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MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL Recordings Of The Year 2010

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Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony 10 Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572461

What a year it has been for Shostakovich; I had already selected Mark Wigglesworth conducting the Fourth symphony (review) only for this to be displaced by another superb recording from Liverpool. The 10th was the first symphony I bought as an experiment back in the days of mono LPs (Ancerl) and have heard many, many performances since then. However I had become jaded and could no longer recapture the thrill of that initial discovery. Petrenko has made the symphony come alive for me again as he recaptures the sense of inevitably in this work. The recording is finely detailed.

Habanera Elina Garanca (mezzo) Coro Filarmonico del Regio di Torino, Nazionale SO della RAI/Karel Mark Chichon rec. 2010 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8776

On arrival this looked an interesting recital with some arias I had not heard so I intended just to dip into it but was captivated, so much so I did not even wait to put it on the usual list to reviewers but sent it straight off to Göran Forsling. I was rewarded by him awarding it Recording of the Month. Just read his review.

Alexander LOKSHIN Les fleurs du mal, Hungarian Fantasy, The Art of Poetry, Sinfonietta 2, In the Jungle Vanda Tabery (soprano) Wolfgang Redik (violin) Recreation; Grosses O Graz/Michel Swierczewski rec. 2005 BIS BISCD1556

There are numerous items on this disc but it was Les fleurs du mal that took my ear. Described as a vocal symphonic poem in three movements it is dramatic. It is a Russian Poème de l’amour et de la mer (Chausson) or Sappho (Bantock). If either of those appeal try this. You can hear samples here but insufficient of Vanda Tabery's contribution has been selected.

Ernest CHAUSSON Poème de l’amour et de la mer, String Quartet, Chanson Perpétuelle Salomé Haller (soprano) Nicolas Kruger (piano) Quatuor Manfred rec. 2009 ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT100402

And here is a recording of Poème de l’amour et de la mer but a new transcription of the work for a chamber ensemble of voice, piano and string quartet. I thought this intriguing but expected to miss the lush orchestration of the original. In the event I found this fully satisfying and welcomed the additional clarity allowing one to hear Haller at all times.

Unknown Britten Realizations, orchestrations and additions by Colin Matthews of works by Britten Sandrine Piau (soprano) Rolf Hind (piano) Michael Collins (clarinet) Michael Thompson, Richard Watkins, Peter Francomb, Chris Griffiths (horns), Northern Sinf/Thomas Zehetmair; rec. 2008/9 NMC D140

'Hats off 'again to Colin Matthews as arranger, completist and realizer. In recent years we have experienced his Holst and Debussy and now Britten. The disc starts with the usual Les Illuminations sounding different with a lighter voice - that of Sandrine Piau. Then we are treated to three extra songs to the cycle never orchestrated by Britten. There are works here that were not even completed by Britten or just left in draft but sensitively filled in by Matthews. Althogether a brilliant addendum to our knowledge of Britten. Well done NMC!

Alberto GINASTERA Complete string quartets Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Claudia Montiel (soprano) rec. 1989-97 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9119

I round off my selection with something Rumbustuous and exhilarating. As Rob Barnett says the first quartet goes like a runaway train. Huge enjoyment at a basement price.


Jean SIBELIUS Violin Concerto, Three Humoresques Serge PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto 1 Vilde Frang, WD RSO Köln/Thomas Søndergård rec. 2009 EMI CLASSICS 6844132

Sibelius is central to my musical life experience and is a large part of the reason why classical music enthralled and enthrals me. My reference for the Sibelius Concerto is Oistrakh and Rozhdestvensky with Julian Rachlin, Ida Haendel and a few others in hot pursuit. With the superbly recorded Frang every note seems ineluctably in place without compromising the work’s springy spontaneity. The Prokofiev First Concerto is a natural partner. Frang catches the predominantly eerie-macabre aspect of this fairytale treasure-house. Why on earth did she not record all six of the Sibelius Humoresques rather than just these three? And I will use this opportunity to put in recommendations for two great Sibelius biographies by Andrew Barnett (no relation - Yale University) and Guy Rickards (Phaidon Press).

Vagn HOLMBOE The Complete String Quartets Kontra Qt rec. 1992-2000 DACAPO 8.207001

Vagn Holmboe’s twenty string quartets, written between 1949 and 1996, are masterly creations. They are concise, modelled after Haydn, carry a Bartók inflection and are benignly irradiated with a sense of landscape and nature. This unique cycle by the Kontra Quartet was issued individually at full price on Da Capo during the 1980s and 1990s. It now surfaces as a most rewarding intégrale and at a favourable price. A lifetime of discovery is guaranteed.

