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Album Review: Quiet Beauty
James Todd
Cover image of the album Quiet Beauty by James Todd
Quiet Beauty
James Todd
2005 / Scottish Fox Music
58 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
I don’t think there is a more soul-stirring combination of musical instruments than piano and cello, and the duo of James Todd (cellos) and William Morse (piano) really underscores that point. Both artists are music professors with lifetimes devoted to music. A seasoned studio and freelance musician in many genres of music, this is James Todd’s first album of original compositions (for two cellos and piano), and I have my fingers crossed that it will be the beginning of a long series. I hesitate to refer to much contemporary music as classical, but Quiet Beauty would certainly fall into that category, blended with the new age approach to soothing, relaxing music to calm the mind and refresh the spirit. Subtitled “Heartsongs for Cello and Piano,” each of the ten pieces is an exquisite gem that expresses a deeply-felt emotion. The pace of the entire CD is consistent enough to hold a steady mood, but the pieces are individual and deceptively complex, allowing for many deep listens without a loss of interest. My only warning is that this is a difficult CD to wake up with - I kept snuggling down in the covers with a smile on my face and going back to sleep!

Quiet Beauty begins with the gorgeous “New Day,” a piece full of the hope and optimism of a fresh start. The gentle, leisurely tempo of the piece evokes sighs and thoughts of, “Oh, that’s nice!” “Breeze in G” is a sweet breath of springtime. Dedicated to Todd’s mother who always asked before his symphony performances if the music was going to be pretty, this piece exceeds “pretty” by a long shot. “I Wonder” is a musical daydream - warm and cozy, with gentle anticipation. The title track appears as an ensemble piece and also closes the CD as a piano solo. Expressing the inherent eloquence and depth of beauty, especially the “Quiet Beauty” within each of us, this piece has the power to melt the most hardened of hearts. “Shadows of My Mind” is a graceful dance of emotions that come together at the end, bringing a peaceful resolution to the complexities of the shadows of the mind. If I had to choose my favorite piece on this album, it would probably be “Esperance (Hope),” a piece dedicated to Todd’s father. Strong yet tender and sensitive, it’s a wonderful tribute. I also really love “Mistique,” which is a bit darker, reflecting on being lost in thought and introspection, “as though wandering through a heavy mist trying to find ones bearings.” The solo piano arrangement of “Quiet Beauty” is the perfect ending for this exceptional album.

Quiet Beauty is an album that truly lives up to its title. Sure to become a classic, it is available from jtoddcello.com, cdbaby.com, amazon.com, iTunes, and many other online retailers. You won’t be disappointed!
March 18, 2008
This review has been tagged as:
Other Solo Instruments
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