea Bocelli.

In conjunction with these varying stylistic choices, Symphony has a total of five languages represented. Symphony includes the first time Brightman has sung in German. She also sings in Spanish, French and Italian. Thus, together the varied style and language spectrum create a tension in Symphony that is never rectified generating the feeling that perhaps the album would be better judged on the merits of its individual tracks. Nevertheless, Brightman does demonstrate an affinity for appropriating from a variety of sources, literary and musical alike and refreshing them for a new era of classical performance.

As I go through the album, I get the feeling that I am not getting the intended experience of many of the tracks. More than a few of the songs would be far better suited for the finest performance halls in New York or London than in the desktop speakers of my desk or my Apple earbuds. It is possible there are some issues with compression from the studio in Germany to my headphones. More likely though the voice of Sarah Brightman is simply made for the stage and it is a matter of her presence being impossible to contain or harness on a recording.

My favorite tracks include "Fleurs du mal", a progressive, Goth/rock-inspired track which takes its title from a Charles Baudelaire poem, "Sarai Qui" an Italian rendition of Faith Hill's immensely popular "There You'll Be" which was featured on the Pearl Harbor soundtrack, "Running," and the titular track, "Symphony."

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