I like to check out collections of encores, showpieces, favorites or whatever else they may be called. These are albums consisting of mostly short and melodic pieces, often showcasing a particular soloist. My favorite solo instruments in this regard are the piano and the violin.
The latter instrument finds a great player in Gil Shaham on his album Devil’s Dance, admirably accompanied on the piano by Jonathan Feldman. It was the title track that made me aware of the album; Devil’s Dance is John Williams’ own arrangement of his theme from the movie The Witches of Eastwick. And I tell you, this track alone would’ve made the money well spent. It’s even better than the original orchestral version. Other devilish delights include Grieg’s Puck, Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, and especially the lurky Hexenlied by Mendelssohn, although there’s not a single track on the disc I would want to skip.
Did these pieces make you hungry for more encore-material? Then I recommend Leslie Howard’s album Rare Piano Encores, which includes a great arrangement of Chanson Bohème from Bizet’s opera Carmen; Horowitz’ Favorite Encores of solo piano pieces, including his superlative Carmen-variations which sounds like he’s grown at least one extra hand; Katia & Marielle Labeque’s piano duets on Encore!; Moura Lympany on the album Piano Favorites; Leif Ove Andsnes’ Horizons; and the album Für Elise – Best of Romantic Piano Music from Naxos, with various pianists. For the violin, I recommend Itzhak Perlman’s Encores (just listen to Corelli’s La Folia!) and Violin Encores, both accompanied on the piano by Samuel Sanders; and David Oistrakh’s Showpieces with Vladimir Yampolsky doing the piano part.