Recordings Of The Year 2013

This is the eleventh year that Musicweb International has asked its reviewing team to nominate their recordings of the year. Reviewers are not restricted to discs they had reviewed, but the choices must have been reviewed on MWI in the last 12 months (December 2012-November 2013).

The 128 selections have come in from 23 members of the team, the choices this year reflecting as usual, the great diversity of music and sources.

Of the selections, eight have received two nominations:
•  world premieres of Vaughan Williams on Albion Records
•  Goldberg variations on the claivchord from Paladino
•  the 7 disc definitive Eric Coates collection from Nimbus
•  Mahler's Symhony 8 in Amsterdam on the RCO label
•  Britten's Turn of the Screw from Glyndebourne on FRA Musica
•  the 55th and final release in the Bach cantata series from BIS
•  rare British opera overtures from Somm
•  The Tallis Scholars' 40th anniversary Taverner from Gimell

The nominated recordings come from 65 different labels, and no label scored more than six nominations, very different to previous years, when usually at least two labels would reach double figures. The two leading nominees were BIS and Hyperion, but in a year where there was such a wide spread, it would seem unfair to choose one above another, or ahead of those with five or four nominations.

Gregorio ALLEGRI Miserere Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA Stabat Mater, Missa Papae Marcelli, Tu es Petrus Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips rec. 2005 GIMELL GIMBD641 BD-A

It is 40 years since Peter Phillips founded The Tallis Scholars, and perhaps appropriate that they have chosen to move into the "new" technology of Blu-ray audio by re-releasing the most celebrated piece of their repertoire, Allegri's Miserere. Dan Morgan's review describes this as a resounding success, and a landmark. Enough said.

Benjamin BRITTEN Benjamin Britten 100 - The Complete works DECCA 4785364

Can any performance or recording be the last word on a composer. One hopes not if only for the good of the music’s performing future. This is however as close as anyone can feasibly get to a massive Britten vade mecum so far as the experience of his music is concerned. Performances are reputedly faithful and with the composer’s directing involvement or imprimatur you are most probably hearing this music as he intended. You will be fortunate indeed to own this musically creative audio encyclopedia. It’s an unarguably momentous set with real presence both as to scale and design. It holds Britten’s creative lifetime up to the microphone in his centenary year. Will encourage and satisfy exploration.

Note - this selection runs against the normal Recordings of the Year rules in that it has not yet been reviewed (that will be rectified in the next week or so). However, it was felt that the significance of the release in this year, the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth, meant that its importance would have been diluted too much if it were held back until this time in 2014.

Rob Barnett

If these are the last days of the compact disc then they are extraordinarily vibrant. The death of the medium can be proclaimed triumphantly until it does indeed reach its final shudder. The fact is that the market-place for recordings is an astonishingly diverse place. It hums, bustles and crackles with activity and CDs which have been around commercially since 1983, jostle with downloads of a wide range of exalted and more basic standards, Blu-Ray audio, DVD-Audio (surely doomed now) and SACD – yet how few discs are issued in SACD only – they are almost invariably hybrids with a standard CD layer. There’s even a place still for super quality vinyl. Only the humble audio-cassette appears to be almost utterly defunct enjoying a half-life in the dustier realms of ebay and charity shops alongside museum pieces swathed in nostalgia and faulty memories. All that 8-track, DCC, DAT, Betamax, Elcassette, open reel and vinyl material provides a quarry for the cottage industry of digitising Indiana Joneses birthing these otherwise lost pieces of musicmaking in various brands of download and CD.

In the meantime, as Stephen Sondheim says, let’s make merry among the plethora of classical releases that have appeared over the last year.

Felix BLUMENFELD Symphony À la mémoire des chers défunts Georgy CATOIRE Symphony - Royal Scottish Ntl O/Martin Yates rec. 2012 DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7298

Two cracking and pretty much unknown Russian symphonies typically well done by Dutton Vocalion. What a break from Arensky, Balakirev or Tchaikovsky then this is it. Don’t forget to try out Hyperion’s equally vivacious Bortkiewicz symphonies after this glorious Dutton issue.

Peggy GLANVILLE-HICKS Sappho Gulbenkian O/Jennifer Condon rec. 2012 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0154-55

Glanville-Hicks’ full-scale, melodious and intelligent opera comes as quite a revelation. As JS wrote this is an important discovery in a very individual style with the emphasis on texture, tone and heterophony.

Alexander GLAZUNOV  Violin Concerto, MeditationMazurka-Oberek Othmar SCHOECK Concerto quasi una fantasia Chloë Hanslip (violin) O della Svizzera Italiana/Alexander Vedernikov rec. 2011 HYPERION

The ever songful-soulful Schoeck and Glazunov concertos presented by Hyperion with well-founded confidence of Chloe Hanslip’s great musicianship.

British Opera Overtures Victorian Opera O/Richard Bonynge rec. 2011 SOMM SOMM0123

Not my natural repertoire metier. Somm and the veteran Bonynge and his orchestra quickly won me over. Why are these overtures not as much of a concert-hall staple as those of Weber, Smetana and Rossini.Surprise yourself.

Ottorino RESPIGHI  Vetrate di chiesa, Metamorphoseon modi XII, Roman Trilogy, Belkis, Impressioni brasiliane - Philharmonia O/Geoffrey Simon, Yan Pascal Tortelier rec. 1984/91 CHANDOS

Strange to choose a reissue over the many excellent new Chandos issues. However this now elderly digital recording is lavishly imagined and recorded. Irresistible at this or any price.

Dobrinka TABAKOVA String Paths: Insight, Cello concerto, Suite in Old Style, Such different paths - Kristina Blaumane (cello) Janine Jansen (violin) Lithuanian CO/Maxim Rysanov (viola) rec. 2011/12 ECM NEW SERIES 2239

If you go for one new composer per year, make Tabakova it for 2013. Revel in this music. You cannot help but be emotionally and spiritually moved.

David Barker

This was the year I took digital music seriously, and it seemed I spent more time organising my existing collection than listening to new music. Given that I also took over the day-to-day running of the Musicweb International website from Len Mullenger mid-year, I'm surprised that I had time to listen properly to anything.

Johann Sebastian BACH Sacred cantatas Volume 55 - Hana Blažíková (soprano) Robin Blaze (counter-tenor) Gerd Türk (tenor) Peter Kooij (bass) Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki rec. 2013 BIS BIS-SACD-2031

After 18 years, it is finished: one of the most important recording projects of the last few decades, from what initially must have seemed an unlikely source - Japanese musicians and a Swedish recording label taking on the pinnacle of German church music. Those of who worried that Masaaki Suzuki would get "run over by a bus" before reaching the end can breathe easy. I have read criticisms of the performances across the series as being "too perfect": well, all I can say is I wish more recordings were so. Bravo to all concerned.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Three impressions for orchestra, Songs of Travel, Four hymns, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Prelude on an old carol tune Roland Wood (baritone) Andrew Kennedy (tenor) Royal Liverpool PO/Paul Daniel ALBION RECORDS ALBCD016

With two world premieres - Impressions & Casterbridge - this is a very important release by the recording arm of The Vaughan Williams Society. Often with "lost" works by major composers, one gets a sense of "interesting, but not especially significant", but here, the second Impression - The Solent - that gives the album its name is Vaughan Williams near his best and a major discovery.

