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Listen to this: Four albums to check out

Simone Dinnerstein and Tift Merritt

Album: Night (Sony Classical)

Why we care: This is an intriguing collaboration between Merritt, a pop and folk singer-songwriter, and Dinnerstein, a pianist whose Bach recordings in particular are luminous. They give a concert Saturday at the Straz Center in Tampa.

Why we like it: Inevitably, a singer tends to overshadow her pianist, but that's okay, because Merritt is an expressive, rootsy stylist, even in classical repertoire like Dido's Lament. Dinnerstein is a deluxe partner, and gets her full due in Daniel Felsenfeld's The Cohen Variations on Suzanne for piano.

Reminds us of: Some of Dawn Upshaw's inventive projects, with a little Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris thrown in

Download these: Colors, The Cohen Variations, Feel of the World

Grade: A-

Polkastra

Album: "I Do": The Wedding Album (Ancalagon Records)

Why we care: Violinist Lara St. John is a free spirit, and she has put together a group of first-rate musicians for a zany wedding band. For luxury casting, you can't beat soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian in Ave Maria or David Krakauer on klezmer clarinet.

Why we like it: In 16 tracks divided into three segments — the ceremony, the party, the end of the night — Polkastra is obviously having a blast in what feels like the most good-natured wedding ever. There are witty takes on nuptial standards by Wagner, Elgar, Mendelssohn (Shotgun Wedding March) and Pachelbel (Canon in D, Mostly). Daniel Lapp makes like Chet Baker (or Brian Wilson) in My Buddy.

Reminds us of: Spike Jones, Pink Martini

Download these: J.S. Bachelor Party, Celtic Wedding Medley, Napoloni

Grade: A

Minnesota Orchestra

Album: Sibelius: Symphonies No. 1 & 4 (Bis)

Why we care: There is a cultural wreck in Minnesota, and this CD is a poignant message from the rubble. The Minnesota Orchestra and its Finnish music director, Osmo Vanska, made this, the second recording in its Sibelius cycle, in May and June. But then came the contract dispute that has stopped the music for the entire 2012-13 season. It's hard to imagine the 109-year orchestra (which I grew up hearing as a kid in the Twin Cities) ever being the same, given the bitterness between musicians and the board and management.

Why we like it: Vanska and Minnesota set the 21st century standard for Sibelius.

Reminds us of: Minnesota's recording for Bis of Sibelius Symphonies No. 2 & 5

Download this: Symphony No. 4

Grade: B

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

Album: Lorraine (Yarlung Records)

Why we care: Lieberson was the great lost American singer. She died too young, of breast cancer at 52 in 2006. The only time I saw her was in John Harbison's The Great Gatsby at the Metropolitan Opera — she played Myrtle Wilson — in 1999. There are other Lieberson recordings, but this new one is excellent, from a 2003 performance of the Bach cantata 199 Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (My Heart Swims in Blood) with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Why we like it: Bach was a specialty of Lieberson's, and her dark mezzo sound is haunting. The CD also includes a vigorous account of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4.

Reminds us of: Her 2003 recording of Bach cantatas on the Nonesuch label

Download this: Bach cantata 199

Grade: A

Listen to this: Four albums to check out 03/30/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 11:37am]
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