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MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL Recordings Of The Year 2012

Click on cover image to read the full review.

Front Page
Reviewers M-Z
David McConnell

Claude DEBUSSY La Mer, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, Images Ntl O de France/Daniele Gatti rec. 2011 SONY CLASSICAL 88697 974002

Many reviewers found Chando's 2 SA-CD set of Debussy orchestral works (with the RSNO/Denève) to be the finest recording of Debussy released this year. For me, this release was even more impressive, in large part because the orchestra plays with great and intensity, while Gatti’s interpretations perfectly capture the fire and ice of Debussy’s music that so often eludes other conductors.

Johannes BRAHMS Symphony 1 Carl NIELSEN Symphony 3 Antonín DVORÁK Symphony 9 Jean SIBELIUS Symphony 5 Danish Ntl SO/Thomas Dausgaard rec. 2009 C MAJOR

This was, far and away, the best orchestral DVD to come across my desk this year. Dausgaard proves to be an intelligent and perceptive interpreter of all four works, while his Danish players perform with a contagious sense of joy and virtuosity.

Jonathan DOVE The Passing of the Year, Who killed Cock Robin?, It sounded as if the streets were running, I am the day, The Three Kings Convivium Singers/Neil Ferris Christopher Cromar (piano) rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.572733

Dove was a composer new to me, and I was enthralled by the music on this recording. Excellently performed by the Convivium Singers, Dove’s writing is often achingly beautiful and his text setting is masterly, often reminding me of Benjamin Britten.

Fantasia Yuja Wang (piano) rec. 2011 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4790052

I had not heard any of Miss Wang recordings before this CD, and I admit being put off by Deutsche Grammophon’s publicity department, which often seemed more focused on her looks than her playing. That skepticism was gone after the first track – here is a player with excellent technique, married to supreme musicality.

Gustav MAHLER Symphony 5 London PO/Klaus Tennstedt rec. 1988 ICA CLASSICS ICAD5041

Tennstedt, looking a little bit fragile and dishevelled, inspires a performance of near hysterical proportions from his beloved London orchestra. Mahler’s harrowing journey from darkness to light is compellingly conveyed in this fantastic performance.

Rob Maynard

For once I could quite easily have chosen more than just six recordings. The generous birthday gift of a 50" high definition TV and a Blu-ray player has hugely enhanced my pleasure in watching ballet and opera performances this year and explains in large part the bias away from sound-only CDs in my final selection.

Frédéric CHOPIN Les sylphides Léo DELIBES Coppélia Adolphe ADAM Giselle Nadia Nerina, Margot Fonteyn, Ruydolf Nureyev, Philharmonia O/Robert Irving, London SO/John Lanchbery rec. 1957/62 ICA CLASSICS ICAD5058

These may be 50 years old black and white television recordings, but a superb Coppelia places it right at the top of my list. The charismatic Nadia Nerina displays a delightful sense of fun as Swanilda while Robert Helpmann offers a memorably bonkers - yet very touching - portrayal of the mad doctor. With excellent support in depth, this is vintage British ballet at its best.

Alexander GLAZUNOV Raymonda Olesia Novikova, Friedemann Vogel, Mick Zeni, Ballet & O Teatro alla Scala/Michail Jurowski rec. 2011 ARTHAUS MUSIK 108051

Here we have a modern (re)production of another classic ballet. Immense and painstaking research and massive - and obviously expensive - resources have gone into La Scala’s 2012 recreation of Glazunov's Raymonda. It's as close to the original 1898 St Petersburg production as we are ever likely to see and is an absolute treat - especially in fabulous Blu-ray quality - for both eyes and ears.

Richard STRAUSS Josephs-Legende Bayerischen Staatsoper O München/Robert Heger rec. 1952 ACANTA 233593

Here's a sixty years old recording that's been well worth reissuing. Though unable to compete with its modern competitors' digital sound, Robert Heger’s 1952 recording compensates with expert conducting and first class playing by musicians utterly familiar with Strauss’s idiom. A superb vintage account of an unduly neglected score.

