21 Songs, 1 Hour 4 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Mastered for iTunes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Mastered for iTunes
TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

From MainlyPiano

KathyPiano7

"Music That Tells a Story" by Symphonex Orchestra is an amazing two-disc set created and produced by Peter Xifaras. It is the first of a planned four-part series, one album to be released each year between now and 2021.

Disc 1 includes the six-movement “Dreams in Bloom” plus eight other tracks that are arrangements of classical music and one composition by percussionist Scott Jackson. Disc 2 is the thirteen-part narrated story of “Dreams in Bloom” with that music from Disc 1 added to the narration. The author, The Living Pen, was inspired by the music to write the beautiful love story for “Dreams in Bloom,” which works perfectly with the music. Narrated by Joan Jacobs with her warm and expressive British accent, the words and music touch the heart.

The styles of music vary widely from classical songs dating back to the 13th century to contemporary classical to prog rock and beyond. This album definitely won’t fit neatly into any category - my favorite kind of music! Peter Xifaras is joined by six guest artists (including the author and the narrator of the story) who perform vocals (Felicia Farerre), synth (Trammell Starks), drums/percussion (Scott Jackson) and bass (Nic Xifaras); everything else was performed by Xifaras.

Disc 1 begins with the six-part “Dreams in Bloom.” “The Encounter” opens with a poignant cello solo with shimmering synth washes behind it. About a minute into the piece, the cello continues with driving percussion, electric guitar, keyboard and additional strings. This one really grabs your attention and holds on, and I defy anyone to sit still while listening to it! “Falling” begins with wind-chimes and then the strings return with a beautiful but sorrowful melody. “Garden By the Sea” has a somewhat Asian flavor with piano, strings, and light bells. “The Letter” is a graceful piano piece accompanied by strings and chimes that overflows with tenderness and love. “The Quest” has a very cinematic quality, expressing mystery and uncertainty. “Reunion” brings the story to a happy close - romantic and contented.

“Dinner With Friends” tells the story of the reunion of two friends twenty-five years after they lost touch. Energetic and playful, it’s a delightful interlude between “Dreams in Bloom” and the classical pieces that follow. The next three tracks are “Variations on a Theme of Tromboncino,” originally published in about 1500. Sung in Italian, these haunting contemporary variations include sweeping strings and piano behind the lovely vocals of Felicia Farerre. Two orchestrated “Gymnopedie Variations” are based Erik Satie’s famous solo piano work. I often think of “Three Gymnopedies” as the first new age piano pieces even though they were first published in 1888. Titled “Jaune” (Yellow) and “Blu,” both arrangements are true to the spirit of Satie’s original idea of “furniture music.” The two-part “Hevene Quene”is a modern adaptation of a composition written in the 13th century (composer unknown). The introduction is orchestral with wordless vocals and the main part of the piece has lilting vocals sung in Middle English with strings, percussion and acoustic guitar - a moving closing to Disc 1.

Peter Xifaras has created an exciting and fascinating work of musical art with "Music That Tells a Story"! Highly recommended!

A mesmerizing sound collage

CandiceMichelle1

Symphonex Orchestra is a concept project by musician and composer Peter Xifaras, who originally released his debut album, Appassionato, in 2000. Titled Music That Tells A Story, Xifaras’ latest release is a double album comprised of 27 compositions, of which he aptly describes as “a collection of orchestral adventures that have inspired authors to put pen to paper, writing words to the images that this music evokes.” Joined throughout by a handful of guest artists, the classical-centric compositions range from modernly sophisticated with distinct electronica and world flavors to more traditional orchestrations that possess a cinematically sentimental flair.

Opening with a piece from the "Dreams in Bloom" set, this an instrumental collection of six compositions was inspired by a beautiful love story. Additionally, disc two includes introductory narrations by Joan Jacobs to accompany each of their instrumental counterparts. The outstanding first cut in this set, entitled “The Encounter”, is a robust and dramatic foray into cinematic electronica. Featuring a slick beat and bassline accentuated by classical strings, the chic composition is molded in a similar vein to material from Kevin Keller’s La Strada or Prequell’s The Future Comes Before albums.

