Hear and Now: Five Must-Have Vocal Recordings

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Whether you're based in New York or New South Wales, there's plenty of opportunity to get excited about some of the today's hottest vocal acts this season. Below are five glowing new vocal albums with chances to catch each recording's star singers in Manhattan.

Andreas Scholl: Bach Cantatas (Decca)
The English Concert (Oct. 20 at Zankel Hall)

It’s a good season for Germany with three gold-standard recordings coming from three of the country’s native singers. Countertenor Andreas Scholl takes the stage of Zankel Hall tonight at 7:30 pm with Baroque and rollers the English Concert under conductor, organist and harpsichordist Harry Bicket for songs by Purcell (some of which factored into Scholl’s fine 2010 disc, O Solitude). However, Scholl made sound waves earlier last week with his newest disc for Decca, an elegant collection of Bach cantatas recorded with the Kammerorchester Basel. Album opener Ich habe genung is particularly exquisite and understated, a work to cling to as the months get colder. 

Details on Andreas Scholl at Carnegie Hall>>
Bach Cantatas
is available at ArkivMusic.com>>

Emma Kirkby: Orpheus in England (BIS)
Music at Madison (Oct. 23)
The regal queen of early music, Dame Emma, entered 2011 with a subtle yet engrossing disc of songs and lute solos by John Dowland and Henry Purcell, performing with lutenist Jakob Lindberg and upholding her regal mantle in over an hour of early music that never falters with pedigreed phrasing and heartfelt expression tempered with period nuances. The pair brings its act to the serene Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church as part of Music on Madison this Sunday, mixing British standards with Italian song of the 17th Century to delight saints and sinners alike. It’s also your only chance to catch Dame Emma in Gotham this season.

Details on Emma Kirkby and Jakob Lindberg at Music at Madison>>
Orpheus in England
is available at ArkivMusic.com>>

Mojca Erdmann: Mozart’s Garden (Deutsche-Grammophon)
Don Giovanni
(Through Nov. 11 at the Metropolitan Opera)

It may be autumn in New York, but it’s springtime for Hamburg-born soprano Mojca Erdmann, who made a promising Met debut last week as Zerlina in Michael Grandage’s new Don Giovanni, vocally shining in spots where the production stays too much in the dark. Her honeyed disc for DG features Zerlina’s arias among tunes from Idomeneo, Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte and Zaïde, but also loops in complimentary works by Salieri, Paisiello (whose “Il mio ben quando verrà” echoes Zaïde’s showstopping “Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben”), Holzbauer and Bach. Andrea Marcon leads Basel’s La Cetra Baroque Orchestra in nuanced accompaniment.

Details on Mojca Erdmann in the Met’s Don Giovanni>>
Mozart’s Garden
is available at ArkivMusic.com>>

Anonymous 4: Secret Voices (Harmonia Mundi)
Music Before 1800 (Oct. 23) and Symphony Space (November 12)

Refined and reverent, female quartet Anonymous 4 breathes life into the Codex Las Huelgas, an anthology of polyphonic and monophonic chant from the 13th and early 14th Centuries developed in a Spanish convent for royal and noble women, founded by Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s son-in-law. The fab 4 give greater architecture to the liturgical works, constructing an arc that begins at first light and ends with night, forsaking tempting vocal pyrotechnics to afford the words and music the opportunity to shine on their own terms. The ensemble hits up New York twice this fall, first appearing with the always-satisfying Music Before 1800 series on October 23 at Corpus Christi Church, and returning the following month to perform as part of the Fifth Festival of Universal Sacred Music at Symphony Space.

Details on Anonymous 4 at Music Before 1800>>
Details on Anonymous 4 at Symphony Space>>
Secret Voices
is available at ArkivMusic.com>>

René Pape: Wagner (Deutsche Grammophon)
(Nov. 29–Dec. 28 at the Metropolitan Opera)

Continuing a thread briefly explored in his first recital disc, Gods, Kings and Demons and picked up with last year’s Mariinksy recording of Parsifal, Pape asserts himself as one of our generation’s finest Wagnerian interpreters with his second solo album, which immediately asserts itself with a moving and moody “Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind!” from Die Walküre. Delivering a stirring combination of emotional gravitas and vocal heft in tracks like Tannhäuser’s “O du mein holder Abendstern” and Lohengrin’s “Gott grüss euch, iebe Männer von Brabant,” Pape is in good hands with Daniel Barenboim leading the Staatskapelle Berlin. New Yorkers get a more devilish side of the Dresden baritone when he comes to town next month, reprising his role of Mephistopheles in the Met’s new production of Faust.

Details on René Pape in the Met’s Faust>>
René Pape: Wagner is available at ArkivMusic.com>>