Umberto GIORDANO Andrea Chénier Hector Sandoval, Scott Hendricks, Norma Fantini, Prague Philharmonic Ch, Bregenz Festival Ch, Vienna SO/Ulf Schirmer rec. 2011 C MAJOR 707908

The Bregenz Festival is well known for the use its lakeside productions make of gigantic sets and props – and this visually striking Andrea Chenier is no exception. The unexpected insertion of a couple of musical “interludes” by contemporary composer David Blake may jar with some viewers, but the production’s attractive and enthusiastic young principals will win over many more.

Léon MINKUS Don Quixote Robert Helpmann, Rudolf Nureyev, Ray Powell, Australian Ballet, Elizabethan Trust Melbourne O/John Lanchbery rec. 1972 KULTUR BD1175

On a personal level Nureyev could be monstrously obnoxious and here he pretty obviously fails to gel with the rest of the cast. But, as a piece of ambitiously filmed dance that utilises the immense spaces of an Australian aircraft hangar (!), this leaves many of its less ambitious rivals in the shade. Its recent technical restoration in this Blu-ray incarnation has brought the glorious original colour palette up as good as new.

Nikolay RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Capriccio espagnol, Overtures Seattle Symphony/ Gerard Schwarz rec. 2010/11 NAXOS 8.572788

This is another demonstration of the high standards of performance that Gerard Schwarz has achieved in a long-term relationship with this orchestra. Rimsky’s evocative scores with their characteristically colourful orchestrations are a gift to conductors of an extrovert disposition; Schwarz takes full advantage of the opportunity they offer to bring the house down.

Ralph Moore

Georg Friedrich HANDEL Theodora David Daniels (counter-tenor) Dawn Upshaw (soprano) Lorraine Hunt (mezzo) Glyndebourne Ch, O Age of Enlightenment /William Christie rec. 1996 GLYNDEBOURNE GFOCD014-96

A beautifully sung live recording of some of Handel's finest music starring the late, lamented Lorraine Hunt (before she became Hunt Lieberson).

Fryderyk CHOPIN Complete Waltzes and Impromptus Vladimir Feltsman (piano) rec. 2010 NIMBUS NI6184

Johann Sebastian BACH The English Suites Vladimir Feltsman (piano) rec. 2005 NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6176

Two superb recordings from perhaps the finest and certainly the most versatile pianist before the public today.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN The Complete Symphonies Vienna PO/Christian Thielemann rec. 2008-10 SONY CLASSICAL 88697927172

A Beethoven Symphonies Cycle for the 21C, embracing a compromise between the traditional and the revisions in performance practice imbibed from the historically informed movement.

Sergei RACHMANINOV Symphony 3, Caprice bohémien, Vocalise Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2009/10 EMI CLASSICS 6790192

A flawless recording from a reinvigorated Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by one of the up-and-coming young Russian maestros who are doing so much to enliven the British classical music scene.

Anton BRUCKNER Symphonies 4, 7 & 9 Philharmonie Festiva/Gerd Schaller rec. 2007-10 HÄNSSLER PROFIL PH11028

A really impressive addition to the Bruckner discography: three of the most popular symphonies recorded from live performances in excellent sound and including a splendid realisation of the Carragan completion of the fourth movement of the Ninth .