Another noteworthy piece in the first of five sets is “Garden by the Sea”, which opens with glistening wind chimes. Elegantly cinematic with brushes of piano, viola and bell-tones throughout, the composition’s seemingly East Asian bent aptly brings-to-mind lovely images of a pastel-painted Japanese garden located in a mountainous mist.

"Variations a on Theme of Tromboncino" is derived from the song “Ostinato vo’ seguire” by Bartolomeo Tromboncino, which was originally published circa 1500. Beautifully sung by Felicia Farerre in Italian, this modern rendition masterfully fuses classical renaissance with a contemporary-pop style that reminds me a bit of composer Paul Schwartz’ Aria and State of Grace projects.

And finally, my absolute favorite piece on the album is the gorgeous “Hevene Quene: Edi Beo Thu”, of which perfectly concludes the first disc. A modern adaptation based on an anonymous composition composed in the 13th century, the piece is sung in Middle English and features ethereal vocals that are somewhat reminiscent of Sarah Brightman’s. Enchantingly lush, ethereal and gently rhythmic, the piece incorporates ethnic percussion woven among electronic programming and classical orchestration, while bearing signatures of Celtic, classical and medieval music.

A mesmerizing sound collage of classical, contemporary, global and electronica motifs, I find Peter Xifaras’ production and arranging skills to be highly impressive, as well as his willingness to branch-out and experiment creatively to be most incredibly refreshing!

One of 2018's most interesting and inspiring releases

BT Fasmer

Listening to Symphonex Orchestra’s album «Music That Tells A Story» got me thinking about author Hans Christian Andersen’s famous quote «Where words fail, music speaks.» Here the music adds an extra dimension to a beautifully told love story, and some other inspiring tales as well. It makes it into a fascinating and highly original album with almost endless replay possibilities.

Guitarist/composer Peter Xifaras is the creative force behind the Symphonex Orchestra. Peter’s body of work ranges from classical to contemporary.

Where to start
Anyone who is into audiobooks (or movies for that matter) knows how sound and music is being used to make a story more engaging. On «Music That Tells a Story» Peter takes it one step further. Here the music comes first (on disc 1) , while the story is told afterwards (on disc 2). The layout is the same as on Enigma’s highly successful album «The Fall of the Rebel Angel». I think it is a wonderful effect, and it adds context and substance to both music and story. I found myself going back and forth, always finding new and interesting perspectives.

First out is the «Dreams in Bloom» section, starting with «The Encounter». In the story the woman meets the man during a dramatic incident in her hometown, and he saves her. The song has a great rhythm and an impressive orchestral arrangement. You can feel the tension building. «Falling» is a contrast to this. The main character is glad to be alive, but that is not much comfort when looking at how much she has lost. The song portrays this feeling beautifully.

Garden by the Sea
In the «Garden by the sea» things are starting to look better, yet it is far from perfect. «The Letter» adds context to the relationship between her and him. I love the Eastern influences on this track. The story develops, and it is turning into an intriguing tale of doubt and miscommunication on «The Quest», then ending with «The Reunion». I’m not going to give any spoilers, because this is a story you have to experience for yourself. Once again the orchestral arrangement is amazing, starting and ending with wind chimes.

«Dinner with Friends» is a playful and bubbly song. Peter tells that the song is inspired by a reunion of friends who had not seen each other for more than 25 years. The song reflects the feeling of joy, love and good company. If that is not an inspired song, I don’t know what is.

Theme of Tromboncino
My favorite part of the album is the three versions of “Theme of Tromboncino”. These contemporary variations sung in Italian derive from the song Ostinato vo’ seguire by Bartolomeo Tromboncino, published circa 1500. #1 has a wonderful laid-back guitar and violin arrangement, while #2 has a nice pop sound. On #3 the piano has center stage. The song has a very well made build-up, making it into a worthy end for this section. I also love the two Gymnopedie Variations, based on two piano pieces composed by French composer Erik Satie.

In conclusion: «Music that Tells a Story» by Symphonex Orchestra is a hybrid release; it is not just an album, and it is not just a story. This rare 2-in-1 design makes it into one of 2018's most interesting and inspiring New Age music releases. Highly recommended!

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