New Releases by Jason Vieaux, Alisa Weilerstein and Christoph Prégardien

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Frigid winter days often require a special blend of music. This week's featured albums seem to satisfy that need, with guitarist Jason Vieaux's Latin-tinged "Play," Alisa Weilerstein's Romantic Dvorak album and Christoph Pregardien's take on Schubert's "Winter's Journey."

Play: Jason Vieaux, guitar
Azica Records
Available at Arkivmusic.com

“Play” is a sort of greatest-hits collection from the fine American guitarist Jason Vieaux. Much of the material is Spanish or South American in origin, a particular forte of Vieaux’s, as demonstrated in two Café Concerts that he has given at WQXR. Pieces like “El Colibri” and “Danza Caracteristica” are displays of dexterity and rhythmic agility; others, such as “Cavatina” (taken from the 1978 film “The Deerhunter”) show a lyrical elegance and feel for the instrument's many colors. Vieaux has a particular knack for accentuating the music's tangy chord changes, as he does in the fusion groove of "Suburst” or his own bluesy arrangement of “In a Sentimental Mood." Below: Vieaux performs in the WQXR Cafe in 2011:

Dvorák: Alisa Weilerstein, cello
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Decca
Available at Arkivmusic.com

New York cellist Alisa Weilerstein traveled to the Czech Republic to record the centerpiece of her new all-Dvorák album. She teams up with the Czech Philharmonic and conductor irí Belohlávek in this lush favorite of the cello literature, delivering a supple and highly expressive performance. The rest of the program features short works including cello-piano arrangements of songs (“Leave me Alone,” “Goin’ Home”) and the Slavanic Dance No. 8 in G minor, "Furiant."  And no, that forest on the album’s cover is not Central Park but the “Silent Woods” of the final track (From the Bohemian Forest) on Dvorák’s estate.

Franz Schubert: Winterreise
Tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Michael Gees
Challenge Classics
Available at Arkivmusic.com

Like the Dvorak Concerto, there are many competitive versions of Schubert’s Winterreise, or “Winter’s Journey” to choose from, including tenor Mark Padmore’s expressive 2009 take to versions by Thomas Hampson to classic accounts by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. A new traversal by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Michael Gees – recently nominated for a 2013 Grammy – has plenty to offer on its own terms. Prégardien seems to underscore the inherent anxiety in the protagonist’s struggle, a rejected lover who leaves town and sets out on a dark, aimless winter’s journey. Recorded in SACD format and handsomely packaged in a bound booklet with translations, this performance traces a compelling arc for a winter’s day.