Dan Morgan

Selecting six of the year’s best recordings has never been so difficult. In all the time I’ve reviewed for MWI I’ve not had so many candidates to choose from. These are the ones that made it to the not-so-shortlist: Kalevi Aho’s Interludes and Symphony for Organ – BIS download; Britten’s War Requiem – Gianandrea Noseda/LSO Live; Leonard Bernstein’s live Shostakovich Fifth and Stravinsky/Sibelius – Euroarts and ICA DVDs respectively; Debussy’s Faune, La mer and Jeux – high-resolution Linn/Universal download; Hakim plays Hakim – Signum; Kinshasa Symphony – C Major/Unitel Blu-ray; Koechlin’s Les heures persanes – Ralph van Raat/Naxos; Simone Young’s Mahler ‘Resurrection’ – Oehms; the Graf/Houston Das Lied von der Erde – Naxos; Andris Nelsons’ live Wagner, Strauss and Shostakovich Eighth from Lucerne – C Major/Unitel Blu-ray; Mark Wigglesworth’s Shostakovich Symphonies 1-3 – BIS download; Yutaka Sado/Berliner Philharmoniker live in Takemitsu’s From me flows what you call time and Shostakovich’s Fifth – Euroarts Blu-ray; and Kalevi Kiviniemi plays the organ of Ylistaro Church – Fuga.

Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA Cello Concerto 2, Modificata, Percussion Concerto Truls Mørk (cello) Colin Currie (percussion) Helsinki PO/John Storgårds rec. 2011 ONDINE ODE 1178-2

Ondine’s ongoing Rautavaara cycle has surely reached its apogee with this astonishing disc, which includes an unforgettable Modificata and Colin Currie’s splendid performance of the Percussion Concerto. As if that weren’t enough, the sound on this CD is among the best I’ve ever heard. Without a doubt, this is my Recording of the Year.

Gustav MAHLER Symphony 2 Sarah Connolly (mezzo) Christiane Oelze (soprano) Gewandhaus Leipzig Ch & O/Riccardo Chailly rec. 2011 ACCENTUS ACC10238

After an exhausting double centenary that spawned a fair number of ho-hum Mahler recordings comes a ‘Resurrection’ to die for. Riccardo Chailly and his Gewandhaus forces are simply transported – and transporting – in this live performance, filmed at the 2012 Leipzig Mahlerfest. Visually and aurally this Accentus Blu-ray is as good as it gets.

Hector BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Béatrice et Bénédict Overture Scottish CO/Robin Ticciati rec. 2011 LINN CKD400

News of Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s impending Symphonie fantastique was greeted with scepticism on several audio forums. I confess to some doubts, all of which were swept away by this refreshing and insightful performance. Rarely have I heard an old favourite so comprehensively enriched and renewed. Linn’s Super Audio recording is top-notch too.

Nobuyuki Tsujii (piano) Live at Carnegie Hall rec. 2011 EUROARTS 2059084

‘A profound and bewitching talent’ is how I described the young Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii. Blind since birth he gave an enthralling and varied recital at Carnegie Hall in November 2011 that soon exhausted my supply of superlatives. In a world full of note-perfect prodigies this thoughtful, impassioned artist is one to watch. The Blu-ray sound and picture are excellent.

Olivier MESSIAEN Turangalîla-Symphonie Steven Osborne (piano) Cynthia Millar (ondes martenot) Bergen PO/Juanjo Mena rec. 2011 HYPERION CDA67816

One of the joys of downloads is that they often appear before the discs themselves. I downloaded this new Turangalîla within hours of its appearance and was so bowled over that I persuaded Len to publish it on the main MWI site without delay. Juanjo Mena and the Bergen Philharmonic are revelatory in this sprawling, mystico-spiritual epic, whose every ‘fart and shriek’ is superbly captured by the Hyperion team. Mandatory listening for all Messiaen fans.

Sergei PROKOFIEV Ballet and Opera Transcriptions Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano) rec. 1995 DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 3605

This is my wild card, an Eloquence reissue of Prokofiev’s ballet and opera transcriptions played with easeful virtuosity by the great Vladimir Ashkenazy. His sophisticated touch and felicities of rhythm are sans pareil; indeed, he makes all those young pretenders sound brash and brittle by comparison. It’s in vintage Decca sound as well; the piano is naturally balanced and glowingly recorded. A little gem.