Kurt WEILL Lost in the Stars Gregory Hopkins, Arthur Woodley, St.Luke’s O/Julius Rudel rec. 1992 NIMBUS NI2543

Kurt Weill created his music-theatre adaptation of Alan Paton’s novel “Cry the Beloved Country” in 1948-49. It moves with easeful confidence between opera and musical from spoken word into song and back. The writing is melodic with plenty of contrapuntal interest. Some of it is at times gently sentimental but no mortal wounds are inflicted. The final chorus makes for a sweetened dénouement but the tragic undertow is unmistakable. This lives in the memory.

Stanley BATE Symphony 3 Richard ARNELL Robert Flaherty – Impression Erik CHISHOLM Pictures from Dante Royal Scottish Ntl O/Martin Yates rec. 2009 DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7239

Quite how Dutton keep a grip on their exalted quality standards I don’t know. Their rate of issue of rare neglected music is prodigious. Amongst this year’s listings this partnership of Chisholm, Bate and Arnell is something special. Bate’s music will prove a sleeping giant as the years pass and as we get to hear more of it. His wartime Third Symphony is emotionally stricken, passion-torn and compelling. The Arnell and Chisholm pieces are scarcely less impressive.

William SCHUMAN The Symphonies and selected orchestral works Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz rec. 1990-2008 NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.505228

William Schuman’s symphonies have at last met their fulfilment on disc in a complete set from Naxos. While I would still go to Bernstein on Sony for the Third the others here are searingly done and make no mistake, Schwarz’s way with the Third is in no way deficient. It’s all here across eight surviving symphonies and a miscellany of other works. Open sesame for fierce intensity, raging violence, sable-dark melancholy and nervy kinetic euphoria. Let me also put a word of recommendation in for Joseph Polisi’s magisterial Schuman biography.

Moviebrass Gomalan Brass Quintet rec. 2007 NAXOS 8.572244

To end with some fun do try Movie Brass from Gomalan Brass. I wouldn’t normally go for brass quintet recitals – yet this one is a delight! Tirelessly enjoyable stuff, elite playing with a smile and cheer. The recording is nothing short of superb – never a moment of distortion. Whoop it up with the Gomalan.

Terry Barfoot

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Collection rec. 1962-94 EMI CLASSICS 6279102

This 2CD set of ‘the essential Vaughan Williams’ was the bargain of the month in September 2010, and it is not hard to understand why. There are some great performances here, among them Barbirolli in the Tallis Fantasia, Ian Partridge in On Wenlock Edge and Boult and a fine team of singers in the Serenade to Music, and all at a most attractive price.

Anton BRUCKNER Symphony 4 Dresden Staatskapelle/Herbert Blomstedt rec. 1981 DAL SEGNO DSPRCD045

With excellent sound quality and marvellous playing from the Dresden orchestra, this reissue of Herbert Blomstedt’s 1981 performance of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony is as impressive as any in the catalogue.

David Barker

Tango! Works by Piazzolla and Schulhoff Moritzburg Festival Ens rec. 2008 SONY CLASSICS 88697 328032

This was a very easy selection as my overall Recording of the Year. Jan Vogler, the cellist in this ensemble of piano and string quartet, appeared in my selections a couple of years ago, playing concertos of the galant era. Now he shows his versatility in the tango. The performances are quite outstanding, and the music by turns exciting, tangy and rapturous. Winter from Las Cuatro Estaciones Portenas is beautiful beyond belief.

Johann Sebastian BACH Cantatas - Vol. 46 Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki rec. 2009 BIS BISSACD1851

I have put a recent release of this magnificent series in my selection most years. Peter Bright described this as "perhaps the most impressive of them all". I'm not sure I would go that far, but it is certainly representative of the care and passion that has been lavished on this series, now hopefully within a couple of years of completion.

Luís de FREITAS BRANCO Orchestral Works - Vol. 3: Symphony 3, The Death of Manfred, Suite Alentejana 2 RTÉ Ntl SO/Álvaro Cassuto rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572370

One of two unknown (to me) composers in my list this year. I was a convert to Branco's countryman and contemporary, Joly Braga Santos a number of years ago, so just how good this music was perhaps should not have been such a surprise. The symphony is grandly impressive, the Suite is full of Iberian sunshine, Manfred a work for strings in the best British tradition. Now to investigate the first two volumes and await the next.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Symphonies 29, 31, 32, 35 & 36 Scottish CO/Sir Charles Mackerras rec. 2009 LINN CKD350

As outstanding as the 2008 set of the final four Mozart symphonies in every way, how sad it is to think that there will be no more. What a legacy he has left.

Johann HALVORSEN Orchestral Works - Vol. 2: Symphony 2, Suite ancienne, Norwegian dances, Air norvégien Marianne Thorsen (violin) Bergen PO/Neeme Järvi rec. 2009 CHANDOS CHAN10614

My other discovery: thoroughly enjoyable lighter works for violin and orchestra, flanked by a splendid suite, and a symphony that deserves recognition alongside those of Borodin and Dvorak.

