Albums of sacred orchestral music are rare in the New Age music and ambient genres. Peter Calandra’s new release “Carpe Noctem” is a collection of orchestral music with choir, inspired by liturgical texts from Latin Mass. It is a bold and ambitious release, but I’m thrilled to report that it offers a fascinating and truly remarkable listening experience! It is for sure one of 2018’s best neo classical albums.
Peter Calandra is a New York City based composer and pianist. He is most well-known for his work composing music for film and television as well as conducting and playing piano in Broadway and Off Broadway productions. His album “The Road Home” won One World Music Radio 2017 “Best Contemporary Instrumental Album” Award. About “Carpe Noctem” Peter says: “When I was in college and singing in choir, we sang quite a bit of sacred music by the great classical composers with the text in Latin. It was always inspirational to learn and perform this music. Since then, I’ve always wanted to write music for choir and orchestra with lyrics inspired by Latin liturgical texts“
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First track on “Carpe Noctem” is “Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)”. It starts with a gentle pad, followed by light orchestral arrangement. The concept of Lamb of God appears at John 1:29, where John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” On “Agnus Dei” we hear an angelic choir sing the holy words. I like how gentle and tasteful the arrangement is. There’s no need to be loud when the message itself is so powerful. It makes me think of classical paintings of the sacrificial lamb, all covered in divine light.
It is not easy arranging and programming orchestral arrangements. Today artists have excellent tools available, but it is not just about the sound of the individual instrument. The whole orchestra must have the right expression. I think that Peter Calandra has done a fantastic job in this respect. He has created a sound that shows his in-depth understanding and love for orchestral music. It is at the same time refreshingly ambient and modern.
Seize the Night
On the title track, “Carpe Noctem (Seize the Night)”, darkness is falling, but you can sense that there is life and movement everywhere. The song has a wonderful nerve. This is a now-or-never moment that has to be seized, right away. It is a very rewarding listen. It is still night when next track, “Aurora Scanderé – (Dawn Rising)”, starts. But suddenly the day’s first rays of light illuminates the land. The song has a wonderful build-up. With the massive sound of a full orchestra, the song ends magnificently. But it is far from over; history’s perhaps most significant event is up next…
Peter Calandra’s “Crucifixus (Crucifixion)” portrays the suffering and death of Christ in a way that’s both beautiful and gruesome. In my opinion Calandra is on par with the classical masters. The trumpet melody and the singing angels are just right. It is not overdone in any way. It is slow, contemplative and utterly sad. Then there’s a slow shift in atmosphere as “Art Vitae (Art is life)” comes on. From death and destruction comes life, creation and art. It is a wonderful message told by an angelic choir, backed by harps.
Light and darkness
Looking at the beautiful cover artwork, we get a hint that light is an important keyword. Next track is “Illuminare – (Illumination)”. It is actually possible to play the sound of light. Close your eyes while listening to this song and you will see a warm glow before your inner eye. Yet again Peter shows that he is a master in creating powerful orchestral melodies. The ending is just breathtakingly beautiful. Classical masters like Bach, Smetana or Grieg couldn’t have done it any better.
My favorite track on the album is “Invictus Bellator. (Unconquered Warrior)”. I love the slow opening, gentle piano and choir. It is like the warrior is stepping out of the darkness. Perhaps it is an avenging angel, on a mission to punish sinners? The song is nothing short of a masterpiece! Rarely have I hear a better combination of classical music and ambient, a perfect unity of old and new.
“Mane Pacificae (Peaceful Morning)” has a beautiful, slow trumpet solo backed by orchestra. After the previous hard-hitting song, this piece has very much the sound of “the morning after”, as if the fog of war is lifting and the unconquered warrior’s destruction becomes visible for all to see. The album ends with “Luna Benedictus (Moon Payer)”,”Sacrum Spera (Sacred Trust)” and “Spiritus Mundi (World Spirit)”. It is a typical ending for classical music; it fades out with moments of silence in between. This is a time to think and reflect. The flute segment in the end of “Spiritus Mundi” is beautiful beyond words.
In conclusion: “Carpe Noctem” by Peter Calandra is in every way a magnificent album! It is perfect for reading, thinking or creative work, and it offers almost endless replay possibilities. The neo classical sound gives it wide appeal, and the orchestral arrangement is spotless. If you for any reason need to “seize the night”, “Carpe Noctem” will be great company.
Score: 95/100 – See how I rate music here
Make sure to visit Peter Calandra’s homepage where you can sample and order the album.