Listen to this

A look at some new music.

Published January 14, 2007

Joshua Bell

Album: Voice of the Violin Sony Classical

Why we care: Bell's "tribute to the voice" is a nice idea: arias and art songs arranged for violin and orchestra. It's the followup to his classical chart-topping Romance of the Violin. Plus, he plays recitals next weekend in Clearwater and Sarasota.

Why we like it: Bell gets a sumptuous sound from his 1713 Stradivarius as he follows in the tradition of Jascha Heifetz in lavishing virtuosity on high-style transcriptions, such as None but the Lonely Heart (Tchaikovsky), Vocalise (Rachmaninoff), Ave Maria (Schubert) and Una furtiva lagrima (Donizetti). Sultry soprano Anna Netrebko joins the violinist on Richard Strauss' Morgen!

Artistic point: Bell seems to be out to prove that slow music is harder to play than fast; there's a lachrymose mood to this collection of lullabies and dreamy ballads. It's basically background music, an easy-listening footnote to the violinist's main work of performing concertos with orchestras and recital programs.

Download these: Morgen!, Song to the Moon, Estrellita

Grade: B

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

Album: Tchaikovsky & Assad: Concertos in D major (NSS Music)

Why we care: Violinist Salerno-Sonnenberg performs the Tchaikovsky concerto next weekend with the Florida Orchestra. The CD is from her own label.

Why we like it: A live recording such as this, with Marin Alsop conducting the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, brings out the best in the ever-spontaneous Salerno-Sonnenberg.

Artistic point: The violinist deserves credit for pairing the Tchaikovsky warhorse with a new concerto by Claire Assad, a young Brazilian composer with roots in the jazz world. (Her father Sergio Assad and uncle Odair Assad, both guitarists, perform with Salerno-Sonnenberg as a trio.)

Download these: The middle movement of the Assad, Andante Espressivo

Grade: A

James Ehnes

Album: Barber, Korngold, Walton Concertos (CBC Records)

Why we care: Ehnes, a Canadian who has a residence in Bradenton, is one of the finest young violinists around these days. He plays three 20th century classics with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey conducting.

Why we like it: Barber's exquisite concerto doesn't lack for champions - Gil Shaham, Kyoko Takezawa and Elmar Oliveira all have excellent recordings - but Ehnes plays with rare sweetness in the first two movements. Movie music fans will enjoy the Korngold concerto, which borrows many themes from the composer's Hollywood scores.

Artistic point: Having these three works on one CD in such solid performances is great value.

Download these: The Barber concerto

Grade: A

John Fleming can be reached at (727) 893-8716 or fleming@sptimes.com.