John Quinn
Either this has been a particularly rich year or else I’ve been extremely fortunate in the quality of the discs that have come my way for review. My shortlist, compiled as the year went along, eventually extended to over a dozen releases. With great difficulty – and even greater regret - I have discarded such excellent releases as Herreweghe’s latest account of the B Minor Mass and Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s new versions of the Bach Motets and Brahms Requiem. Similarly, Juanjo Mena’s impressive Turangal?la-Symphonie narrowly missed the cut, as did Stephen Layton’s wonderful recording of the serene Requiem by Howells and a very fine set of music by Alec Roth from Ex Cathedra. Andris Nelson’s superb DVD of the Shostakovich Eighth Symphony was one of my six choices until the very last minute when his DVD of War Requiem became an even more urgent selection.

All the releases that I’ve chosen, which I’ve deliberately listed in alphabetical order – and those mentioned above - have given me particular pleasure and I hope that if you acquire them they’ll have the same effect on you.

Johann Sebastian BACH The RIAS Bach Cantatas Project conducted by Karl Ristenpart rec. 1949-52 AUDITE 21.415

This set was a revelation: Bach cantatas recorded between 1946 and 1953 but in a style that puts the performances closer to that of the period performance revolution that lay years ahead. The conductor, Karl Ristenpart, used a chamber choir and orchestra and the results are light and fresh. Outstanding among the soloists are Agnes Giebel, Helmut Krebs and the young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Ristenpart conducts with great distinction and with a real feeling for the spirit of Bach. These performances constitute a major addition to the discography of Bach’s cantatas.

Benjamin BRITTEN War Requiem Erin Wall (soprano) Mark Padmore (tenor) Hanno Müller-Brachmann (bass-baritone) City of Birmingham SO & Ch/Andris Nelsons rec. 2012 ARTHAUS MUSIK 101659

This DVD documents a deeply moving performance of War Requiem given in Coventry Cathedral on the exact anniversary of its first performance there fifty years earlier. The performance, under the inspired direction of Andris Nelsons, is superb in every way and the solo contributions of Mark Padmore and Hanno Müller-Brachmann are outstanding.

Sir Edward ELGAR The Apostles Rebecca Evans, Alice Coote, Paul Groves, Hallé Ch & O/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2012 HALLÉ CDHLD7534

Recorded live, this marvellous performance of The Apostles is the latest in Sir Mark Elder’s exceptional series of Elgar recordings with the Hallé. A strong team of soloists and the excellent choir and orchestra make a very strong case for this unjustly neglected oratorio. Once again, Elder proves himself an instinctive and authoritative Elgar interpreter.

Gabriel JACKSON Requiem, In all his works, I am the voice of the wind John TAVENER Song for Athene Francis POTT When David heard Vasari Singers/Jeremy Backhouse rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.573049

The Vasari Singers offer the first recording of a beautiful and thoughtful setting of the Requiem, which they commissioned from Gabriel Jackson in 2008. This work - and the other pieces by Jackson on the disc - confirms him as one of the most interesting composers of contemporary choral music with a natural affinity for the human voice and a fine empathy for words. This is an excellently sung and moving programme of fine modern music for unaccompanied choir.

Felix MENDELSSOHN Elijah Sarah Connolly (mezzo) Simon Keenlyside (baritone) Wroclaw Philharmonic Ch; Gabrieli Young Singers Scheme, Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh rec. 2011/12 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD300

Paul McCreesh recreates the vast forces that took part in the première of Elijah in Birmingham in 1846. With exciting and highly skilled singing and playing from his Anglo-Polish forces McCreesh leads a revelatory and often thrilling account of Mendelssohn’s choral masterpiece. Simon Keenlyside, in the title role, and Sarah Connolly are outstanding among the soloists.

Sergei RACHMANINOV The Bells Sergei PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky Sergei Leiferkus (baritone) BBC SO & Ch, Philharmonia Ch & O/Evgeny Svetlanov rec 1988/2002 ICA CLASSICS ICAC5069

The release of this hugely exciting disc marked the tenth anniversary of Evgeny Svetlanov’s death. He was in poor health when he conducted this performance of The Bells but this electrifying performance sounds like the work of a fully fit man in his forties. It was to be his last concert; a matter of days later he died so it’s good that his final performance shows him at his considerable best. The live account of Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, given in 1988 is also pretty special. This is a phenomenal issue!

