(25 October 2004) Five years and a multitude of projects later, Aria 3-Metamorphosis (Koch Records (USA) KOC-CD-5785, 2004) is the latest in Paul Schwartz' collection of classical contemporary crossover albums. As with the two prior Schwartz albums in the Aria series, it features soprano vocals by Broadway's Tony-nominated vocalist Rebecca Luker.
The new project fuses contemporary instrumentation and classic operatic melodies. Hypnotic vocals, waves of orchestral sound and fascinating grooves combine to make a new sound: emotional, sensual and powerful. It was conceived to feel as live and as real as possible, and with that in mind, prominently features a large string orchestra, recorded in the extraordinary acoustic of Abby Road Studio #1 in London.
Paul Schwartz's albums are always luminous and beautiful. While the so-called Classical Crossover music is more popular than ever thanks to artists like Josh Groban and Sarah Brightman, Paul Schwartz's work ranks among the best in the genre.Fans of the two previous Aria albums will adore Aria 3: Metamorphosis (Koch Records (USA) KOC-CD-5785, 2004). In fact, Aria 3 is Paul Schwartz's finest offering in the series yet. As lead soloist on most of the pieces, Rebecca Luker turns in a spine-chilling performance. Not only is her voice flawlessly gorgeous, but she also manages to wring seemingly boundless emotion from the lyrical content.
Rebecca's voice combined with lush orchestration and subtle electronic percussion conspire together to open the doors of heaven. Paul's takes on Handel and Monteverdi pieces are perfectly executed. Handel is given a sensual makeover in the choral track "Furioso." With dramatic panache, Paul Schwartz's adaption adds ferocity and intensity to this well-known piece.
Another intriguing piece is "Ballo." With its humoresque sonic motion, plucking pizzicato and undulating synth textures, "Ballo" would be welcome in any Cirque de Soliel production. Track "9," entitled "Farewell" is majesty embodied. Breathlessly rushing arpeggiated synths, entrancing percussion, and soul-stirring strings rise in beauty to accompany Rebecca Luker's golden voice.
"Ascension" is also a highly memorable adaptation. Strangely poignant and spiritual at the same time, "Ascension" is a perfect example of the heights to which music can move us. The special trial of instrumental "Metamorphosis" tracks rival the vocal tracks in intensity and loveliness. Each of the three tracks named after a female from Greek myth who endured some sort of metamorphosis.
"Metamorphosis 1: Arachne" is a "spidery" piano-based work that is reminiscent of the best work by Michael Nyman. Both deeply melancholy and profoundly romantic, the song demonstrates Paul Schwartz's technical mastery. Totally unforgettable. "Metamorphosis 2: Danae" actually invokes the sense of mystery of Zeus' visit to the mother of legendary Perseus. "Metamorphosis 3: Cynae" is a radiantly dark wonder of sound that creates a sense of longing and loss.
The Aria series has remained very popular on the music charts, and it is no wonder. With Aria 3: Metamorphosis, Paul Schwartz has again succeded in bridging the gap between the modern and historical while
adding a special touch of mystery and passion to the mix. It would be wonderful to see this series continue into the future indefinitely.--Justin Elswick in Provo, Utah