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John Fleming's classical CD picks: Anna Netrebko, Seraphic Fire, Atlanta Symphony, Lang Lang

Anna Netrebko

Album: Anna Netrebko Live at the Metropolitan Opera (Deutsche Grammophon)

Why we care: At first I was disappointed to discover that this consists of excerpts of recordings of Met performances featuring Netrebko, instead of fresh material, but the Russian soprano is so fine that my reservations evaporated, right from her luminous entrance on the first track from I Puritani.

Why we like it: Netrebko starred in the Met's season-opening production of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, and this recording documents her roles in other works by the bel canto master, Don Pasquale and Lucia di Lammermoor. I also like her scenes from Romeo et Juliette.

Reminds us of: The eternal quest for a superstar diva. Is Netrebko the one?

Download this: Ya ne budu — Kak solnca za goroy from Prokofiev's War and Peace

Grade: A-

Seraphic Fire

Album: Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem (SFM)

Why we care: Seraphic Fire recorded the German Requiem at USF's new concert hall during the Professional Choral Institute in June. This was a collaboration between the Miami-based chorus and 30 aspiring professional choristers under the direction of artistic director Patrick Quigley and James K. Bass, a member of the group and USF director of choral studies.

Why we like it: The performance features Brahms' four-hand piano score (played by Justin Blackwell and Scott Allen Jarrett). This uncluttered approach yields a brisk, refreshing clarity. Excellent solos by soprano Teresa Wakim and baritone Paul Max Tipton.

Reminds us of: Brahms' chamber music

Download these: Herr, lehre doch mich and Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit

Grade: A

Atlanta Symphony

Album: Theofanidis: Symphony No. 1 (ASO Media)

Why we care: Christopher Theofanidis (born 1967 in Dallas) is the composer of the moment. His opera Heart of a Soldier premiered in September at San Francisco Opera, and now his first symphony gets its premiere recording by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which has championed Theofanidis under music director Robert Spano.

Why we like it: The Atlanta brass and percussion get a workout in Theofanidis' tuneful, accessible symphony on the second release on the orchestra's own label. However, the real prize here is mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor in Peter Lieberson's Neruda Songs.

Reminds us of: The late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, singing her late husband's song cycle.

Download this: Neruda Songs

Grade: B

Lang Lang

Album: Liszt: My Piano Hero (Sony Classical)

Why we care: This year is the bicentennial of Liszt's birth, and the homages to the original piano superstar are piling up, including notable recent recordings by Lisa de la Salle, Nelson Freire and Marc-André Hamelin. But the one sure to get the most attention is this release by today's most celebrated romantic virtuoso, Lang Lang. It's not a bad selection of Lisztmania, from dazzling showpieces like La Campanella to the Piano Concerto No. 1 with Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Why we like it: Lang Lang gets knocked for being all flash and fireworks, but he's also an interesting young artist. Liszt suits him.

Reminds us of: Other celebrity pianists, such as Van Cliburn (My Favorite Liszt)

Download these: Grand Galop chromatique and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15

Grade: B+

John Fleming's classical CD picks: Anna Netrebko, Seraphic Fire, Atlanta Symphony, Lang Lang 10/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 22, 2011 4:30am]

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