Brian Reinhart

Along with my six selections, I also want to mention two Harmonia Mundi CDs which MusicWeb did not, unfortunately, get an opportunity to review: the Jerusalem Quartet playing Schumann with pianist Alexander Melnikov, and Melnikov yet again but this time in Shostakovich's piano concertos and violin sonata (with Isabelle Faust).

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Diabelli Variations Andreas Staier (fortepiano) rec. 2010 HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902091

These are the Diabelli Variations of a dozen composers, including Liszt, Schubert, Mozart's son, Beethoven (naturally), and, yes, Andreas Staier himself, in a really superb introductory piece. There's a joyfulness and humour to Staier's performance which sets it apart, and there might even be an 1830s cymbal crash.

Alexander GLAZUNOV String Quintet Anton ARENSKY String Quartet 2 Alexander BORODIN String Sextet Nash Ensemble rec. 2011 ONYX CLASSICS 4067

A perfect pairing of neglected masterworks. This is the best way to hear the glorious Arensky quartet for violin, viola and two cellos, an elegy for Tchaikovsky, and the CD also offers a fine account of my favorite Glazunov piece, his richly romantic string quintet.

Frédéric CHOPIN Fantaisie, Nocturnes, Mazurkas, Ballades Yevgeny Sudbin (piano) rec. 2009-11 BIS BISSACD1838

Original Chopin from a very thoughtful artist. In a time when Chopin albums seem to all come out of the same mold, Yevgeny Sudbin's extraordinary way of looking at the music afresh, and playing it to the absolute hilt, is both thrilling and liberating. I listened 12 times this year without getting bored.

Leos JANÁCEK Taras Bulba, Lachian Dances, Moravian Dances Warsaw PO/Antoni Wit rec. 2010-11 NAXOS 8.572695

My new favourite Taras Bulba, elevated by superb orchestral playing and the most emotional (and least repetitive) ending I've yet heard. The Lachian Dances and my favourite cover painting of 2012 don't hurt.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN String Quartet “Razumovsky” Aaron Jay KERNIS String Quartet 2 Jasper String Quartet rec. 2011 SONO LUMINUS DSL-92142

The Jasper Quartet formed over a mutual love of Beethoven's quartet Op 59 No 3, and you can tell in a performance that seems boundlessly energetic, passionate, and committed. They revel, too, in a worthwhile 1997 quartet by Aaron Jay Kernis which is partly inspired by the Beethoven. One of the ensembles of the future.

Mieczyslaw WEINBERG Symphony 20, Cello Concerto Claes Gunnarsson (cello) Gothenburg SO/Thord Svedlund rec. 2011 CHANDOS CHSA5107

If you've never heard Mieczyslaw Weinberg's cello concerto, buy this now. Seriously. Just click through to your favorite merchant now and buy it. Its emotional resonance and immediacy are comparable to Shostakovich and, dare I say it, Elgar. Seriously. Listen.

Simon Thompson

Having chosen all DVDs last year, this year, for me, saw a revival of purely audio releases, and we’re all the better off for it. With a respectful nod to McCreesh’s Elijah and Mark Minkowski’s set of Schubert symphonies, these are the discs that I enjoyed the most this year.

Francisco CILEA Adriana Lecouvreur Angela Gheorghiu (soprano) Jonas Kaufmann (tenor) Ch & O Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2010 DECCA 0743459

Easily my DVD of the year, this is a luxury performance of a full-sugar treat for lovers of Italian opera. Relax and enjoy.

Claude DEBUSSY Orchestral Works Royal Scottish Ntl O/Stéphane Denève rec. 2011/12 CHANDOS CHSA5102

An outstanding memento of Stéphane Denève’s time in Scotland, but much more than that alone: it’s also the finest of the Debussy anniversary CDs to have come my way.

