The world’s best selling soprano of all time returns with the outstanding early 2008 release Symphony, an iconic collection of music that may well be her best full album to date.
Brightman was first introduced to me by my wife, and what followed was an exhaustive musical discovery of the gifted English singer. I was immeasurably impressed by Brightman’s catalogue of albums and songs, ranging from the deep pop of 1993’s Dive to the Middle Eastern tones of 2003’s exceptional Harem. It was with great eagerness, then, that I awaited 2008’s Symphony.
Symphony is an affectionate album and is profoundly personal, much like her other works. This is Brightman’s first studio album in five years and it was certainly worth the wait. The inventive entertainer is on point with every track on this incandescent album, singing with crystalline precision and fervour all at once. Brightman never over-sings, and avoids the cheeky pomp and circumstance of many of today’s modern pop stars. Instead, Brightman is calculated and the consummate professional.
Symphony opens with a succinct introductory track, entitled “Gothica,” that introduces us to the tapestry of sound we are about to partake in. From “Gothica,” we are treated to the stirring symphonic strains of the rock-edged “Fleurs Du Mal.” This track is one of my favourite tracks from the album and Brightman’s tones on the tune are downright scintillating and almost sexy. The effervescent rock guitars combine pleasingly with the strings, creating an idyllic rock opener to the album.
From “Fleurs Du Mal,” Symphony slows the pace and delves into the subtle title track. “Symphony” is actually a cover track, with the original performed by German band Silbermond in 2004. Brightman penned English lyrics for the tune and the result is an emotive, broad ballad. Following “Symphony,” is the affectionate “Canto Della Terra,” which is a duet with the marvellous Andrea Bocelli. This track is about as musically sound as one can find in any composition on a contemporary pop record, as Bocelli and Brightman meld skilfully together.
Following the duet with Bocelli, the ethereal beginnings of “Sanvean” take over and the tranquil strains of the strings coupled with Brightman’s radiant voice swell and retract gently. The song feels a lot like breathing, elegantly pulling in and out with melodious enchantment. “Sanvean” was penned by Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance and is sung in a pseudo-language like most of Gerrard’s pieces.
“Sanvean” gives way to “I Will Be With You,” the closest thing to a 1980s pop duet. Paul Stanley from KISS sings along on this track and the hand-waving tune is just the thing at this point. The song, also known as “Where the Lost Ones Go,” is a cover of Norwegian singer Sissel’s track from 2001. Stanley more than holds his own and the track is a pleasure.
Following the duet, “Schwere Traume” is an operatic throwback to more recognizable terrain for the soprano. The track is peaceful but not distractingly so, setting the stage for “Sarai Qui,” a tonal duet with Italian tenor Alessandro Safina. The track, which was originally a Faith Hill hit written by Diane Warren, features great up-swinging momentum as the two voices come together. Following that is “Storia D’Amore,” a tune that begins with classical strings. The song often sounds like the fluid music one finds in gorgeous gardens or other well-designed locations and is a calming reminder of the eclectic mix of this album.
“Let It Rain” is next. This song is archetypal pop, principally piano-driven and sung with lucidity from Brightman. The chorus is a reminder of love lost and pictures of a vagabond Sarah Brightman looking for a place to rest her head enter the mind. “Let It Rain” is one of the most personal-sounding of the tracks and is a probable single with its “ready for radio” tones.
“Attesa” follows the ballad with a more classical return, again swelling up with big strings and epic proportions. Brightman’s vocals here are tender and lucid, again proving her range. “Pasión” follows, which many consider to be the album’s signature piece. Released as a digital-only single in November of 2007, this duet with Fernando Lima is an excellent reminder of Brightman’s pedigree and her capability to melt with other voices. “Pasión” was used as a theme song for the Mexican soap opera of the same name and also appears on Lima’s album of the same name.
The album comes to a brisk close with “Running.” Released back in August of 2007, “Running” was used as the International Association of Athletics Federations Green Project Charity song. Brightman performed the song live in a breathtaking performance in Osaka at the opening ceremonies for the IAAF Championships. There is also a hidden track that is basically a reprise of “Fleur Du Mal.” Other versions of the album contain other bonus tracks.
All in all, Brightman’s Symphony is a courageous and diverse album of ambitious proportions. It continues to play in steady rotation at my home and likely will for quite some time. Each track brings something different to the album, but they all share the warmth and quality of Brightman’s unimpeachable voice and her ability to create musical magic. The duets are strong, as are her solo performances.
It helps matters, too, that the packaging for the CD is gorgeous, with shots of Brightman looking as elegant as she’s ever looked gracing gothic backdrops. Symphony is an excellent album that will please any long-time Brightman fan and will likely make several new ones. I think it is her best album to date.