Nick Barnard
Initially I was considering one special disc from different genres but on reflection I thought it best to include the only the recordings I had found most enjoyable and revelatory. In every case great music in superlative performances allied to fine production values and presentation. The six chosen discs picked themselves with two or three other in close contention. I realise looking at the list a whole there is one key word – Humanity. If I had been allowed a seventh disc the Naxos recording of the stunning Guarnieri Piano Concertos Volume 2 (8.557667) would have been it. A composer and works that deserve far greater dissemination.

Tommie HAGLUND Hymns to the Night, Daughter of the Voice, To the Sunset Breeze Elizabeth Pitcairn (violin) Helsingborg SO/Hannu Koivula, Lysell Qt rec. 2009/10 PHONO SUECIA PSCD184

My disc of the year this year and indeed any year has to be the magnificent collection of works by the Swedish composer Tommie Haglund. Three truly remarkable works with one – a violin concerto in all but name – Hymns to the Night – being a work of genius and the greatest contemporary work I have heard in twenty years. Performances of extraordinary dedication artistically and technically support music of heart breaking humanity. Superb production too.

Frank BRIDGE Oration Edward ELGAR Cello Concerto Gustav HOLST Invocation Raphael Wallfisch (cello) Royal Liverpool PO/Richard Dickins rec. 2005 NIMBUS NI5763

The first of three discs featuring the cello. Not a new release but revelatory. Raphael Walfisch in commanding form and with the RLPO reminding everyone that they were a superb orchestra before Petrenko arrived. All credit to Nimbus for producing as beautiful a recording in the Philharmonic Hall Liverpool as I have heard as well as putting together a programme of such interest. A deeply personal account of Frank Bridge’s incredibly moving Oration and an Elgar Concerto that ranks with the finest.

Anatolijus ŠENDEROVAS Two Songs of Shulamith Dmitri KABALEVSKY Cello Sonata Alberto GINASTERA Cello Sonata Jelena Ocic (cello) Federico Lovato (piano) rec. 2009 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72358

Another triumph of programming. A disc to introduce you to unknown repertoire but at the same to force you to completely reassess the work of a composer. I adore the way the performers here play the entire programme with such total visceral commitment allied to enormous technical prowess. The Ginastera and Šenderovas works are superb but the Kabalevsky leaves me speechless – haunted and haunting, music of fear and guilt and pain quite unlike anything I would usually associate with this Soviet State acolyte. Excellent engineering too – a disc of great cumulative power.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Sonatas 1 & 2, Cello Concertos 1 & 2 Viviane Spanoghe (cello) André de Groote (piano) Sofia Soloists SO/Emil Tabakov rec. 1984-2008 TALENT DOM 381012-13

The last of my cello triptych – a pair of discs that totally disarmed me with the consistency of its vision and power of its utterance. All the more extraordinary for having been recorded over a 24 year time span. Clever and intelligent programming allows the listener to follow a quasi-biographical path through Shostakovich’s career as expressed through the cello. An excellent version of the original Cello Sonata followed by the two concerti in hugely characterful and enjoyable versions. Excellent support from the Bulgarian orchestra too. But all crowned by Daniil Shafran’s transcription of Shostakovich final Opus the Sonata for Viola. Viviane Spanoghe’s playing throughout is compellingly involving and intensely moving.

Sergei LYAPUNOV Piano Sonata, Barcarolle, Georgian Variations, Fêtes de Noël, Nocturne, Mazurka Anthony Goldstone (piano) rec. 2000 DIVINE ART DDA25084

Another disc to force a reassessment of a ‘known’ composer. This is one of a superb series titled Russian Piano Music Series from pianist Anthony Goldstone. In fact I would have been happy to include any of the volumes here because they all display the same virtues of massive technique, musicality allied to aptness, excellent engineering and production and insightful and entertaining liner notes from the pianist. Choosing the Lyapunov is based on the quality of the music – a stunningly exciting big Sonata amongst others – which forced me to think again about a composer I had previously thought of as a Russian also-ran.

Claude DEBUSSY Preludes (orch. Colin Matthews) Hallé O/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2006-8 HALLÉ CDHLL7527

Finally, a compilation of material previously released. Aurally as beautiful as anything I have heard all year – an enormous tribute to just how well the Halle are playing at the moment as well as production and engineering that presents their sound so ravishingly. Mark Elder captures the fluidity of the original writing quite brilliantly and the players' hyper-sensitive response to his direction guarantees the success of the project. Greatest plaudits though to the composer (this is SO much more than just an arrangement) Colin Matthews for his extraordinary reconceptualising of the Debussy Piano Preludes. This is some of the finest arranging for orchestra I have ever heard resulting in music that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Bob Briggs
Howard BLAKE The Passion of Mary, Four Songs of the Nativity Patricia Rozario (soprano) London Voices, Royal PO/Howard Blake rec 2009 NAXOS 8.572453

The story of the Passion told from Mary’s point of view in ecstatic music of great beauty and originality. Blake is one of this country’s unsung musical heroes. On the strength of this, he won’t be for much longer.