Richard STRAUSS Lieder Soile Isokoski (soprano) Marita Viitasalo (piano) rec. 2011 ONDINE ODE1187-2

A wonderful soprano in beautiful songs, captured at her very best.

Ferne Geliebte Lieder by Beethoven, Schoenberg, Haydn & Berg Christian Gerhaher (baritone) Gerold Huber (piano) rec. 2012 SONY 88691935432

I said of the disc above that if another song recital that good came our way this year then we would be blessed indeed. It did, and we are. Gerhaher’s summation of the German Lieder tradition is sensationally sung and brilliantly accompanied.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto, Sérénade Mélancolique, Valse-Scherzo, Souvenir d’un lieu cher James Ehnes (violin) Sydney SO/Vladimir Ashkenazy rec. 2010 ONYX 4076

A wonderfully sympathetic account of a deservedly popular concerto, played by one of the most purely musical of today’s violinists.

Hector BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Béatrice et Bénédict Overture Scottish CO/Robin Ticciati rec. 2011 LINN CKD400

A sensationally played, brilliantly forensic uncovering of the Symphonie Fantastique, scrubbing it down and revealing it in an entirely new light, and captured in sound that is every bit as outstanding.

Johan van Veen

Amour, viens animer ma voix! Works by Dornel, Campra, Clérambault & Courbois Hugo Oliveira (baritone) Ludovice Ensemble/Fernando Miguel Jaloto rec. 2010 RAMÉE RAM1107

The French baroque cantata isn't fully appreciated yet. This disc includes three fine specimens of the genre. The interpretations by Hugo Oliveira and the Ludovice Ensemble are pretty much ideal. The use of period pronunciation makes it even more valuable.

Il Concerto delle Viole Barberini Ensemble Mare Nostrum, Vox Luminis/Andrea De Carlo rec. 2011 RICERCAR RIC320

This disc sheds light on a forgotten part of Italian 17th-century music: the repertoire for a consort of viols. Mare Nostrum brings oustanding performances of first-rate and mostly unknown repertoire. Vox Luminis delivers fine contributions in madrigals for voices and viols.

Philipp DULICHIUS Sacred Motets Weser-Renaissance/Manfred Cordes rec. 2008 CPO 777352-2

Dulichius is a hardly-known German renaissance composer on the brink of the early baroque. He has been (unjustly) compared with Lassus, but his music is very good in its own right. Weser-Renaissance delivers immaculate and often exciting performances and demonstrates the various ways in which polyphony of the renaissance can be interpreted.

Domenico MAZZOCCHI La Catena d'Adone Laciana Mancini, Reinoud Van Mechelen, Scherzi Musicali/Nicolas Achten rec. 2010 ALPHA 184

This is the first opera ever performed in Rome. Mazzocchi was a highly respected composer in his time, and this opera shows why. There are some very dramatic moments, and these come off perfectly in the interpretations of Scherzi Musicali, an ensemble of outstanding young performers, from whom we can expect great things in the future.

Johann Christoph PEPUSCH Concertos and Overtures for London Crispian Steele-Perkins (trumpet) The Harmonious Society of Tickle-fiddle Gentlemen/Robert Rawson rec. 2010 RAMÉE RAM1109

Pepusch was one of the many composers from the continent who settled in London. He played an important role at the music scene; this is the first disc entirely devoted to his oeuvre, though. It is an impressive testimony of his compositional skills. The Harmonious Society of Tickle-fiddle Gentlemen is an excellent ensemble which fully explores the qualities of Pepusch's compositions.

La Bella Minuta Florid songs for cornetto around 1600 Bruce Dickey (cornett) Claudia Pasetto, Leonardo Bartolotto, Alberto Rasi (viola da gamba) Maria Christina Cleary (harp) Liuwe Tamminga (organ) rec. 2011 PASSACAILLE 979

The cornett was one of the most celebrated instruments in the 16th and early 17th centuries, in particular for its ability to imitate the human voice. This is amply demonstrated by Bruce Dickey, the king of modern-day cornettists. His technical skills are impressive, and even more so his ability to bring the repertoire for his instrument to life. He is supported by a fine ensemble of viols and harp and by organist Liuwe Tamminga. The 16th-century organ and the acoustic of the basilica in Mantua greatly contribute to the excitement of this recording.

