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Bestselling CDs

Notable CDs | The five bestselling classical crossover albums according to Billboard

Voice of the Violin

Style: Violinist Bell, accompanied by the Orchestra of St. Luke's, giving "voice" to compositions (Rachmaninoff, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Bizet, et al.) traditionally associated with singers.

Worldview: "While there will always be people who prefer to listen to music in its originally intended form, I hope many listeners will . . . get a kick out of hearing my take on these timeless classics" (the liner notes).

Overall quality: Straightforward, sober, gimmick-free.

Ecce Cor Meum

Style: Sentimental twaddle for orchestra, choir, and ego.

Worldview: "Whatever I do, you'll be able to see me in it whether I like it or not. It's a very mystical process" (from the liner notes).

Overall quality: There's an upside to the ugliness of the McCartney-Mills divorce: It ensures that this album will be only the second most embarrassing reason for the Cute Beatle's currently being in the news.

Bach and Beyond

Style: Solo-piano "improvisations on themes by J.S. Bach."

Worldview: "I honestly think that any composer can be improvised [sic] in this way. But in Bach's case there is a kind of perfection that makes it adapt particularly well" (from the liner interview).

Overall quality: Unfortunate title (how do you go "beyond" Bach?) but, if classical pianists must improvise, they may as well improvise on the best.

The Homecoming!

Style: A mostly live sampling of classical music's greatest hits and schlock.

Worldview: "In the course of my long musical career, I have gotten to know vast numbers of wonderful melodies. Some of them stole my heart, and those are the ones I have gathered together for you" (the back-cover blurb).

Overall quality: Only for those who prefer their "wonderful melodies" accompanied by a live audience's clapping and singing along.

Serenada Schizophrana

Style: Contemporary orchestral music ("featured in the soundtrack to Imax Deep Sea 3D") reflective of the film-score composers whom Elfman lists as his chief influences (Bernard Herrmann, Nino Rota, Dimitri Tiomkin).

Worldview: "I am forever attached to the music of the early 20th century when . . . orchestral music flourished alongside the creation of jazz in a unique and remarkable way" (the liner notes).

Overall quality: Harmless suspense-film-evoking thrills.

Spotlight

Ecce Cor Meum (Angel/EMI), Paul McCartney's latest "serious" recording, proves that marijuana-advocating composers of silly love songs should leave orchestras and choirs alone. Not only is the egocentricity of the title (Behold My Heart in English) compounded by the pretentiousness of McCartney's rendering it in Latin, but egocentricity and pretension are the chief characteristics of the music as well.

Although the first movement is a prayer to the "Spirit of holiness" and the third a prayer to "Music," it's obvious that McCartney has invented both deities himself in his own touchy-feely image. ("Show us how to find ourselves," "How would we feel without love?," "We are happy when we smile, delighted when we sing," ad nauseam.) By the fourth movement he's reduced to lamenting that "our positive feelings are threatened" by earthly transience. Worst of all is the somber grandiosity of the orchestra and choir.

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