"Earthsong & Stardance" is an amazing "Symphony Of The Third Millenium" created to celebrate composer/multi-instrumentalist Gandalf's 30th anniversary as a performing artist. It is also "a tribute to the wonderful variety and beauty of the universe, to the miracle of all life and being" (quoted from the liner notes). Gandalf appears on acoustic and electric guitars, saz, electric sitar, piano, organ, keyboards, mallets, and orchestral percussion; he is also half of the Sanskrit choir. He performs with several other artists in addition to the Corso Wien Orchestra and the previously-mentioned Sanskrit choir that sings selections from the Bhagavat Gita in its original language. The music ranges from big cinematic orchestral works to more delicate solos and small ensembles to chants. The work is divided into five movements that are further divided into two to five smaller sections, but the pieces flow together as a seamless whole. It's impossible to put this album into a categorial box, but there are definite classical, world, rock, film soundtrack, and new age influences on this most impressive album.
The first movement is called "The Unfolding of the Worlds." It begins with atmospheric sounds and a single note setting a simple rhythm on the piano. The two deep male voices of the choir chant in Sanskrit as a variety of instruments begin to paint the colors of the gentle and magical landscape. Part 2 continues as a tranquil instrumental that features piano, cello, oboe, and guitars along with the Corso Wien Orchestra. The second movement is "About the Miracle of Life." Full of wonder and beauty, it features a poignant acoustic guitar passage that is a highlight of the album. The third movement, "About the Beauty of Being," features Merike Hilmar on cello and Gandalf on piano. Uplifting and optimistic, some parts are intimate while others have a cinematic sweep. "The Paths of Man" begins with a repeated single note on the piano that continues as other instruments join in to add to the color palette. The "Paths" are varied, but all are sunny and very pleasant; some are solitary while others are full and vibrant. "The Great Ceremony" is the fifth movement and contains a wonderful variety of musical styles and world instruments that create a celebratory and joyous mood. Strongly rhythmic yet gentle and warm, you may find yourself dancing to this one as this most-enjoyable album comes to a close!
"Earthsongs & Stardance" is my favorite (so far) of Gandalf's many albums, and I strongly recommend it. It is available from Real Music, Amazon, and iTunes as well as outlets where Real Music’s selections are featured.