Brian Wilson

Despite the problems besetting the classical recording industry, this has been an outstandingly productive year. As usual, most of my choices have appeared in my Download digests and, again as usual, it’s been supremely difficult to choose. Even the budget box of Mozart symphonies from Jaap ter Linden (Brilliant Classics) didn’t make the final cut.

Sir Edward ELGAR The Starlight Express Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano) Roderick Williams (baritone) Simon Callow (narrator) Scottish CO/Sir Andrew Davis rec. 2012 CHANDOS CHSA5111

I would have chosen Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony (Hyperion) but it was included last year. So I choose the sheer enterprise of recording Elgar’s complete Starlight Express, despite the strong claims of other Chandos enterprises and of Dutton in recording music new to me by Arthur Benjamin, Sainsbury, Haydn Wood and others.

Richard WAGNER Die Walküre Stig Fogh Andersen (tenor) Yvonne Howard (soprano) Susan Bickley (mezzo) The Hallé/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2011 HALLÉ CDHLD7531

Recordings of two very different operas vie for my choice. Despite the appeal of the Virgin Classics DVD which ‘sold’ Monteverdi’s Poppea to me, it has to be the Hallé set of Wagner’s die Walküre that takes top spot.

Arcangelo CORELLI Concerti Grossi The Avison Ensemble/Pavlo Beznosiuk rec. 2011 LINN CKD411

Of several fine recordings of baroque music: Monteverdi’s Selva Morale (volume 2, Coro), Vivaldi from Philippe Jaroussky (Virgin) and Elin Manahan Thomas (Channel Classics), his la Cetra (Channel Classics) and Opus 8 concertos (Linn) my first choice are the Corelli Op.6 Concerti Grossi from the Avison Ensemble; I should have made them Recording of the Month.

Christopher GIBBONS Motets, Anthems, Fantasias and Voluntaries Academy of Ancient Music & Choir/Richard Egarr (organ) rec. 2010 HARMONIA MUNDI HMU807551

Of my many discoveries this year, the music of Christopher Gibbons, son of the more famous Orlando just beats Striggio’s 1612 Vespers (Decca) and several neglected 20th-century composers whose music has been brought to us by Dutton.

Anton BRUCKNER Symphony 9 Berlin PO/Simon Rattle rec. 2012 EMI CLASSICS 9529692

Sir Simon Rattle has demonstrated that the reconstructed Bruckner Ninth Symphony can sound as convincing as Mahler’s Tenth; I place this even above the bargain download of Bruckner’s Eighth from Gunther Wand (RCA).

Sir Edward ELGAR Variations on an original theme 'Enigma' London SO/Pierre Monteux BEULAH EXTRA 1BX181

Linn’s Studio Master download reissues from Universal sound better than on CD, especially Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (Decca) and Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique (Decca, originally Philips), but Beulah’s reissues of Sir Thomas Beecham (Goldmark), Sir Adrian Boult (Elgar), Sir Colin Davis’s Beethoven and, above all, Pierre Monteux’s Elgar Enigma Variations take top place.

Jonathan Woolf

The London String Quartet: 1917-1951 Recordings MUSIC & ARTS CD-1253

Too late for inclusion last year, this is a must for my select 2012 list. Seldom does a set do what this one does: restore a significant selection of historic recordings largely ignored since their first release and also include a tranche of live concert material that changes perceptions of the group. That's what this set is all about. The live 1943-50 Library of Congress recitals reveal the London String Quartet as one of the elite chamber ensembles of its time, playing at the top of its form.

