“Fifty Shades of Grey” is about testing boundaries, so it’s natural that a related compilation album would likewise push limits: Is the phenomenon of the book series powerful enough to push classical music into the mainstream?
Pop culture has done it before — as when the 1979 comedy “10” made an unlikely “hit” of Ravel’s Bolero — and “Fifty Shades of Grey: The Classical Album” has plenty of juice. The tracks were chosen by the author of the best-selling trilogy, E L James, who selected music that influenced her writing and who referenced the material in her work. Also, the near-10-minute “Spem in Alium,” by Thomas Tallis (performed here by the Tallis Scholars), has already generated a stir in the U.K. because of its inclusion in a bondage scene in “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
The album is suggested as background music for reading the books, and accompanying notes assert the arousing, dark nature of the tracks.
Purist lovers of classical music will balk at the out-of-context nature of the collection of 15 pieces lifted from random works by numerous composers and packed together like a “Now That’s What I Call Music!” compilation. At the same time, those who never developed a taste for classical music aren’t likely to be converted, and some of these tracks are so prevalent that listeners will already have associations for them. For instance, Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and Pachelbel’s Canon are wedding-ceremony standbys.
Regardless, most of the selections on the release are undeniably sensual, from the gorgeous rendition of Chopin’s Nocturne No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 9 to Debussy’s serene “Preludes: La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin” to Delibes’ ethereal “Lakme: Flower Duet” (featuring the tandem vocals of soprano Mady Mesple and mezzo-soprano Danielle Millet).
The release may not be thoroughly fulfilling, yet there’s beauty throughout. And what happens when someone slips behind locked doors with the book “Fifty Shades of Grey” and this music compilation is as unpredictable as what intimate activities an individual considers a turn on ... or a turn off.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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