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In January's Drought, Three Albums Worth Waiting For

Classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein and singer-songwriter Tift Merritt have an album coming out in March.
Sony Classical
Classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein and singer-songwriter Tift Merritt have an album coming out in March.

In high season, as many as two dozen albums appear in my mail bin each week. But in the first weeks of any new year, new releases are a rarity. That means patiently waiting for 2013's first intriguing albums to arrive. As a sort of appetizer, we offer three tracks from albums I'm really looking forward to. These artists (and their record companies) have generously allowed us these tantalizing tastes of what's to come.

Any releases you're impatiently awaiting? Let us know in the comments section.

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In January's Drought, Three Albums Worth Waiting For

Jonas Kaufmann: 'In Fernem Land' (from Lohengrin)


"In Fernem Land (from Lohengrin)"

From 'Wagner'

By Jonas Kaufmann

Hungry for some thrilling opera singing? The German tenor Jonas Kaufmann is just about the most exciting guy out there these days. Apparently he can sing almost anything (try his Werther, or perhaps Tosca) but he's exceptional in Wagner — the subject, and title, of a Feb. 12 release. Fans will also want to make a pilgrimage to the Met this spring when he sings the lead in Parsifal. In this excerpt from Lohengrin, you can hear what all the fuss is about — soft singing that's exquisitely supported and a virile, ringing tone in louder passages that is nothing short of electrifying.

Billband: 'Sparkle'



From 'Bill Ryan: Towards Daybreak'

By Billband

Billband is the brainchild of Bill Ryan, the crafty leader of the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble in Allendale, Mich. A few years back their album of Steve Reich's music surprised critics with its vibrancy and polish — remarkable, some thought, for a group from the cornfields of Western Michigan. Billband includes some of those musicians while adding a few Bang on a Can veterans (including violinist Todd Reynolds). But more importantly, the new album, Towards Daybreak (released Jan. 29), features Ryan's own compositions. "Sparkle" floats lightly with a delicate post-minimalist attitude.

Simone Dinnerstin & Tift Merritt: 'Night and Dreams'


"Night and Dreams"

From 'Night'

By Simone Dinnerstein & Tift Merritt

Who would have guessed that a country-ish singer-songwriter and a classical pianist known for her Bach would meet, strike up a friendship and make an album together? Night, to be released March 19, is based on the intimate concerts pianist Simone Dinnerstein and Tift Merritt have given over the past couple of years. The album will include songs by Merritt, some written for them (by the likes of Brad Mehldau) and a couple from the classical canon, including one of Schubert's finest creations, "Night and Dreams." Merritt bravely sings it in her own unaffected style. Don't be too surprised when a gentle harmonica wafts through.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.