Jan Dismas ZELENKA Cantatas for Holy Sepulchre Hana Blažiková (soprano) David Erler (alto) Tobias Hunger (tenor) Tomáš Král (bass) Collegium Marianum/Jana Semerádová rec. 2011 SUPRAPHON SU4068-2

Supraphon's 'Music from Eighteenth Century Prague' series is handsomely produced and intelligently compiled. Add a Zelenka programme of less well known early works, and cap that with superb performances, and you have a winning combination. Hana Blažiková is an outstanding soprano and Collegium Marianum is directed by Jana Semerádová, one of the rising stars in the performance of Baroque music.

Emanuel Feuermann - Unexpected Discoveries rec. 1921-41 WEST HILL RADIO ARCHIVES WHRA6042

West Hill took what I called a 'stategically astute' route in this box. The great cellist Emanuel Feuermann's complete acoustic recordings are here - they've never before been collected - as is a fascinating selection of live performances. It allows one to chart the rapid advance in taste from some gauche mannerisms in the earliest sides to the remarkable virtuosity of his maturity. No admirer of the cellist can do without this box set.

Leslie Wright

As usual I have found it difficult to limit myself to six discs and were it not for this limit, I would also have included the Shostakovich Symphonies 6 and 12 in Vasiliy Petrenko’s continuing series on Naxos, the disc of delightful Martinu music for chamber ensemble with Klaus Simon and the Holst Sinfonietta also on Naxos, Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk’s “French Impressions” on Sony, and the JACK Quartet’s Wigmore Hall recital on Wigmore Hall Live. I was indeed fortunate to have reviewed these as well as the six below that for me were the truly outstanding discs of the year.

Mládí - works for wind ensemble by Reicha, Martinů & Janáček Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet rec. 2005/9 BIS BIS-CD-1802

A superb sampling of Czech wind music in exquisite performances and wonderful sound. The Janácek and Martinu in particular are outstanding, but the whole disc is a winner.

Sofia GUBAIDULINA In tempus praesens, Glorious Percussion Vadim Gluzman (violin) Anders Loguin, Anders Haag, Mika Takehara, Eirik Raude, Robyn Schulkowsky (percussion) Lucerne SO/Jonathan Nott rec. 2008/11 BIS BIS-CD-1752

A performance of Gubaidulina’s Second Violin Concerto by Vadim Gluzman at least the equal of Mutter’s premiere recording and one that easily demonstrates the work’s greatness among contemporary works in the genre. Along with this is the premiere recording of the composer’s terrific new percussion concerto.

Manuel de FALLA El sombrero de tres picos, Noches en los jardines de España, Homenajes Raquel Lojendio (soprano) Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena rec. 2011 CHANDOS CHAN10694

The perfect calling card for the BBC Philharmonic’s new chief conductor, Juanjo Mena, this selection of three of de Falla’s best orchestral works is a valuable addition to the composer’s discography. The conductor has a natural affinity for this repertoire and Chandos’s sound and production values are up to their usual high standard.

Antonín DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto, The Water Goblin, In Nature’s Realm Zuill Bailey (cello) Indianapolis SO/Jun Märkl rec. 2011 TELARC TEL3292702

A challenger to my long-held benchmark Fournier/Szell recording of this great Cello Concerto from an unexpected source. I have had real admiration for Bailey’s performances, but the Indianapolis Symphony under Märkl prove to be equal partners here. The fillers, In Nature’s Realm and the Water Goblin, are as idiomatically played as is the concerto.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony 4 WDR SO/Rudolf Barshai rec. 1996 ALTO ALC1169

Available now separately, Barshai’s powerful reading of this Shostakovich milestone has never been bettered. With world-class playing and deep, rich sound, the performance and recording are unmissable.

György LIGETI Le Grand Macabre Chris Merritt, Inés Moraleda, Ana Puche, Gran Teatre del Liceu SO & Ch/Michael Boder rec. 2011 ARTHAUS MUSIK 108058

A Blu-ray first for a controversial production of a weird and wonderful opera. Some may be appalled by the near pornography, while other viewers may find it enthralling. In any case, the performance could hardly be bettered and the sound and picture are stunning. The disc has a substantial bonus by way of a lengthy documentary on the staging and costumes.

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