Johannes BRAHMS Piano concertos 1 & 2 - Hélène Grimaud (piano) Bavarian RSO, Vienna PO/Andris Nelsons DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4791058

The Gilels/Jochum accounts of the Brahms concertos have stood the test of time as one of the great recordings of any music. They still do, but these romantic and expansive accounts by Ms Grimaud come as close as anyone has. She is very lucky to have two of the great orchestras and one of the up-and-coming conductors as partners.

Christian Frederik Emil HORNEMAN String Quartets 1 & 2 Asger HAMERIK Quartetto - Arild String Qt rec. 2011 DACAPO 8.226097

This rates as my "Surprise CD" of the year. I knew a little of the orchestral works of both composers, but these Mendelssohnian quartets were breaths of fresh air. The only disappointment was the running time - a little over 50 minutes.

Romantic Piano Trios by Hurlstone, Hyde, d'Ollone & Wiren - Trio Anima Mundi rec. 2011 DIVINE ART DDA25102

This was a late arrival on my list, featuring four essentially unknown works in my favourite chamber music genre. John France, in his review, made what I thought at the time was an over-the-top comment about the d'Ollone trio: "one of the best works in this genre that I have heard". Having now heard it, I can see what he means. I might not go as far as he does, but it is certainly quite wonderful. The Wiren is also very impressive in its varying moods, while the Hurlstone, at over 30 minutes, is the longest piece by far, but also the weakest.

Jake Barlow

During my first few months with MusicWeb, I have listened to a number of brilliant recordings, so narrowing the choice down was not an easy task.

Johann Sebastian BACH Goldberg Variations - Michael Tsalka (clavichord) rec. 2012 PALADINO PMR0032

This is a brilliant recording by an artist with a passion. Stepping outside the well-worn path of keyboard music, he creates a performance that make you sit up and listen. Technicality and creativity meet in a beautifully balanced performance

George Frideric HANDEL Famous Choruses from Messiah Barock Vokal Mainz, Neumeyer Consort/Michael Hofstetter rec. 2011 OEHMS CLASSICS OC 884

A whirlwind of different emotions. The orchestral playing is astounding, the singing remarkable and the whole package something really quite special. Impeccable performing from a first-class ensemble. A refreshing interpretation of a piece that is known and loved the world over.

Archipel Machaut Medieval Music and New Music - Mixtura, Katharina Bäuml (shawm), Margit Kern (accordion) rec. 2012 GENUIN GEN13284

Even though I have plenty of experience with Guillaume de Machaut's music, this was my first experience of the shawm and accordion as a pair. And what a pairing they make! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this disc, and I will be listening to it again and again.

Tomás Luis de VICTORIA Tenebrae Responsories Tenebrae/Nigel Short rec. 2012 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD344

Sublime. Tenebrae is an award-winning ensemble for a reason, and this disc is another example of their choral pedigree. Filled with emotion, Tenebrae brings the perfect balance of creative freedom and technical mastery to this stunning performance. I can recommend this whole-heartedly.  


Yet another vintage year for recordings. Singling out only six is an impossible task, so those below recognise in particular the incredible treasures to be found on smaller labels.

Ignacy Feliks DOBRZYŃSKI Piano Trio, Souvenir de Dresde, Les Larmes, for cello and piano, Introduction et Variations - Les Explorateurs rec. 2012/13 ACTE PREALABLE AP0278

An outstanding disc in every respect - arguably Acte Préalable's finest hour to date.

Viktor KALABIS Symphonies and concertos - Prague SO/Viktor Kalabis, Czech PO/Václav Neumann, Jirí Belohláve, Wolfgang Sawallisch rec. 1968-91 SUPRAPHON SU41092

The performer list for this special anniversary edition of Viktor Kalabis's orchestral works reads like a who's who of twentieth century Czech music, and so it should: Kalabis is one of that region's greatest composers. Like many in these musically ignorant times, he still awaits wider recognition, and may never get it - but meanwhile, anyone with even the slightest interest in twentieth-century music should acquire this star-studded triple-CD from Supraphon, released to mark the 90th anniversary of the composer's birth.

Søren Nils EICHBERG Symphonies 1 & 2 Danish Ntl SO/Christoph Poppen rec. 2011/12 DACAPO 8.226109

The Danish National Symphony Orchestra give a terrifically disciplined yet adrenalised account of Eichberg's highly demanding, noisy and relentlessly exciting scores. Engineering at its best too. A compelling disc, all told, for every bold-leaning lover of big-sounding symphonies.

Fernand de LA TOMBELLE Musique de Chambre Detroit-Windsor Chamber Ensemble rec. 2009/11 AZUR CLASSICAL AZC102

La Tombelle was a polymath who led an extraordinarily rich life. The sheer quality of his music (also available on an equally excellent Ligia Digital 302235) underlines once more the high cultural value of projects undertaken by adventurous labels to record works by putatively obscure composers. Experienced, passionate performances by the Detroit-Windsor Chamber Ensemble.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Piano Concertos 18-21 - Cristofori/Arthur Schoonderwoerd (fortepiano) rec. 2011/12 ACCENT ACC24265/278

The stunning design of these concertos can be appreciated as never before. For some who appreciate what Schoonderwoerd is trying to do for Mozart, there may be no going back - this is what the piano concertos should always sound like.

Johann Sebastian BACH Goldberg Variations - Michael Tsalka (clavichord) rec. 2012 PALADINO PMR0032

There is no doubt the sound of the clavichord is an acquired taste, probably even more so than the harpsichord, but for those with an interest in historical authenticity who wish to deepen their understanding and appreciation of this keyboard masterpiece, Michael Tsalka has much to tell, such as a masterly control of dynamics and a thorough attentiveness to phrasing and tempi in a way that totally explains J.S. and C.P.E.'s faith in the instrument.

Dominy Clements

Carl NIELSEN Symphonies 2 & 3 - New York PO/Alan Gilbert rec. 2011/12 DACAPO 6.220623

Nielsen’s symphonies are inspired and life-affirming and this is an inspired and life-affirming recording; ‘nuff said.

Claude DEBUSSY Préludes Books 1 & 2, Nocturnes, Prélude à l’après-midi d’une faune Alexei Lubimov rec. 2011 ECM NEW SERIES 2241/42

This is a superb set of performances done on rather special instruments from Debussy’s time. Follow them on the scores and absorb it all like a sponge – you’re guaranteed to be enriched, enlivened, entertained and transported to unexpected emotional realms.

