I am always in two minds about compilation CDs. On the one hand they usually provide a series of delectable morsels that are hard to resist, but on the other hand one cannot live on finger food alone. This new two-CD compilation of songs and arias by Barbara Bonney has been released to capitalise on her upcoming tour and gives a very broad introduction to her talent. The first CD features a selection of lieder, much of it by Strauss, which is the focus of her concert with the Sydney Symphony later this month. The second CD showcases sacred music and opera arias, much of it by Mozart. What the compilation does show is the great diversity of her talent. There is a rich depth in her renditions of Strauss songs and there is a lightness and ease in Mozart. She is matched with a star cast of conductors, orchestras and duetting artists. This is unquestionably magnificent singing.

Barbara Bonney performs with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra on 22, 24 and 25 September. Phone 9334 4600.

ROMANTIC VIOLIN by Joshua Bell
Here is another irresistible chocolate box of goodies: Brahms, Bruch, Kreisler, Franck, Tchaikovsky -“ all the great composers who made the violin bleed with ecstasy. And Joshua Bell is just the performer to showcase this work. He has brilliant technique, a light melodic touch and playing that is full of energy and emotion. This is a marvellous album to drift away to on a lazy afternoon but it will probably make you run out and buy Bell playing full pieces rather than excerpts. For something a little different, start with his Beethoven/Mendelssohn disc, which is superb.

ARIE, MARDRIGALI & CANTATE by Sara Mingardo
This is a disc of a very different order. It is a carefully chosen selection of complementary songs from the 16th and 17th centuries: Monteverdi, Handel, Vivaldi and other lesser-known contemporaries. Like a good concert it takes you on a journey through a very particular landscape and takes us beyond well-trodden greatest-hits paths. Mingardo’s contralto voice is rich, deep and entrancing. Her unique timbre has made her a singer in demand and she has recorded and sung with all the important period conductors, particularly Rinaldo Alessandrini, with whom she appears on this CD. You only have to listen to the measured power of the first track to be hooked. This is a beautiful recording, thoughtfully conceived and wonderfully executed.

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