Vintage Children’s Favourites rec. 1926-59 RETROSPECTIVE RTS4162

Essential listening for those of us who remember the BBC Light Programme request show. Teddy and I loved it. So will you.

Claude DEBUSSY Orchestral music Suisse Romande O/Ernest Ansermet rec. 1949-64 DECCA ELOQUENCE 4800127/30

Some of the best Debussy recordings ever made, in excellent sound and at a price which is beyond belief. I am more than happy to welcome their return to the catalogue.

Hannibal LOKUMBE Dear Mrs Parks Janice Chandler-Eteme (soprano) Brazeal Dennard Ch, Rackham Community Ch, Detroit SO/Thomas Wilkins rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.559668

Here is an important composer who has something to say, knows how to say it and has fused together jazz, blues, funk and classical elements with great skill. This is a major work and is totally compelling.

Ronald SENATOR Greenwood and Paradise, Four Shakespeare Sonnets, Spring Changes, A Poet to his Beloved, Don Quixote, Mobiles, Polish Suite Marni Nixon (soprano) Isabelle Ganz (mezzo) Michael Philip Davis (tenor) Stanley Drucker (clarinet) Michael Rudiakov (cello) Miriam Brickman (piano) RONALD SENATOR RS1962

Songs, piano and chamber works by one of this country’s elder statesmen of music, and it’s marvellous stuff. Senator’s is an important voice which deserves to be heard. Here’s your chance – don’t miss it.

Rain WORTHINGTON Shredding Glass Czech PO/Robert Ian Winstin Private label

This very beautiful work is Ms Worthington’s response to the atrocity of 9/11, and she is consumed with what has happened, taking the atrocity as a personal affront which she obviously felt the need to share. Uplifting and inspiring.

Dominy Clements

Johann Sebastian BACH Keyboard Works Angela Hewitt (piano) rec. 1994-2008 HYPERION CDS44421/35

All of my ‘recordings of the year’ have been chosen as having had a deep and lasting life-enhancing effect, and none fits this category more than Angela Hewitt’s Bach Keyboard Works. For stylistic honesty, sensitivity of touch and range of expression you can’t do better.

Johann Sebastian BACH The Works for Organ (MP3 Edition) Kevin Bowyer (organ) rec. 2001 NIMBUS NI1721

The essence of this ‘more than complete’ set of Bach’s organ works has little to do with learned comparison with alternative collections, but is to be found in the sheer sense of joy and love in Kevin Bowyer’s playing. Gorgeous sonics, complete high level consistency of quality and with a single very fine instrument used throughout, this MP3 edition is a genuine bargain and a real musical treasure.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Complete Symphonies Minnesota O/Osmo Vänskä rec. 2004-8 BIS BISSACD1825/26

This is a cycle which comes up trumps every time, and is certainly the equal of and better than most. Stunning SACD sonics and bonus pricing makes this choice for a state of the art Beethoven symphonic cycle a very easy one.

Kurt WEILL Kleine Dreigroschenmusik Ernst TOCH Egon und Emilie Erwin SCHULHOFF H.M.S. Royal Oak Capella Amsterdam; Ebony Band/Werner Herbers rec. 1998-2006 CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS25109

Not only for this release but anything by the Ebony Band, whose serious sense of research and exploration of neglected and forgotten music opens up fascinating worlds, leading us far beyond clichéd programming and entering regions unexpected and surprisingly attractive.

Sergei PROKOFIEV Piano Concertos 2 & 3, Piano Sonata 2 Freddy Kempf (piano) Bergen PO/Andrew Litton rec. 2008 BIS BISSACD1820

Spectacular as both a performance and a recording, this release has remarkable impact and masses of genuine depth. These concertos have always been impressive, but here their status is raised higher than could previously have been imagined possible.

Diminuito Rolf Lislevand (lutes, vihuela de mano) rec. 2007/8 ECM NEW SERIES 2088

Deliciously beautiful and great fun, this is the kind of disc which almost turns listening to music into a kind of private vice. I could recommend more from ECM’s marvelous list of new releases, but this can easily stand as a representative for the pleasure given by most of them.