Arvo PÄRT Adam’s Lament, Salve Regina Tui Hirv (soprano) Latvian Radio Ch, Vox Clamantis, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Ch, Sinfonietta Riga, Tallinn CO/Tõnu Kaluste rec. 2007/11 ECM NEW SERIES 2225

This is a Pärt release which has everything going for it. Spiritual experience is always a deeply personal business, but it’s enough for me that this shed a tear of awe and respect - refreshed in the knowledge that mankind can still create generously wondrous things from mean-tempered scales. 

Georg Friedrich HANDEL Concerti Grossi Op.6 Combattimento Consort Amsterdam/Jan Willem de Vriend rec. 2010 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72570

Stirring, exciting and moving in equal measure, this set is great fun; and a terrific monument to a noteworthy artistic team. Such superb things are alas likely to be an increasing rarity in the future from this country.

Arnold SCHÖNBERG Verklärte Nacht Franz SCHUBERT String Quintet - Janine Jansen, Boris Brovtsyn (violin), Maxim Rysanov, Amihai Grosz (viola), Torlief Thedéen, Jens Peter Maintz (cello) rec. 2012 DECCA 478 3551

Chamber music with sonics and emotional impact on a symphonic scale, these masterful musicians get everything right, and even after 83 minutes leave us wanting more.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Piano sonatas 28-32 - Igor Levit (piano) rec. 20103 SONY CLASSICS 88883 703872

Igor Levit’s clean, colourful and powerful performances render any obscurity in the late Beethoven sonatas obsolete. This really is one for both connoisseurs and newbies alike.  

Michael Cookson

In spite of the international recession still biting the 2013 has proved to be a tremendous year for both new releases and reissues. Numerous releases were on my shortlist but just miss out inclusion in my final list of six. There is the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda playing Alfredo Casella orchestral works, Vol. 3 that includes the terrific Symphony No. 3 on Chandos. Next an excellent live Stravinsky disc featuring The Rite of Spring and Symphonies of Wind Instruments from the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle on EMI Classics. In the centenary year of Britten's birth the consistent excellence of the Choir of New College Oxford directed by Edward Higginbottom is demonstrated by their splendid set of the composer’s ‘The Sacred Choral Music’ on Novum. I love the Arthaus Musik DVD of the live performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 Resurrection’ performed by the Bavarian RSO and Choir conducted by Mariss Jansons with such excellent soloists Anja Harteros and Bernarda Fink.

In the bicentenary year of Verdi's birth there is some tremendous singing by opera star Jonas Kaufmann on his release ‘The Verdi Album’ on Sony Classics. On Mezzo Blu-ray another terrific live performance from this year’s Baden-Baden Easter Festival is Robert Carsen’s stunning staging of Mozart’s The Magic Flute played by the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle with an extremely fine cast of performers. Worthy of attention is Vasily Petrenko and his Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 Leningrad’ on Naxos. I remain delighted with the stunning playing and recording of Hans Werner Henze’s Symphonies 1 and 6 played by the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under Marek Janowski on Wergo. Containing some real hidden gems I wish I could have found a place for Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s Part-Songs beautifully sung by the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir directed by Paul Spice on Somm.

Sergei PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto 3 Béla BARTÓK Piano Concerto 2 - Lang Lang (piano) Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2013 SONY CLASSICAL 88883 732262

Lang Lang performs two of the most important 20th century piano concertos in the repertoire. Under Sir Simon Rattle the great Berliner Philharmoniker is a highly persuasive and totally sympathetic partner. The Sony engineers have provided altogether first rate sound to complement Lang Lang’s stunning performances of real gravitas.

Paul HINDEMITH Complete Works for Viola, Volume 1: Der Schwanendreher, Trauermusik, Kammermusik 5, Konzertmusik Tabea Zimmermann (viola) Deutsche SO Berlin/Hans Graf rec. 2012 MYRIOS CLASSICS MYR010

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Paul Hindemith there is a heartfelt passion and robust edge to Tabea Zimmermann’s assured performance. Her playing blows away the cobwebs bringing these Hindemith works for viola and orchestra very much to life. Making a highly sympathetic partner the excellent DSO Berlin is warmly expressive and extremely detailed with conductor Hans Graf holding everything together with total confidence. I’m so enthusiastic about this beautifully played and recorded release. I say roll-on volume 2!

Hans PFITZNER Piano Concerto Max REGER Eine romantische Suite Ferruccio BUSONI Nocturne symphonique Tzimon Barto (piano) Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann rec. 2011 HANSSLER PROFIL EDITION PH12016

I was delighted to see a world class orchestra like the Staatskapelle Dresden with their enormously talented conductor Christian Thielemann release a programme of neglected works from the pens of Busoni, Pfitzner and Reger. All three composers were based in Germany and although popular in their lifetime today their works are known more by reputation than by actual concert performances. Recorded live in 2011 in the splendid acoustic of the Semperoper in Dresden the engineers have provided excellent sound.

Gustav MAHLER Lieder Christian Gerhaher (baritone) Gerold Huber (piano) rec. 2009 BMG RCA RED SEAL 88697 567732

A deeply committed performer, Christian Gerhaher is in his element with this collection of Mahler Lieder. Gerhaher makes a strong emotional connection to the text; as if he is actually living the words. With superb diction the baritone’s firm, attractive voice displays a deep golden timbre. This disc of Mahler Lieder deserves the highest possible praise. It’s sheer enjoyment from start to finish.

Benjamin BRITTEN War Requiem Emily Magee (soprano) Mark Padmore (tenor) Christian Gerhaher (baritone) Tölzer Knabenchor, Bavarian RSO & Ch/Mariss Jansons rec. 2013 BR KLASSIK 900120 [48:20 + 39:02]

Recorded live at the Munich Philharmonie in March this year I was fortunate to report from one of the performances. I was struck how adept Jansons and his well prepared forces are with Britten’s tough harmonies and rhythms providing a highly positive response. Jansons is a master at controlling large forces and directs throughout with unyielding assurance. I remain delighted with the contributions of the three excellent soloists who display well contrasted voices and the choirs are on top form too. This compelling performance is quite stunning and it made a considerable impression on me.

Sergei RACHMANINOV The Bells, Symphonic Dances Rundfunkchor Berlin, Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2010/12 WARNER CLASSICS 9 84519 2 [71:37]

It’s pleasing to see Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker tackling these two underrated Rachmaninov scores; which I regard as masterworks. With live performances as excellent as these I hope they assist these thrilling scores in becoming repertoire staples. Under Rattle’s assured baton the playing on this Warner Classics release just glows with intensity.

Robert Farr

Last year I grumbled that in the sixty or so opera recordings I had reviewed during the year, mainly video, I had difficulty in nominating many as Recordings of the Month or under the present heading. This was despite the singing often being good; it was rather because of the predilection in Europe for avante garde or regietheater productions. Many of these seem to have more to do with being seen to be different, or more tenuously, relevant to our present times, than doing justice to the composers creative intentions. In the end I was only able to chose four of my own opera reviews, and one by a colleague, together with one of the Naxos Musical Journey Series.

