New Releases from Joyce DiDonato, Angela Hewitt and Wendy Warner

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FREE Download: Joyce DiDonato singing “Ombra mai fu” from Xerxes

This week's featured albums include a crowd-sourced greatest-hits collection from mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, Fauré piano music from Angela Hewitt, and cello pieces by Haydn and Myslivecek, played by Wendy Warner.

Joyce DiDonato
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More like a pop singer-songwriter than an opera diva, Joyce DiDonato is known to maintain a dialogue with her fans through her blog and social media channels. For this greatest-hits collection, the mezzo-soprano invited fans to provide the cover photo (by Xenia Varelas), choose the title, and even suggest the individual tracks (drawn from 15 different recordings). The final result spans her 10 years on EMI/Virgin (now Erato) including some of her career-making arias ("Una voce poco fa" from Barber of Seville, "Voi che sapete" from Marriage of Figaro); a handful of duets (including "Who will walk with me?" with Frederica von Stade from Heggie's Dead Man Walking); and some previously unreleased numbers (notably, "Umbra mai fu" from Handel's Serse). She also sings "Somewhere over the Rainbow," recently reprised during the Last Night of the Proms.


Haydn & Myslivecek
Wendy Warner, cello
Camerata Chicago
Drostan Hall, conductor
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Josef Myslivecek is sometimes seen as the missing link between Haydn and Mozart – an influence on the latter composer who also drew on the innovations of the former. Chicago cellist Wendy Warner and the Camerata Chicago take up Myslivecek’s Cello Concerto in C major, composed in the late 1770s and featuring highly syncopated fast movements and an unusually chromatic slow movement (the piece is an arrangement of a prior violin concerto). Using an 18th century cello and a 19th century bow, Warner applies a full, robust sound to all three of these well-mannered but stimulating works.


Faure Piano Music
Angela Hewitt, piano
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"For a long time I have wanted to record my favorite solo piano works by Gabriel Faure," writes Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt in the booklet to this collection. The pianist, who is best known for her Bach, adds that "all of the works on this album I learned by my mid-twenties, and most of them much earlier. They are old friends." The set includes the Theme et variations Op. 73, Faure's longest and certainly one of his greatest solo piano pieces. Three Nocturnes come from different periods in the composer's life: his youth, maturity and old age – from the No. 5 in B-flat with its turbulent middle section, to the ecstatic No. 6 in D-flat, to the death-haunted No. 13 in B minor. The sprightly Valse-caprices Nos. 1 and 2 and the youthful Ballade pour piano seul round out the collection.