Michael Cookson

Oskar FRIED Präludium und Doppelfuge, Die Auswanderer, Hänsel und Gretel Fantasy, Verklärte Nacht Berlin RSO/Matthias Foremny rec. 2008/9 CAPRICCIO CAP5043

If the Berlin born Oskar Fried is remembered today for anything it is for his conducting prowess not for his composing. A valued member of Gustav Mahler’s circle Fried is certainly a composer worthy of attention. The feature work is the recently rediscovered Die Auswanderer (The Emigrants) an affecting melodrama for speaker and large orchestra that had been stored in the KGB archives for decades. It seems likely that Verklärte Nacht and Präludium together with the recently unearthed full score of Auswanderer are receiving their first recordings. When I recently attended a Berlin performance of Auswanderer under maestro Eliahu Inbal he used a male narrator.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN String Quartets 6 & 13, Große Fuge Artemis Qt rec. 2009 VIRGIN CLASSICS 6945840

These are Beethoven performances of the highest quality by the Artemis Quartet. Revealing profound insights the Artemis ensure their interpretations have a spontaneous, almost live quality, which they combine with beautiful playing and splendid ensemble. A quite wonderful disc capturing the best recital performance I have heard for some time.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN String Quartets 1 & 12 Artemis Qt rec. 2010 VIRGIN CLASSICS 6286590

The fifth in their projected cycle of the complete Beethoven quartets, these are winning accounts by the Artemis Quartet. Born to play Beethoven the Artemis demonstrates a remarkable rapport with impressive technical prowess and flawless intonation.

Gustav HOLST The Planets London PO/Vladimir Jurowski rec. 2009 LPO LIVE LPO0047

The intuitive Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra give a rip-roaring performance of the much loved suite The Planets. This spectacular live recording was made at a 2009 performance at the Royal Festival Hall, London.

Johann Sebastian BACH Cantatas BWV22, 23, 127 & 159 Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe rec. 2007 HARMONIA MUNDI HMA 901998

Reverential and inspiring yet comforting performances where I just sat back and let Bach’s world of sacred music wash over me. Adorning the front cover the remarkable sacred art work Ecce Homo by Bartolomeo Montagna aptly complements this wonderful disc of sacred cantatas. This is an outstanding release in all respects directed by Philippe Herreweghe on Harmonia Mundi.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY The Nutcracker Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2009 EMI CLASSICS 6316212

Any recording from Sir Simon Rattle and the great Berlin Philharmonic is worthy of attention. This account of The Nutcracker was recorded in the Berlin Philharmonie partly at live concerts. Rattle confessing that he has not always loved the music of Tchaikovsky conducts this performance with great affection. The Berlin Phil play Tchaikovsky’s glorious ballet music with considerable expression and an infectious excitement.

Hubert Culot

Rihards DUBRA Choral Music Royal Holloway Ch/Rupert Gough rec. 2009 HYPERION CDA67799

Rihards Dubra’s choral music is a most satisfying mix of tradition and innovation that avoids any eclecticism. It is deeply felt and honest as well as superbly written for voices. Moreover it is magnificently sung by these singers who obviously relish every ounce of it.

Pehr Henrik NORDGREN Symphonies 7 & 8, Summer Music Turku PO/Juha Kangas rec. 2007/8 ALBA ABCD288

Nordgren’s music has recently received some considerable exposure particularly through several Alba discs of which this one is probably the most important so far in that it offers the composer’s final symphonies in superbly committed performances. This release should do much to enhance the composer’s status as one of the most personal musicians of his generation.

Luigi DALLAPICCOLA Partita, Dialoghi, Quattro Liriche di Antonio Machado, Three Questions with Two Answers Gillian Keith (soprano) Paul Watkins (cello) BBC Phil/Gianandrea Noseda rec. 2009 CHANDOS CHAN10561

This second volume of Dallapiccola’s orchestral music released by Chandos fully demonstrates that this music can address the listener’s mind and heart when played with evident commitment as it is here. Moreover this release provides a fair survey of the composer’s progress over the years since it includes an early work as well as more recent ones.

Pascal DUSAPIN Seven Solos for Orchestra Liège Wallonie Bruxelles PO/Pascal Rophé rec. 2008/9 NAÏVE MO782180

Dusapin’s large-scale and substantial orchestral cycle Sept Solos fully demonstrates the composer’s liking for and mastery of often large orchestral forces as well as his ability to think in long creative spans. These seven works were composed at different periods but were obviously conceived as parts of a whole. They may be played separately but are best appreciated when listened to in sequence for one then clearly realises the linking elements between them. Dusapin may never compose a symphony but this large-scale cycle of tightly argued pieces has a real symphonic stature.

Kenneth LEIGHTON Symphony 1, Piano Concerto 3 Howard Shelley (piano) BBC Ntl O Wales/Martyn Brabbins rec. 2009 CHANDOS CHAN10608

This release – the third volume of orchestral music from Chandos – is again essential for it fully demonstrates what a fine composer Leighton was. His orchestral music has still to receive its due and this beautifully played release is yet another significant step in the right direction.