With my reviewing productivity remaining pleasingly consistent, at least as to quantity, I am pleased to report better outcomes this year. This is in part due to the revival of older productions in 16:9 aspect, or the re-issue of older productions, albeit in 4:3, but not blighted by the policies outlined above. My choices are also very much related to the fact that 2013 is a significant anniversary, being Verdi and Wagner bi-centenary year. The former is a particular interest of mine as is reflected by my extensive four part Conspectus of 2006, now rather dated, not least by the Verdi recordings included in my list.

Both recent recordings come from the C Major series of recordings to mark the Verdi bicentenary and called Tutto Verdi. All the operas in this series are issued in  Blu ray and DVD format. As I point out in the reviews concerned, the title is not wholly accurate as they list and issue 26 titles whilst there are 28 titles in the Verdi oeuvre. The C Major Tutto Verdi recordings are largely derived from the Teatro Reggio, Parma, near Verdi’s hometown. I nominated four of the performances out of the twenty-three I reviewed as Recordings of the Month, but can only find space for two of them under this present heading. I have chosen to exclude Attila and Stiffelio as there are satisfactory alternatives in the catalogue.

Giuseppe VERDI Oberto, Conte di Bonifaci Giovanni Parodi (bass) Francesca Sassu (soprano) Mariana Pentcheva (mezzo) Fabio Sartori (tenor) Ch & O Teatro Regio, Parma/Antonello Allemandi rec. 2007 C MAJOR 720104

This semi comic work was Verdi’s second staged opera. It is his only such work until his very last, Falstaff, staged over 59 years later! This production by Pier Luigi Pizzi, who was also responsible for the sets and costumes, was first staged in the Teatro Reggio in1997. It was revived, for the first time since, for the opening of the 2010 season of Parma’s annual Verdi Festival. In period costume and with simple sets, this performance and staging has many virtues.  It features both Pizzi himself as the revival director, and Anna Caterina Antonacci, who was also the Marchessa in that original 1997 staging.

Giuseppe VERDI Rigoletto Francesco Demuro (tenor) Leo Nucci (baritone) Nino Machaidze (soprano) Ch & O Teatro Regio, Parma/Massimo Zanetti rec. 2008 C MAJOR 723304

Rigoletto comes tenth in the all time list of performed operas and second after La Traviata at number two. There have been several modern video recordings of this work, including some with strong singing casts, but afflicted, in my view, from the vices I outline above. Recorded live at the Parma Verdi Festival, 2008, this production is reprised from that premiered in 1987. It features a traditional set and period costumes and is as well sung as any, not least by Leo Nucci in the title role in his sixty sixth year. The response of the audience is such that he and the singer of Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, have to reprise part of the act two duet. I believe this is by far the best-staged and performed Rigoletto in the modern digital format and aspect and should be a part of any opera collection. 

Giuseppe VERDI Macbeth Kostas Paskalis (baritone) Josephine Barstow (soprano) Glyndebourne Ch, London PO/John Pritchard rec. 1972 ARTHAUS MUSIK 102316

There have been several modern video recordings of this, Verdi’s first Shakespearean opera. However, many are at the apex of what I dislike the most, with caravans and the like to go along with modern clothing and including that in the Tutto Verdi series. The Glyndebourne Festival had much to do with the Verdi renaissance in Britain and of this opera in particular. Dating back to 1972 this performance is in period costumes and sets. The scene of the passing of the Kings remains imprinted on my visual memory as if it were yesterday! It is particularly well sung and acted and now at bargain price.

Richard WAGNER Der Fliegende Holländer Franz Grundheber (bass-baritone) Senta - Hildegard Behrens (soprano) Savonlinna Opera Festival Ch & O/Leif Segerstam rec. 1989 WARNER CLASSICS 2564 647608

Recorded live at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in 1989, the atmospheric setting and imaginative stage effects add to the overall enjoyment of one of Wagner’s shorter operas. Add a singing cast of notable Wagnerians to this staging and it as near as possible to get to an ideal performance of one the German masters early works.

Gioachino ROSSINI Le Siège de Corinthe Lorenzo Regazzo (bass) Majella Cullagh (soprano) Michael Spyres (tenor) Camerata Bach Ch Poznan, Virtuosi Brunensis/Jean-Luc Tingaud rec. 2010 NAXOS 8.660329-30

The year has brought notably well sung video performances from the Pesaro Rossini Festival. Regrettably, all have involved the worse excesses of production that I outline above. The open policy of the Festival’s officers is that the customers will come anyway! Thankfully, the so-called Pesaro of the north, the Bad Wildbad Festival, continues to perform Rossini’s operas with excellent conductors and singers with the resultant CDs being issued at bargain price on the Naxos label. The added virtue of this particular issue, from the twenty second Festival in 2010, is that its well sung and conducted performance fills in a gap in the lexicon of recordings of the works that Rossini composed or rewrote for Paris. 

Gaetano DONIZETTI Caterina Cornaro Carmen Giannattasio (soprano) Colin Lee (tenor) Troy Cook (baritone) BBC SO & Singers/David Parry rec. 2011 OPERA RARA ORC 48

This first studio recording of Donizetti’s last performed opera marks a change in policy for Opera Rara as funds from the Peter Moores Foundation are no longer available to sustain and develop its catalogue. Now in association with the BBC, this, performance and recording, along with the presentation are up to the usual Opera Rara standards. Among a well-balanced cast Carmen Ginnattasio’s dramatic qualities are to the fore in the eponymous role as is Colin Lee as Gerrado encompassing the high tessitura with ease. David Parry’s conducting keeps the drama and Donizetti’s sophisticated orchestration to the fore. Essential listening for all lovers of this composer’s works.

Göran Forsling

Nordic Sounds 2 Swedish Radio Choir/Peter Dijkstra rec. 2011 CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA32812

The Swedish choral tradition is deeply rooted and since its creation in 1925 the Swedish Radio Choir has been one of the most important in the world, in particular since Eric Ericson took over in 1952. The repertoire on this disc is an adventure in itself and amply demonstrates that the artistic level and the creativity is as high as ever.

Veljo TORMIS Curse upon Iron Works for male choir - Orphei Drängar/Cecilia Rydinger Alin rec. 2012 BIS BISSACD1993

By some coincidence this disc with the superb male choir OD appeared almost simultaneous with the disc presented above. Estonian Tormis has long since created his own very special sound world and this collection, covering several decades, is a thrilling introduction for those not yet converted, and a wet dream come true for Tormis's admirers.

Hugo WOLF Italienisches Liederbuch Janet Baker (mezzo) John Shirley-Quirk (baritone) Steuart Bedford (piano) rec. 1977 ICA CLASSICS ICAC5076

A never before issued recital from Aldeburgh with two of the the most personal and expressive British singers of their generation is a gift from Heaven. Both singers are truly inspired and I've rarely heard these songs performed with greater vitality. It may be that other pianists have made more with the accompaniments, but what counts is the wholehardedly engaging singing.

