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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Tonight, the music industry is gathering in Los Angeles for the 48th annual Grammy awards. Our music reviewer, Tom Manoff, will be paying particular attention to the classical music categories, and he wanted to share some of his favorite nominees.

(Soundbite of OPERA PROBITA)

TOM MANOFF reporting:

Best vocal performance was one of the strongest categories this year, but a disc called OPERA PROBITA from Cecilia Bartoli was easily my favorite. Bartoli, the famous mezzo soprano is as much a force of nature as she is a singer. Here's a voice that can be theatrical and bold, lyrical and nuanced. She's inspired by a spirit so elemental that even her wildest interpretations seem rooted in musical bedrock. This CD includes first time recordings of some glorious arias, like this one from the baroque composer Antonio Caldara.

(Soundbite of OPERA PROBITA)

MANOFF: Now onto best choral performance. Here I like a recording of music by Morton Lauridsen, an American composer quite popular with American groups. Despite his popularity, there are only a few recordings of his music, so this new release, called LUX AETERNA, is most welcome. Sadly, American composers often receive more recognition in Europe than at home. No surprise, then, that this beautifully sung album comes from the English ensemble, Polyphony, conducted by Stephen Layton.

(Soundbite of LUX AETERNA)

MANOFF: There's an interesting story behind my pick for best orchestral performance. Conductor Jose Serebrier has undertaken a series of recordings of transcriptions by his late friend Leopold Stokowski, the famous 20th century conductor. This is Stokowski's arrangement of PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION, composed originally for piano by Modest Mussorgsky. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra gives a virtuosic display of instrumental color. If your speakers need a good workout, this is the disk.

(Soundbite of the PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION)

MANOFF: PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION was also nominated in the best surround sound category as a so-called SACD-hybrid. You'll need a surround sound system and an SACD player to hear it in this multi-channel mode. If you don't have the special gear, it won't sound quite as remarkable, but still quite good. As a hybrid recording, it plays in regular stereo and on a regular CD player.

MANOFF: I have two regrets about this year's Grammys. First, my favorite recording, MUSIC FROM THE HAMBURG OPERA from the Academy for Alta Music Berlin didn't show up in any category. More concerning was that none of the nominees for best orchestral performance were American orchestras. This doesn't reflect the level of artistry among our orchestras, but rather how few of them are making recordings. I'm hoping that next year my favorite orchestral performance will be home grown.

SIEGEL: That's music critic Tom Manoff with his picks for the classical Grammys. You can find picks from other music reviewers in other categories at our website.

Go to NPR.org, and click on ALL SONGS CONSIDERED.

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