Robert Farr

Last year I prefaced my selections with a suggestion that not since the likes of Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé and Beverley Sills strutted their stuff through the recording studios, thirty or so years ago, has bel canto featured so much in the year’s operatic releases. It is very much a case of déjà vu in respect of most of my 2010 selections. This is a reflection of the emergence of a new generation of superb singers of this oeuvre and also re-issues, often at super bargain price, of recordings from the 1960s and 1970s. My selection combines recordings dating from 1964 to 2009.

Gioachino ROSSINI Il barbiere di Siviglia Juan Diego Florez, Joyce DiDonato, Ch & O Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London/Antonio Pappano rec. 2009 VIRGIN CLASSICS 6945819

This 2009 recording from the Royal Opera House, London, was a superbly sung and acted performance where the cast had to adapt to the injury to one of the leading lady.

Gioachino ROSSINI Colbran the Muse Joyce DiDonato (mezzo) Ch & O Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome/Edoardo Müller rec. 2009 VIRGIN CLASSICS 6945790

Joyce DiDonato is the perfect example of a present day singer whose superb vocal and expressive skills allow full appreciation of Rossini’s music.

Gioachino ROSSINI L’Italiana in Algeri Samuel Ramey, Kathleen Battle, Marilyn Horne, I Solisti Veneti; Prague PCh/Claudio Scimone rec. 1980 ERATO 2564 683359

This Warner reissue of Rossini’s first full-length comic opera involves Marilyn Horne in a classic performance. Made in 1980, early on in the Rossini revival that she did so much to stimulate.

Gaetano DONIZETTI Lucrezia Borgia Montserrat Caballé, Alfredo Krauss, RCA Italiana Opera Ch & O/Jonel Perlea rec. 1966 SONY OPERA HOUSE 88697 575942

On the Sony Opera House label this reissue of the original RCA recording marked Montserrat Caballé’s recording debut. It followed her sensational appearance in New York in this opera in 1966 and which launched the international career of one of the greatest singers of the second half of the twentieth century. She went on to make twenty-eight studio recordings of operas. This recording features three outstanding bel canto singers.

Gioachino ROSSINI Ermione Carmen Giannattasio, Patricia Bardon, Paul Nillon, Geoffrey Mitchell Ch, London PO/David Parry rec. 2009 OPERA RARA ORC42

Whilst there is another recording of Ermione, Opera Rara, with an excellent cast alongside comprehensive background and full libretto with English translation, add another winner to their growing series of excellent Naples Opera Seria recordings.

Giuseppe VERDI Un ballo in Maschera Carlo Bergonzi, Robert Merrill, Leontyne Price, RCA Italiana Opera Ch & O/Erich Leinsdorf rec. 1966 SONY OPERA HOUSE 88697 581322

This 1966 recording could not be matched for Verdi singing in the present day.

Göran Forsling

This year I have reviewed considerably fewer discs than previous years, due to other assignments, but even so my shortlist became rather long and it was a delicate task to make the final choices. With regret I decided to leave out all the reissues, among which boxes with Nicolai Gedda, Tito Gobbi and Kirsten Flagstad gave me enormous pleasure. The Hugo Wolf anniversary box also had to go and among the new recordings Konrad Jarnot’s fine Chopin recital as well as Mats Bergström’s Tarrega disc and Calegari’s L’Elisir d’amore with Rolando Villazon on top form didn’t pass the final examination.

Giacomo PUCCINI La Rondine Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Metropolitan Opera Ch & O/Marco Armiliato rec. 2009 EMI CLASSICS 6316189

La Rondine has been the ugly duckling among Puccini’s mature operas but in an inspired production and with committed singing and acting from the principals it is more than worthy to be included in the canon. Alagna and Gheorghiu have long championed this work and here they really get under the skin of their characters.

Habanera Elina Garanca (mezzo) Coro Filarmonico del Regio di Torino, Nazionale SO della RAI/Karel Mark Chichon rec. 2010 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8776

Elina Garanca has rapidly risen to the top of her trade and this recital not only amply demonstrates the beauty of her voice but also showcases her interpretative mastery. The programming is also highly imaginative, juxtaposing material in several languages with focus on Gypsies and Spain. Among other things we are treated to both the ‘usual’ Habanera from Carmen and Bizet’s original idea. They do differ a lot!

Georges BIZET Carmen Elina Garanca (mezzo) Roberto Alagna (tenor) Teddy Tahu Rhodes (bass-baritone) Metropolitan Opera Ch, O & Ballet/Yannick Nézet-Séguin rec. 2010 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 0734581

More of Garanca and more of Alagna in the brand new Metropolitan production of Bizet’s immortal masterpiece. Having seen it on site only a week after the DVDs were made I was even more overwhelmed when coming closer to the characters on the screen and being even more seduced by Garanca’s sexy and rebellious Carmen.

