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Listen to this: Renee Fleming; Philippe Quint; Yuja Wang; 'The Sound of Music'

Renée Fleming

Album: Verismo (Decca)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Fleming delves into the rich lode of post-Verdi Italian opera in arias and scenes by Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Cilea and others, with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano, conducted by Marco Armiliato. The soprano will sing selections from the album in her Opera Tampa concert Jan. 26.

Why we like it: This is heart-on-the-sleeve stuff, performed by the reigning American diva, more known for her refinement in Mozart and Richard Strauss than verismo blood and guts. But her sumptuous voice and passionate commitment carry the day triumphantly.

Reminds us of: A cross between Renata Scotto and Kiri Te Kanawa

Download these: Ore dolci e divine (from La Rondine), Tutto tramonta (from Fedora)

Grade: A

Philippe Quint

Album: Korngold: Violin Concerto (Naxos)

In stores: Now

Why we care: The Violin Concerto is gloriously kitschy and overflowing with themes from Korngold's movie scores, such as Juarez, Anthony Adverse and The Prince and the Pauper.

Why we like it: There has been no shortage lately of recordings of the concerto by virtuosos from James Ehnes to Nikolaj Znaider. Now Quint adds his lyrical style to the field, well supported by Mexico's Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria under Carlos Miguel Prieto. Orchestras on the lookout for fresh concert openers ought to check out the Schauspiel Overture, which Korngold composed as a teenager. Also on the CD is his Much Ado About Nothing suite.

Reminds us of: John Williams in Vienna

Download this: Schauspiel Overture

Grade: A

Yuja Wang

Album: Sonatas and Etudes (Deutsche Grammophon)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Here's the latest big new Chinese piano talent on DG following Yundi Li (dropped by the label last year) and Lang Lang. Wang, 22, aims high in her debut recital CD and takes on a pair of works associated with all the greats: Chopin's Second Sonata, with its iconic "Funeral March,'' and Liszt's massive Sonata. She also plays Ligeti Etudes and Scriabin's Second Sonata.

Why we like it: Wang's technique is awesome, and her Chopin holds your attention — no small feat for such familiar music. Ligeti's Etude 4: Fanfares is a jazzy little tour de force.

Reminds us of: A young Martha Argerich (or so her fans say)

Download this: Etude 4: Fanfares

Grade: B+

The Sound of Music

Album: The Sound of Music: 50th Anniversary Edition (Masterworks Broadway)

In stores: Now

Why we care: It was 50 years ago that The Sound of Music opened on Broadway and, with the death of Oscar Hammerstein II nine months later, brought down the curtain on the golden age of musical theater. To hear Mary Martin as Maria and Theodore Bikel as Von Trapp is a kick.

Why we like it: The singing of Martin and the rest of the original stage cast has a more operatic quality than Julie Andrews and her mates in the movie. The bonus tracks include a priceless spoof by Andrews and Carol Burnett.

Reminds us of: Why the movie is what everyone remembers

Download these: Do-Re-Mi, Edelweiss, From Switzerland: The Pratt Family

Grade: B

Listen to this: Renee Fleming; Philippe Quint; Yuja Wang; 'The Sound of Music' 12/19/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 19, 2009 3:30am]
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