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Listen to this: Osvaldo Golijov, Stephen Hough, Harmonie Ensemble/New York, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Album: Strauss: Ein Heldenleben (CSO Resound)

In stores: Now on iTunes; June 29 at

Why we care: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra made an iconic RCA recording of the Strauss tone poem Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) conducted by Fritz Reiner in 1954. Now it revisits the work under Bernard Haitink.

Why we like it: From the fabled Chicago brass to concertmaster Robert Chen, the soloist in Strauss' ode to his wife, Pauline, this is an opulent performance. But why didn't they make an all-Strauss disc, filling it out with Till Eulenspiegel or Don Juan? The second piece on the CD is Webern's Im Sommerwind.

Reminds us of: Reiner's Strauss, but with better sound

Download this: Hero's Companion (track 3)

Grade: B+

Harmonie Ensemble/ New York

Album: Gershwin by Grofe (Harmonia Mundi)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Paul Whiteman sought to "make a lady out of jazz'' in the 1920s. His band featured brilliant arrangements by Ferde Grofe (known to classical listeners for his Grand Canyon Suite). On this disc, Steven Richman conducts Harmonie Ensemble/New York in music written by Gershwin and arranged by Grofe, ranging from "symphonic jazz'' (Rhapsody in Blue, with pianist Lincoln Mayorga) to show tunes like That Certain Feeling and Somebody Loves Me.

Why we like it: These performances capture what it must have been like to hear Gershwin shows such as Tip-Toes or Lady, Be Good.

Reminds us of: Old musicals on late-night TV

Download these: Rhapsody in Blue, I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise, Fascinating Rhythm

Grade: A

Stephen Hough

Album: Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos (Hyperion)

In stores: Now

Why we care: One of my all-time favorite concerts was when Stephen Hough played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Florida Orchestra in 2008. Hough (sporting emerald-green shoes) gave a sensational performance, and it was fascinating to hear a concerto that is so unfamiliar compared with its famous predecessor. Here the Englishman plays all three Tchaikovsky piano concertos plus the Concert Fantasia with the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Osmo Vanska.

Why we like it: Hough has virtuoso technique to spare, but he also brings a thoughtful approach to these romantic warhorses.

Reminds us of: How fast piano can be played

Download this: Piano Concerto No. 1

Grade: A

Osvaldo Golijov

Album: La Pasion Segun San Marcos (Deutsche Grammophon)

In stores: Now

Why we care: What would Bach think? Golijov, an Argentine composer of Jewish extraction now living in Massachusetts, marked the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach's death with a passion of his own, The Passion of Saint Mark. It's set to a wildly eclectic score of salsa, Afro-Cuban jazz, flamenco, tango and Brazilian capoeira, among other Latin styles.

Why we like it: Maria Guinand conducts on two CDs; also included is a DVD of a Dutch production conducted by Robert Spano. Soprano Jessica Rivera (soloist in Eucaristia) and others are featured in both audio and video versions.

Reminds us of: John Adams' El Nino, for its cross-cultural influences

Download these: Por que?, Judas, Eucaristia

Grade: A

Listen to this: Osvaldo Golijov, Stephen Hough, Harmonie Ensemble/New York, Chicago Symphony Orchestra 06/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 12:18pm]
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