classical & world / music / pop / reviews

To the Stars: Sarah Brightman – Classics

classics

Classics is yet another Sarah Brightman compilation album, one of many that seem to dot her career. This 2001 release follows Encore, also released in 2001, and is the second Brightman compilation to be released that year.

In many ways, the two compilations fight it out. There are two versions of Brightman in the ring: the Andrew Lloyd Webber-approved version and the Frank Peterson version. The Lloyd Webber version floods the attack with all sorts of hokey Broadway-oriented pieces and gathers accolades for boldly swinging through Phantom arias, while the Peterson version fires back with rabbit punches of German disco and a pop-oriented take on classical music.

Starkly, the version of Sarah found on Classics is photographed with sex appeal in mind. There is a topless photograph inside the album sleeve and a hot little number on the back cover, countering Encore’s relative tameness with a blast of glitter and paint. There’s also a can’t-miss spread of Sarah’s, um, vajazzle…

In terms of the music, the same stark reflections apply. Classics features about seven new recordings (not new songs, mind you) and fills the rest of the space with material from other records.

The album begins with a beautiful version of “Ave Maria,” a Peterson-produced arrangement full of lush strings and gently flowing atmosphere. Brightman sings as though on a cloud, floating through a tender aria that serves as a pleasing introduction to the record. It melds the Peterson world with the familiar, showing her classical style while still keeping it modern.

“Winter Light” is another of the new pieces. This song was written by Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner, as well as Linda Ronstadt and Eric Kaz. It is another graceful song, one that showcases Brightman’s sense for melody and her crystal-clear ability to nail down the higher notes. There’s some nice piano accompaniment that brings it down to earth somewhat.

“Alhambra” sounds like it could be a sign of things to come (Harem), while a version of “Dans la Nuit” features a Peterson distillation of Chopin. Brightman hits some lovely higher notes during some adventurous scales on the latter.

A new version of “O mio babbino caro,” a Puccini joint retooled and readdressed by Peterson, seems to put Brightman’s own stamp on it. Puccini is, of course, a favourite of Lloyd Webber and this string-heavy version feels more modern and more enticing than the many previous incarnations. Brightman’s high notes sound more energetic and she sings with vigour.

“Pie Jesu” makes is requisite appearance and it, too, is newly recorded. There’s also a newly recorded version of “Nessum Dorma.”

Classics, as far as the many compilations from Brightman are concerned, is probably the best bet. It features a good mix of her material up to this point and includes some new stuff to balance the scales. In this round, as in most rounds, Peterson/sexy Brightman wins by TKO.

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