George Frideric HANDEL Giulio Cesare in Egitto Kristina Hammarström, Emanuela Galli, Patras O/George Petrou rec. 2006 MDG 60916042

René Jacobs’ masterly recording from the 1990s of this crowning glory of baroque opera has seemed the ultimate choice for ages to come but here is a real challenger with the most intense orchestral playing I have ever heard and with a superb cast with not a weak link and with gorgeous singing of Kristina Hammarström as the eponymous hero. The recording was made in studio but in close connection with live performances. One can hear that!

Sven-David SANDSTRÖM Messiah Festivalensemble Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling rec. 2009 CARUS 83.453

Sandström’s Messiah is a setting of the same text that Handel set but is a wholly independent work written for our time. I was lucky to hear the Scandinavian premiere of it in March 2010, a little more than half a year after its world premiere. This recording was made at the European premiere in Stuttgart. Having heard the work twice within less than two months I am convinced that it must rank among the very best choral compositions during the post-war era.

Gabriel FAURÉ Mélodies Yann Beuron (tenor); Billy Eidi (piano) rec. 2009 TIMPANI 1C1162

Fauré’s mélodies are among the finest in the European treasury of songs but they are not easy to bring to life. Panzera, Bernac and Souzay were steeped in the tradition but Yann Beuron seems predestined to be their heir. His singing is as many-faceted and varied as any of his predecessors and the songs are real gems that should be heard by all lovers of art-songs.

Michael Greenhalgh

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Symphonies 6 & 7 Detroit SO/Paul Paray rec. 1953/4 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC206

It might seem perverse to list some recordings nearly 60 years old here but Paray gives us Beethoven purely as written, assured in pulse and without any interpretive accretions. With a small body of strings the result is great rhythmic clarity and vitality which get us to the heart of the music.

Unknown Britten Realizations, orchestrations and additions by Colin Matthews of works by Britten Sandrine Piau (soprano) Rolf Hind (piano) Michael Collins (clarinet) Michael Thompson, Richard Watkins, Peter Francomb, Chris Griffiths (horns), Northern Sinf/Thomas Zehetmair rec. 2008/9 NMC D140

Here are 5 works and 3 additional songs for Les illuminations never recorded before and heard here in performances of great acuity. But what makes the disc special is that one lively musical intelligence, that of Colin Matthews, has come into sensitive convergence with Britten to make these unfinished works both satisfying and intriguing.

William BYRD Infelix ego: The Byrd Edition - Vol. 13 The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood rec. 2009 HYPERION CDA67779

Shows that emotion can be conveyed with dramatic propulsion, clarity and precision, so you can appreciate both the structure and impact of the music in a marvellous acoustic. Afflicti pro peccatis nostris plus Deo gratias and Memento, salutis auctor have never been recorded before.

Antonín DVORÁK String Quartets 9 & 14 Wihan Qt rec. 2010 NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6115

Performances of real character, both cultivated and passionate, with a wonderful feel for Dvorak’s melodies, especially in the warmth of the slow movements. The contrast of works is also fascinating, the late Quartet 14 more packed with tunes and varied in mood swings yet always engagingly presented by the Wihan Quartet.

Edward ELGAR Violin Concerto Nikolaj Znaider (violin) Staatskapelle Dresden/Sir Colin Davis rec. 2009 BMG-RCA RED SEAL 88697605882

Right from the orchestral introduction this account has impressive cohesion. Everything flows seamlessly with conviction: now animated, now lyrical. Znaider’s violin solos are similarly resilient and delicate by turns. Understanding between conductor and soloist is everywhere evident and the expression seems totally of today.

Claudio MONTEVERDI Vespro della Beata Vergine Ch New College Oxford; Charivari Agréable/Edward Higginbottom rec. 2009 NOVUM NCR1382

To have a Vespers with all male singers whose musical life revolves around chapel, as originally, makes for a particularly refreshing and spiritual approach. But the real surprise for me was the quality, transparency and conviction of the tenor soloists and their sensitive judgement with regard to ornamentation.

Robert Hugill

Jonathan DOVE Tobias and the Angel Omar Ebrahim (baritone) Children & adult choruses & ensemble/David Charles Abell rec. 2006 CHANDOS CHAN10606

A community opera which doesn't talk down, managing to be musically interesting and spiritually uplifting, in vibrant performances.

Not Just Dowland Carolyn Sampson (soprano) Matthew Wadsworth (lute and theorbo) rec. 2008 WIGMORE HALL LIVE WHLIVE0034

A lovely, intelligent recital which makes you really listen to the music.

Robert WHITE Hymns, psalms & lamentations Gallicantus/Gabriel Crouch rec. 2008 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD134

Enchanting performances which introduce a composer who is still rather neglected.

Romuald TWARDOWSKI Exegi monumentum, Three Frescoes for Orchestra, Ioannes Rex International SO & Ch/Marcin Nalecz-Niesiolowski; Festival SO Odessa/Boris Rosenfeld; Zielona Gora PO/Szymon Kawalla rec. 1982-2009 ACTE PREALABLE AP0231

Strong performances of strong music from one of Poland's premier composers.

