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Top 10 CDs of 2004

Ed Siegel's picks

1. Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori, ‘‘Caroline, or Change’’ (Hollywood)
Jeanine Tesori combines everything from klezmer to rhythm and blues, and Kushner’s lyrics are, well, Tony Kushner’s lyrics. Think ‘‘Porgy and Bess’’ and you have some idea of this piece’s greatness. The Hanukkah vs. Christmas section is outstanding.

2. David Byrne, ‘‘Grown Backwards’’ (Nonesuch)
At first, Byrne’s string-laden mix of opera, irony, and alt-country seemed unexciting; now it seems like the soundtrack for blue-state blues. Byrne connects to something melancholy in the air and comes out sadder but musically wiser.

3. Franz Ferdinand, ‘‘Franz Ferdinand’’ (Domino)
Who woulda thunk you could meld punk, disco, and alt-everything so seamlessly? Franz Ferdinand is the group I’d most like to dance to. If only I could dance.

4. Various Artists, ‘‘Electric Gypsyland’’ (Six Degrees)
Neither the Balkans music nor the electronica would be that great on its own; together they’re unbeatable. Neo traditional? Gypsy nouveau? Let’s forget labels and dance. If only ...

5. Krystian Zimerman, ‘‘Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2’’ (Deutsche Grammophon)
Zimerman finally releases his spectacular collaboration with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. And like almost everything he does, Zimerman makes the familiar sound new.

6. Bill Charlap Trio, ‘‘Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein’’ (Blue Note)
Bernstein jazzed up Broadway like no one else; now Charlap jazzes up Bernstein like no one else (and that includes Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson). His selections from ‘‘Wonderful Town’’ and ‘‘On the Town’’ are particular standouts.

7. Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica, ‘‘Kremerland’’ (Deutsche Grammophon)
The great violinist takes us on a tour of neighboring territory geographically, but the composers from the former Soviet Union are a different kettle of fish musically. Leonid Chizhik has a jazzy, playful take on Mozart, and Georgs Pelecis fries up some Latvian post-minimalism, for example.

8. Jennifer Higdon, ‘‘City Scape/Concerto for Orchestra’’ (Telarc)
On this disc, Higdon joins the greats of the 20th century, particularly Bartok, with a promising, expansive 21st-century vision. Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra strike paydirt with a hometown composer.

9. Pierre-Laurent Aimard, ‘‘Ives’s Concord Sonatas, Songs’’ (Warner Classics)
Gilbert Kalish’s version is preferable, but Aimard shows why he’s classical music’s hot, hard-edged pianist. He also teams with Susan Graham on some Ives songs on this disc. Another disc featuring him in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto is also recommended.

10. Elvis Costello, ‘‘Il Sogno’’ (Deutsche Grammophon)
David Byrne sings opera, Elvis Costello writes ballet. Costello, with thanks to Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra, avoids all the cliches that Sir Paul and Billy Joel foisted on us when they tried to go uptown.

Ed Siegel is a Globe staff writer and critic-at-large.

realaudio clips
Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori 'Caroline, or Something'
Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori / "Caroline, or Change"
"The Chanukah Party"
Lot's Wife
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