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Teacher-Composers in a Class by Themselves

The first opera to deal with actual historical figures has a variety of musical appeals, all well presented in this Netherlands Opera production, but the staging (abstract sets and a costume designer gone mad) leaves a lot to be desired. Cynthia Hayman, Brigitte Baileys and Michael Chance perform well in leading roles, and the period instruments of Les Talens Lyriques provide idiomatic accompaniment.

Anamer Castrello: Latin American Hits

This month, mezzo-soprano Castrello, one of Washington's most distinctive singers, is intensely involved (for the In Series) in torch songs by Harold Arlen.

She also performs in Mozart operas and tours nationwide with her program "Soul of Latin America." That program, devoted to song classics from south of the border, is the inspiration of this, her first CD, a provocative and beautifully sung mixture of many Latin American flavors, from the bouncy "Cachita," with chorus and dance band, to the nostalgic "En Mi Viejo San Juan" and the sultry "Besame Mucho." There is even "It's Impossible," sung in perfectly phrased English. More information on the singer is available at http://www.acastrello.org .

Biber: Missa Christi Resurgentis (Harmonia Mundi, with text and translation).

This is an Easter celebration in high baroque style, with two choruses and festive brass -- well performed by Andrew Manze and the English Consort.

The Waltz: Ecstasy and Mysticism (Archiv, with texts and translations).

An interesting mixture of familiar and exotic sounds. Concerto Koln and Sarband, European and Middle Eastern early music groups collaborate on a survey of interactions between European and Turkish music in the late 18th and early 19th centuries: Mozart's German dances with "Turkish" percussion, as well as music by Beethoven and others in a similar style. There are also examples of Turkish music inspired by European waltzes.

De Temps et de L'instant (Harmonia Mundi).

Jordi Savall and members of his family perform an eclectic program rooted in medieval music but drawing on many other stylistically compatible sources. The performances are highly effective.

S hall I Compare Thee? Choral Songs on Shakespeare Texts (Cedille).

The emphasis in this charming, beautifully sung collection is on living composers, some of whom choose texts not usually set to music.


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