George Frideric HANDEL Teseo Franco Fagioli (counter-tenor) Staatsorchester Stuttgart/Konrad Junghänel rec. live, 2009 CARUS 83.437

A terrific record of a live performance.

Concerto Italiano Violin Concertos by Dall'oglio, Stratico, Nardini & Lolli Giuliano Carmignola (violin) Venice Baroque O/Andrea Marcon rec. 2009 ARCHIV 4776606

You've probably barely heard of the composers, but with solo violin playing of such incredible quality this is a disc which deserves to be heard.

Mark Jordan

Gershwin by Grofé: Symphonic Jazz Rhapsody in Blue, I Got Rhythm Variations & other works Lincoln Mayorga (piano) Al Gallodoro (clarinet/bass clarinet/alto sax) Harmonie Ens/Steven Richman rec. 2004-7 HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907492

Joyously jazzy but straightforward Gershwin from pianist Lincoln Mayorga and friends, including legendary reed player Al Gollodoro, recorded shortly before his passing at the age of 95.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Complete Symphonies Minnesota O/Osmo Vänskä rec. 2004-8 BIS BISSACD1825/26

What a joy it is to hear a new generation rediscover the greatness of core repertory like this. And not only does Vänskä rediscover Beethoven, he also gives us the best non-HIP cycle since Karajan’s 1977 cycle. BIS sweetens the pot with wonderful SACD multichannel sound.

Jesús RUEDA Symphony 3, Imaginary Journey Asturias SO/Maximiano Valdés rec. 2008 NAXOS 8.572417

This dense and dazzling post-minimalist masterpiece from Spanish composer proves that creativity can open doors into new worlds. This music is vividly picturesque without ever relying on a program to sustain and develop its ideas. This world premiere recording, though a little in-your-face, is visceral and committed.

Ian Lace

Giacomo PUCCINI La Rondine Angela Gheorghiu (soprano) Roberto Alagna (tenor) Metropolitan Opera Ch & O/Marco Armiliato rec. 2009 EMI CLASSICS 6316189

A pure delight. A live HD transmission from the Met in January 2009 of Puccini’s long-neglected opera is now enshrined on DVD. The vibrant chemistry between Gheorghiu and Alagna is enhanced by engaging support from Marius Brenciu and Lisette Oropesa. Magnificent art-deco sets and gorgeous costumes add a sumptuous visual treat.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Heroic Elegy & Triumphal Epilogue William ALWYN Overture, Peter Pan Suite, Ad Infinitum Sir Hubert PARRY Hypatia York BOWEN Eventide BBC Concert O/John Wilson rec. 2009 DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7237

It is utterly amazing that these long-forgotten works have languished unrecorded for so long. All are vibrant, approachable, melodic, evocative, and often dramatic. John Wilson fully indulges the music’s often overt romanticism with complete sincerity and naturalness. Highly recommended, these gems have revisited my CD player repeatedly.

Sergei RACHMANINOV The Isle of the Dead, Two Études-Tableaux Modest MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition BBC SO/Evgeny Svetlanov rec. 1999 BBC LEGENDS BBCL42592

Some MusicWeb reviewers were asked last year to blind review 10 versions of Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead. I rated this version very highly. In fact after repeated listening I find I enjoy Svetlanov’s leisurely but atmospheric and characterful approach more and more. The Mussorgsky Pictures are sharply and interestingly etched too.

Jules MASSENET Manon (arr. for ballet) Tamara Rojo, The Royal Ballet & O/Martin Yates rec. 2008 DECCA 0743346

Although MacMillan selected music with strong dancing rhythms not from Massenet’s opera but from other of the composer’s works, this new Covent Garden production cannot fail to impress. The wonderful, often breathtaking dancing of supremely graceful Tamara Rojo as Manon and the athletic yet sensitive Carlos Acosta as Des Grieux will persist in your memory.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concertos 1-3, Concert Fantasia Stephen Hough (piano) Minnesota O/Osmo Vänskä rec. 2009 HYPERION CDA67711/2

A welcome revisit to Tchaikovsky’s music for piano and orchestra marked Hyperion’s 50th Romantic Piano Concerto release. Typical of the sort of music one enjoys when first discovering the classical world, and then tends to forget, Hough’s brilliance and Vänskä’s enthusiastic support make this re-acquaintance a delight – and an education!

Habanera Elina Garanca (mezzo) Coro Filarmonico del Regio di Torino, Nazionale SO della RAI/Karel Mark Chichon rec. 2010 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8776

A scintillating collection of exotic arias and songs ranging from Carmen to Lehar and Balfe by way of Ravel, De Falla and Bernstein plus Zarzuela numbers sung with romantic yearning, fire and relish by this magnificent mezzo-soprano.

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