This Renée Fleming disc, By Request, is mostly a compilation of previously released material. There are three new tracks, "Ah fors' è lui" from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata, the song "Cäcille" by Richard Strauss, and "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Rogers & Hammerstein's musical Carousel. The new recordings all sound fine, and Fleming is outstanding in the re-issued pieces as well. If you have the prior incarnations of these recordings, you may elect to pass on this collection unless you want the three new tracks.
Handel's operas–the center of his creative life before oratorios became the focus–have spent far too long in limbo awaiting rediscovery, which slowly started happening in the late '60s with works such as Giulio Cesare. But whether Handelian opera is still a novelty or you're already a rabid convert, this emotionally resonant, crisply played, superbly cast interpretation under William Christie and Les Arts Florissants is likely to shake up some of your ideas about the composer.
The genius of Bird and strings is hard to describe – an edgey aproach that really goes far past most other "jazz with strings" projects, not a ballad-driven one, but a tensely strained one that brings out some of Parker's best soloing, almost in a moody soundtrack-type way. The tracks are a lot freer and less bop-driven than some of Bird's normal work, and it's incredible to hear him soloing with such complexity — even more proof of the genius he clearly exhibited in relation to his contemporaries.