Leonardo VINCI Artaserse Philippe Jaroussky, Max Emanuel Cenic, Franco Fagioli (counter-tenors) Daniel Behle (tenor) Concerto Köln/Diego Fasolis rec. 2011 VIRGIN CLASSICS 6028692

Leonardo Vinci has been largely forgotten - though he was enormously big in his day - but no his time has come and this, his very last opera, is certainly on a par with Handel's. Superb playing and magnificent singing from four masterly counter-tenors and tenor Daniel Behle, who impresses more and more for every new recording.

The Sound of Montserrat Caballé - Her Great Opera Roles rec. 1970-79 EMI CLASSICS 721296 2

Issued to coincide with her eightieth anniversary in April 2013 this 5 disc box offers a wealth of the most beautiful soprano sounds ever recorded. EMI were lucky to sign her up for some of her very best complete sets and recital records during the 1970s and all her best features are on display here: the creamy tone, the ethereal pianissimos and also the sheer heft of her dramatic singing. Even if you, like myself, have many of the complete sets it is so convenient to have all those magic moments collected.

Arias for Caffarelli Franco Fagioli (counter-tenor) Il pomo d’oro/Riccardo Minasi rec. 2012 NAÏVE V5333

I heard Fagioli in the flesh as Giulio Cesare in Helsinki a couple of years ago and found him irresistible, an impression that was confirmed on the Vinci opera (se above). Now in his first solo recital with arias for Caffarelli he definitely rises to the first ranks in the crowded counter-tenor stakes. His beauty of tone, his phenomenal range and his impeccable technique - plus two handfuls of first class arias - makes this a winner in every respect.

John France

I have chosen five recordings that especially appealed to me during 2013.  They are all British works (or artists) dating from the mid-1800s to the present day. I could have chosen many other CDs that have appealed immensely to me during this year. However, I feel that these represent the highlights for me. If I had to choose only one disc, it would be the Vaughan Williams.

Eric COATES The Definitive Eric Coates: Eric Coates conducts his own compositions - rec. 1923-57 NIMBUS NI 6231

This is an essential purchase for all enthusiasts of Eric Coates in particular and British Light Music in general. It offers virtually a complete compendium of his orchestral music. It is unbelievably good value for money. There is nothing about this release that I can fault. It is one of the recording highlights of my classical music-listening life. What I would have given for this back in the early ‘seventies when I first discovered Eric Coates music ...

Myra Hess - The Complete Solo and Concerto Studio Recordings rec. 1928-57 APR RECORDINGS 7504

Myra Hess’ arrangement and recording of ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’ is, to me, one of the most precious things in the world.  I have come to love her playing and to appreciate her massive achievement in the musical world. This present CD is a treasure trove for anyone who has fallen in love with this great pianist and I can guarantee that it will give hours of listening pleasure.

David JENNINGS Piano Sonata, Sonatinas, Harvest Moon Suite & other works for piano - James Willshire (piano) rec. 2012 DIVINE ART DDA25110

David Jennings is a composer who is beholden to no-one (in spite of a number of trajectories in his musical language). It is serious, well-structured music that I can do business with. And, more to the point, many of these pieces are not only impressive, but are interesting, satisfying and often moving. No listener (or composer) could wish for more.

British Opera Overtures Victorian Opera O/Richard Bonynge rec. 2011 SOMM SOMM0123

This is an exciting and innovative CD. Three things need to be said. Firstly, this new SOMM disc adds yet another nail into the still-held adage that Victorian Great Britain was a ‘land without music.’ From the first note to the last, these ten overtures display interest, character and downright tunefulness. Granted that these ‘discoveries’ do not showcase music of the stature of a Berlioz, a Weber or a Mendelssohn there is nothing here that is unworthy of anything being composed in the mid to late nineteenth century.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Three impressions for orchestra, Songs of Travel, Four hymns, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Prelude on an old carol tune Roland Wood (baritone) Andrew Kennedy (tenor) Royal Liverpool PO/Paul Daniel ALBION RECORDS ALBCD016

Finally, my CD of the year is the recent Albion (ALBCD016) recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams ‘Three Impressions for Orchestra’, especially ‘The Solent.’ I have waited for at least 40 years to hear this work, since reading about it in connection with the composer’s Ninth Symphony. And it is everything I could have imagined. I must not forget the other ‘impressions’ - ‘Burley Heath’ and ‘Harnham Down’, nor the incidental music to Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge.’  This may not be the most profound music released on CD this year but from my point of view it is the most fascinating. An impressive review by David Barker sets the seal on this disc.

Paul Corfield Godfrey

I have been very fortunate this year to be able to review a great many superlative recordings, and selection of merely six has been very difficult indeed.

In an attempt to ‘slim down’ the field I have deliberately not selected any reissues, although such discs as Barbirolli’s Mahler Fifth, Kennedy’s first recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto, the Giulini Nozze di Figaro, Janet Baker’s first Dido and Aeneas, Roxanna Panufnik’s choral music, the Brilliant Classics collection of Rimsky-Korsakov cantatas, Salieri’s Les Danaïdes, Sawallisch’s Meistersinger, McCreesh’s Venetian Coronation, the Glyndebourne Fidelio DVD produced by Peter Hall, Rutter’s collection of Richard Rodney Bennett choral music, the Pristine remastering of Gieseking’s Debussy Préludes, Hickox’s collection including the Finzi Requiem da camera, Hickox’s disc of Howells music for strings, Blacher’s Grossinquisitor, and Schmidt’s Notre Dame would all have vied for inclusion. One’s only regret is the often dismal presentation of many of these releases, with essential information necessary for the listener simply missing.

Similarly I have included only one DVD/Blu-Ray, since many of the releases which I have reviewed have raised serious issues about the productions concerned. I will however nominate as my first choice a new Blu-Ray which seeks to do something rather different.

Carl Maria von WEBER Der Freischütz (as Hunter’s Bride) René Pape (bass) Olaf Bär (baritone) Juliane Banse (soprano) Berlin Radio Ch, London SO/Daniel Harding rec. 2010 ARTHAUS MUSIK 108097

This is quite simply one of the best modern visual representations of any opera that has come my way for some considerable time. There are inevitably some points of concern which I raise in my review, but these pale into insignificance when compared with the many merits of the production and the musical presentation.

Ernest CHAUSSON Concert, String Quartet - Jennifer Pike (violin), Tom Poster (piano) Doric String Qt rec. 2012 CHANDOS CHAN10754

This Chandos issue contains what are quite simply two superlative recordings of pieces that are most unjustly neglected, and the recordings fully match the quality of the playing. I would hope that they will make many new converts to the cause of Chausson’s under-valued music.

Sir Richard Rodney BENNETT Letters to Lindbergh & other choral works NYCoS National Girls Ch/Christopher Bell* Philip Moore and Andrew West (piano) rec. 2012 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD325

In commemoration of the composer’s death I received two superlative discs of his choral music this year, and although one of these is barred from my selection as a reissue this new release from Scotland is a worthy nomination. The Letters to Lindbergh are great fun.

