One of Julie's favorites was the "Duets" CD released by soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Rolando Villazon. The on-stage chemistry between these two darlings of opera is palpable, and according to the LA Times, "they're not only beautiful...they're believable -- something rare."
Rolando Villazon says that's the key to opera.
"When the opera shows you two lovers on stage who are ready to die for each other, the audience has to feel their passion."
You can't miss the passion between Mimi and Rodolfo in this duet from Puccini's La Boheme, and throughout the entire CD.
A different sort of intimacy can be found in the best chamber music, and there were a number of great entries this year. Valerie loved the Emerson String Quartet's Brahms CD, which was released to coincide with the Emerson's 30th anniversary season.
Brahms' harmonies make you think you're hearing way more than four instruments. And as you continue to listen, you get the sense that you're hearing not a string quartet, but a string quartet arrangement of an epic symphony. A wind chorale here with clarinets and bassoons, or flutes and oboes. "The Emerson String Quartet plays Brahms."
It was also a very good year for some very talented young musicians. Violinist Maxim Vengerov worked with musicians aged 17 to 29, from 30 different countries, in the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra. Vengerov said the CD he made with the ensemble was a journey to find the soul of Mozart. In practice, he was leading the group. But in spirit, the real teacher was Mozart.
Vengerov worked with soprano Cecilia Bartoli to help him think more like a singer, and really exploit the operatic tendencies in Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 2, included on a 2007 release with violinist Maxim Vengerov and the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra.
Another young orchestra -- and young conductor -- had to be the biggest music story of 2007. Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, 26, was tapped to take over as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009. He's keeping busy in the meantime, though, frequently with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra.
Dudamel has literally grown up with the orchestra and has been its music director since he was 17. In this CD, Dudamel leads the SBYO in a farewell to childhood, of sorts: Mahler's Symphony No. 5, a departure from the composer's youth-centric earlier work.
Those are just a few favorites from 2007. If you'd like a complete list of the new releases featured by Julie Amacher and Valerie Kahler this year, search for New Classical Tracks on the MPR.org website.