Sleep Softly - L'Ensemble Agora (The Secret Mountain)

 Sleep Softly album cover

Sleep Softly album cover

Artist: L'Ensemble Agora (The Secret Mountain)

Album: Sleep Softly: Classical Lullabies by Brahms, Schubert, Satie, Debussy...

Age Range: 0 through 3

Description: The latest book/CD combo from Canadian publisher The Secret Mountain turns to music decades -- OK, mostly centuries -- old to produce a classical lullaby album.  L'Ensemble Agora is a French sextet known for setting children's literature to music, so they know their way around playing for kids, though one would hope that in a concert setting they're trying to engage their audience, rather than put them to sleep.

There are dozens -- hundreds? -- of classical lullaby albums, so what's distinctive about this one? Well, these are mostly short pieces (in some cases mere excerpts, I believe), and many of them are specifically lullabies (as opposed to relaxing pieces of classical music).  It's also distinctive in that it's a book, though the book is geared more towards the adult than the 18-month-old who just won't fall asleep -- Elodie Nouhen's detailed, dream-like illustrations will be appreciated more by older kids and adults, and the explanatory notes are definitely for adults.  I suppose that's not surprising, as that target audience of 18-month-olds can't read, so why provide kid-focused liner notes?  But in its chief task, of calming and reassuring the child (and, to some extent, the parent), Sleep Softly succeeds -- everything else is just bonus.  Recommended.