Kurt WEILL Zaubernacht Ania Vegry (soprano), Arte Ensemble rec. 2012 CPO 7777672

The rediscovery of the full score of Weill’s early ‘pantomime’ is a real cause for celebration. Although one regrets Meirion Bowen’s wasted labours in reconstructing the score for an earlier release, this new disc should belong in the collection of every Weill devotee.

John PICKARD Piano Concerto, Sea-Change, Tenebrae Fredrick Ullén (piano) Norrköping SO/Martyn Brabbins rec. 2010/11 BIS BIS-CD-1873

I regard John Pickard’s Tenebrae as one of the greatest compositions of recent years, and told the composer so after the British première last year. I am delighted to welcome it onto CD so quickly, and would recommend it to anybody who cares about modern music and its development.

Whither must I wander? Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Songs of travel & other songs Gerald FINZI Let us garlands bring Roger QUILTER Three Shakespeare Songs David John Pike (baritone) Isabelle Trüb (piano) rec. 2011/12 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD 314

This recital introduces us to one of the most promising young voices I have heard for some years, and the selection of the material is interesting too. Not everything is perfect, but much of what we hear on this disc is pretty close to it. One looks forward with anticipation to future releases.

Stephen Greenbank

Johannes BRAHMS String Quintets - Uppsala Chamber Soloists rec. 2011/12 DAPHNE 1045

Amongst his chamber works, Brahms’ two String Quintets have taken something of a backseat.  The second quintet in G major Op. 111 is, without doubt, one of his finest works, and a great favorite of mine.  I was thrilled when I came across this recording, and nominated it for a ‘Recording of the Month’.  Everything seems just right. Tempi, dynamics and phrasing are well judged. Intonation and ensemble marks these performances out with distinction. Sound quality is second-to-none.

Franz SCHUBERT Complete works for violin and piano - Alina Ibragimova (violin) Cédric Tiberghien (piano) rec. 2012 HYPERION CDA67911/12

This is music making at it’s best. Ibragimova and Tiberghien prove an outstanding partnership in these works. What comes across, for me, is an affinity for and true love of this wonderful music. Grace, eloquence, and charm, is underpinned by intelligent musicianship. You name it – it’s all here!

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Piano trios - Willi Boskovsky (violin) Nikolaus Hubner (cello) Lili Kraus (piano) rec. 1954 ANDROMEDA ANDRCD5149

It is good to see these recordings back in circulation and in much improved, remastered sound. Here are three performers at the top of their game, and you detect a chemistry between them. They play these trios with an innate sense of style. I have a passion for ‘old’ recordings and this is my historical CD choice of the year.

Franz Joseph HAYDN Piano Sonatas Volume 5 - Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) rec. 2012 CHANDOS CHAN 10763

This is the fifth volume of Haydn Piano Sonatas by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. I’ve collected all the volumes so far, and with each successive one, Bavouzet goes from strength to strength. All the elements are present - elegance, wit, stylish phrasing and crisp and incisive playing. Formidable technique and musicianship enable him to realize his vision. Chandos’ sound quality is enhanced by a sympathetic acoustic, enabling the listener to discern every nuance and detail.

Georges ENESCU Cello Sonatas - Valentin Radutiu (cello) Per Rundberg (piano) rec. 2013 HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD 98.021

This is the first time I have heard the two Enescu Cello Sonatas, and it’s a delight to discover such gems as these. The added bonus here is the excellent recording from cellist Valentin Radutiu and pianist Per Rundberg. These are beautifully managed performances by two young artists who have a deep commitment and understanding for this music. Their musicality shines through, and they bring an element of freshness and spontaneity to the proceedings. In excellent sound, the music emerges with clarity and detail.  These are performances I will be returning to often.

Michael Greenhalgh

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Volume 1 - Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) rec. 2008-11 CHANDOS CHAN 10720(3)

Take the Pathetique Sonata: here’s a cool, intent opening then light and fluent continuation. Bavouzet isn’t cowed by his predecessors but does his own novel thing. The first movement coda magnificently contrasts poignant despair and angry resolution without histrionics. The slow movement is presented with a beauteous melodiousness yet also artlessness.

Benjamin BRITTEN The Turn of the Screw Miah Persson (soprano) Toby Spence (tenor) Susan Bickley (soprano) London PO/Jakub Hruša rec. 2011 FRA MUSICA FRA507

Hrusa brings out the clarity and richness of the chamber orchestration. Persson captures the simultaneous hopes and fears of the governess. Spence conveys the stiffness of the dead and the animation of a phantom. In Parfitt’s gaze there seems in Miles a knowing quality beyond innocence. You marvel at the ingenuity of the set.

Edward ELGAR Piano Quintet Antonín DVORÁK Piano Quintet 2 - Sir Philip Ledger (piano) Alberni Qt rec. 2001 NIMBUS NI6220

From the start of the Elgar Ledger’s piano playing has poise, the Alberni Quartet’s playing is emotive. Here is no virtuoso gloss but a sense that the music means a lot to the performers. In the Dvorak there’s a comparable big heartedness plus relish of melodic invention.

Joseph HAYDN Symphonies 6-8 - NFM Wroclaw Baroque O/Jaroslaw Thiel rec. 2010 CDACCORD ACD167-2

A joyous vivacity characterizes Thiel’s accounts on period instruments. Le matin begins as a delighted romp, its slow movement then refined yet sunny. Le midi has more heft but soon skips along while its recitativo second movement has just the right quality of visionary exploration. Le soir nimbly dances then benignly luxuriates.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Symphonies 35 & 38 - Danish Ntl CO/Adam Fischer rec. 2012 DACAPO 6.220545

In beginning his complete symphony cycle with the early works Fischer has honed a style which even better serves the greater density of the later symphonies. His Haffner has a winning combination of suave, light phrasing and biting articulation of rhythm. His Prague is tougher, yet with more contrasting warmth and charm.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphonies 5 & 8 - Hallé O/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2011/12 HALLÉ HLLCD7533

With tempi perfectly gauged throughout, in particular to the first movement of RVW’s fifth symphony Elder brings a serene, flowing calm, lucid exposition, organic growth and clarity of development. He’s analytic yet also satisfying. In the eighth symphony Elder is relaxed yet clear-sighted in the first movement, eloquently soulful in the third.

Ian Lace

Again I found it difficult to narrow my choice.  I wanted to include the Naxos Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet and Piano Quintet,  Simon Rattle’s vibrant readings of Rachmaninov’s The Bells and Symphonic Dances and the Blu-ray release of Hitchcock’s Vertigo with Bernard Herrmann’s brilliant score now in enhanced sound.

Franz LEHÁR Giuditta Edda Moser, Nicolai Gedda, Munich RSO & Ch/Willi Boskovsky rec. 1983/4 EMI 6150902

Giuditta, with its scintillating, beautifully crafted music, approaches the realms of opera more than any other of Lehár’s operettas. Maybe this 1984 recording with the wonderful team of Nicolai Gedda and Edda Moser in the title role will rekindle interest in Giuditta as  happened for Puccini’s La Rondine in the 1990s?

Sergei RACHMANINOV Symphony 2, Three Dances from Aleko Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2011/12 EMI 9154732

Petrenko’s masterly Rachmaninov’s recordings continue with this poised and spacious reading of this most romantic of romantic symphonies and how his Andante sings so tenderly and with such passion in its climax.  Need I say more? 

Kurt ATTERBERG Symphonies 4 & 6, Suite No. 3, En värmlandsrapsodi Gothenberg SO/Neeme Järvi rec. 2012 CHANDOS CHSA5116

Kurt Atterberg’s music has long enthralled me and so I was thrilled that Chandos have chosen to record his music. This initial album augurs well.  Järvi and his Gothenberg players bring real cinematic sweep to this Technicolor music.

Giuseppe VERDI Viva Verdi - Overtures and Preludes - Filarmonica della Scala/Riccardo Chailly rec. 2012 DECCA 478 3559

An enticing mix of well -known and less familiar orchestral music from Chailly who delivers thrilling - even electrifying performances. He brings out all the fire, drama, melodrama and romance from these scores.

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Much Ado About Nothing University of North Carolina School of the Arts SO/John Mauceri rec. 2012 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0160

A complete performance of Korngold’s delightful incidental music to Shakespeare’s comedy. The orchestra is the same that Korngold originally specified; and there are dramatic overlays including Balthasar’s Song, ‘Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more…’

Sir Edward ELGAR Symphony 2, Sospiri, Elegy Royal Stockholm PO/Sakari Oramo rec. 2011/12 BIS BIS-SACD-1879

Here is a thrilling performance of this vital British symphony, strongly propelled with plenty of swagger but its quieter, more introspective moments are heartfelt too.  A very interesting viewpoint of this work by another non-British orchestra. 

Albert Lam

As I delved once more into collecting classical vinyl this year, fewer new CD releases made it to my shelf, but those that did were well worth the purchase.  One which deserves mention but couldn't be added to the official list because it wasn't officially reviewed on the site is the EMI (now Warner Classics) Icon boxed set of Constantin Silvestri's orchestral recordings.  Arguably for me one of the finest compilations to have been released this year, it contains essentially all of the important orchestral recordings that Silvestri made with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s-1960s.  Any vinyl collector will appreciate the value of these digital transfers, some of which are newly remastered in 2013, since many of these original LPs now sell for hundreds of dollars on the used LP market.  You can get all of them for less than $30 in this set, and the sound is excellent for its age.

Here is a list of this year's reviewed recordings which I felt were particularly noteworthy. 

Gabriel FAURÉ Thème et variations, Valse-caprices, Nocturnes, Ballade - Angela Hewitt (piano) rec. 2012 HYPERION CDA67875

My solo instrumental choice for the year.  The most recent installment of Hewitt's recordings of French piano music, this performance of selected Faure works is compelling and mesmerizing.

Vagn HOLMBOE Viola Concerto, Concerto for orchestra, Violin Concerto 2 - Erik Heide (violin) Lars Anders Tomter (viola) Norrköping SO/Dmitri Slobodeniouk rec. 2011 DACAPO 6.220599

My orchestral choice for the year.  Although this repertoire was entirely new repertoire to my ears, I was instantly captivated from the moment I heard the thunderous opening bass drum beats of the Viola Concerto.  This is truly fun music which needs to be heard more often, and it is superbly recorded here by Dacapo with a huge dynamic range, clarity, and presence.

Franz SCHUBERT Duo Sonata, Rondo, Fantasy - Tomas Cotik (violin) Tao Lin (piano) rec. 2011 CENTAUR RECORDS CRC3250

My first chamber choice for the year.  This Schubert duo album is a beautiful musical collaboration between violinist Tomas Cotik and pianist Tao Lin and one which I returned to multiple times throughout the year given its charm.  Recording quality is also excellent, not too close with a nice sense of air around the performers.

Idylls and Bacchanals Works by Bax, Jacob, Leighton, McEwen, Maconchy, Milford & Rawsthorne - Louise Williams (viola, violin) David Owen Norris (piano) rec. 2011/12 EM RECORDS EMRCD007/8

My second chamber choice for the year.  I'm a huge fan of British music in general (and no, I'm not British, I'm actually Asian American), and chamber music in particular, and greatly enjoyed exploring this important two CD release of lesser known but beautifully composed British works for viola and piano. 

Rob Maynard

With three of my choices this year coming from the ICA Classics label, I must deny any financial interest. It is simply because they produce such wonderful - and wonderfully restored - video and audio gems from the back catalogue that they deserve such grateful recognition.

Ferdinand HÉROLD La fille mal gardée Nadia Nerina, David Blair, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden O/John Lanchbery rec. 1962 ICA CLASSICS ICAD5088

This is quite simply the release of the year for anyone interested in ballet. Ashton's La Fille has long been a jewel in the Royal Ballet's crown and here, filmed just a couple of years after its premiere, we have the original cast in an unrivalled performance showing exactly why that is.

Adolphe ADAM Giselle Alessandra Ferri, Massimo Murru, Ballet & O of the Teatro alla Scala/Paul Connelly rec. 1996 ARTHAUS MUSIK 100061

This latest reissue of a much admired performance demonstrates prima ballerina assoluta Alessandra Ferri's supreme artistry and technical ability to the full. In an early role, today's superstar Roberto Bolle makes a very strong impression that propelled his career forward.

Choreography by Bournonville La sylphide & Flower festival in Genzano Flemming Flindt, Rudolf Nureyev, Merle Park, Lucette Aldous, London SO/David Ellenberg rec. 1960-74 ICA CLASSICS ICAD5099

August Bournonville's exquisitely characteristic choreography - preserved in aspic ever since by his Copenhagen company - receives a comparatively rare outing on video. The recording may have been monochrome but the sheer colour and life of the expert dancing still shines through.

Zdeněk FIBICH Symphony 1, Impressions from the countryside Czech Ntl SO/Marek Štilec rec. 2012 NAXOS 8.572985

An idiomatic performance from a "local" and accomplished orchestra, skilful conducting and first rate recording make this disc a real treat. If the rest of a promised Naxos series maintains this standard, Fibich's reputation will justifiably deserve reappraisal.

Franz LISZT Hungarian Rhapsodies 1-6 - O Wiener Akademie/Martin Haselböck rec. 2012 CPO 7777972

This very familiar music can sound very different when the original orchestrations are played, as here, on original instruments. Less "symphonic" than we are used to hearing, in this guise these scores come up as fresh as the paint on a Budapest cafe. Sheer delight!

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Symphony 3 Bedřich SMETANA The bartered bride overture Ruperto CHAPÍ & Gerónimo GIMÉNEZ Zarzuelas - Ntl O Spain, Suisse Romande, Gran SO/Ataúlfo Argenta rec. 1955-57 ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5087

One of music's "what might have beens", Ataulfo Argenta was poised on the edge of a highly promising career when he died in a tragic accident, leaving all too little recorded material. These may not be desert island performances but they add to our knowledge and appreciation of a very accomplished conductor.

Dan Morgan

It’s not been a prolific year for me, but it has been a rewarding one; I’ve made new discoveries and reacquainted myself with old favourites. In the past twelve months physical media faced increasing competition from download sites and streaming services, and some labels – UMG, for instance – started to issue previously released material on Blu-ray Audio; Decca’s classic War Requiem was one of the latter, and I’m delighted to report the sonic gains are just as impressive as promised. Now for my shortlist: the RCO Live box of Mahler Blu-rays which, although good, is nobbled by some questionable performances and presentational quirks; Peter Donohoe’s deeply satisfying take on Prokofiev’s first five piano sonatas (SOMM); Silvestrov’s sacred a capella works, so movingly sung by the Kiev Chamber Choir (ECM New Series); the University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble’s terrific CD of Bernstein transcriptions (Naxos); violist Matthew Jones and pianist Michael Hampton in perfect harmony in the Borisovsky arrangement of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suite (Naxos); Audite’s immersive Polychoral Splendour; Sir Andrew Davis’s refreshing Berlioz overtures (Chandos download); and, in a nod to the Wagner centenary, Risto-Matti Marin’s finely calibrated set of opera transcriptions (Alba). And the winners are:

Charles-Marie WIDOR Organ Symphonies 3 & 8 - Jan Lehtola (organ) rec. 2009 ALBA ABCD 306

Organist Jan Lehtola and engineer/producer Mika Koivusalo are behind this truly memorable recording of Widor’s 3rd and 8th Organ Symphonies. The playing is subtle and sensitively scaled, and the instrument and acoustic of St François-de-Sales, Lyon, are captured in sound of breathtaking body and realism. My Recording of the Year.

Gustav MAHLER Symphonies 2, 4, 7, 9, Das Lied von der Erde, selected songs from Rückert-Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn New Philharmonia, Philharmonia O/Otto Klemperer rec. 1961-1967 EMI CLASSICS 2483982

EMI/Warner’s tranche of Klemperer boxes included this superbly re-mastered Mahler set of Nos. 2, 4, 7, 9, Das Lied von der Erde and a selection of lieder with Christa Ludwig and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. These are all distinguished performances; even the outrageously slow Seventh has its rewards. At a very attractive price this has to be my Bargain of the Year.

Adolphe ADAM Giselle (excerpts) Paris Conservatoire O/Jean Martinon rec. 1958 HIGH DEFINITION TAPE TRANSFERS HDCD204

What’s a 55-year-old recording doing in this high-tech company? Well, those wizards at Decca certainly got it right in 1958, when they recorded Jean Martinon and the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra in these excerpts from Giselle. Indeed, HDTT’s miraculous direct-from-LP transfer is a fitting tribute to the work of Kenneth Wilkinson and Ray Minshull.

Music for Two Organs – The Viennese Habsburg Court of the 17th Century Johannes Strobl, David Blunden (organs) rec. 2011 AUDITE 92.653

Audite have figured in my Recordings of the Year before, and it was with great regret that I had to eliminate their aptly titled Polychoral Splendour in favour of their even finer Music for Two Organs. Johannes Strobl and David Blunden play this music with undisguised pleasure and a sure sense of style; as for the acoustic of the Abbey Church of Muri, it’s never sounded so glorious.

Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES Piano music - Garrick Ohlsson (piano) rec. 2012 HYPERION CDA67907

‘Hugely commanding and authoritative; a landmark in every way’ was my response to this collection of solo piano pieces by Charles Tomlinson Griffes. Garrick Ohlsson makes the best possible case for this music, which is chockful of originality and flair. As usual Hyperion have worked their magic and produced a very fine recording.

Gregorio ALLEGRI Miserere Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA Stabat Mater, Missa Papae Marcelli, Tu es Petrus Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips rec. 2005 GIMELL GIMBD641 BD-A

Gimell’s first Blu-ray Audio disc is a late addition to my list. The Tallis Scholars in Allegri and Palestrina is not my usual fare, but such is the stellar quality of both the singing and high-res recording that I simply had to nominate this as one of the year’s most outstanding issues. If future BD-As are this carefully and comprehensively planned the project should do well. Huzzahs all round.

John Quinn

2013 has been another rich year for recordings. I had a shortlist of ten potential nominees, compiled as the year unfolded, and more could have been added to the shortlist quite easily. From my shortlist, those that didn’t ‘make the cut’ included Simone Young’s superb Bruckner 8th in the original version; I left that out because it was a disc issued prior to 2013 but with which I’d belatedly caught up. With even greater regret Jonas Kaufmann’s magnificent Wagner recital was discarded because I didn’t review it. Among recordings of Renaissance polyphony Stile Antico’s wonderful disc, The Phoenix Rising had to give way – just – to The Tallis Scholar’s new disc of John Taverner. Finally, Sir Mark Elder’s excellent disc of Holst’s Hymn of Jesus and vocal works by Delius was edged out – by a whisker – by my other choices. These difficult decisions show what an embarrassment of riches continues to be available to collectors, largely thanks to the sterling work of the smaller independent labels. Roll on 2014!

Hector BERLIOZ Grand Messe des morts Barry Banks (tenor) London Philharmonic Ch, London SO & Ch/Sir Colin Davis rec. 2012 LSO LIVE LSO0729

There could be no finer memorial to this much-missed conductor. In this magnificent live performance Davis seems to distil a lifetime’s experience of and dedication to Berlioz’s music. The tenor soloist disappoints but the LSO and its Chorus excel. This is a great reading of Berlioz’s noble masterpiece and a fitting reminder of his greatest interpreter. My Recording of the Year.

Johann Sebastian BACH Johannes-Passion Nicholas Mulroy (tenor) Matthew Brook (bass) Joanne Lunn (soprano) Clare Wilkinson (alto) Dunedin Consort/John Butt rec. 2012 LINN CKD419

Even for those who are unconvinced about one-to-a-part performances of Bach’s choral music this fine issue demands attention. Very imaginatively, Bach’s Passion is set in the context of a putative Good Friday Vespers service in Leipzig. It’s an excellent and dedicated performance. Linn’s presentation is top-class. This will surely become a landmark in the recorded history of this masterpiece.

Ivor GURNEY Violin sonata Lionel SAINSBURY Soliloquy for solo violin Sir Edward ELGAR Violin sonata - Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin) Matthew Rickard (piano) rec. 2012 EM RECORDS EMR CD011

Ivor Gurney’s Violin Sonata was rescued from oblivion amid his papers and was painstakingly edited by Rupert Marshall-Luck who, with pianist Matthew Rickard, here brings it to life, revealing its stature. A fine account of the Elgar Sonata and an impressive solo violin piece by Lionel Sainsbury complete an outstanding disc.

Gustav MAHLER Symphony 8 - Bavarian & Netherlands Radio Ch, Royal Concertgebouw O/Mariss Jansons rec. 2011 RCO LIVE RCO13003

Presented generously with the performance on both SACD and DVD, this is a superb live account of Mahler’s Eighth. Mariss Jansons conducts with great conviction. The soloists are excellent while the choral singing and the playing of the RCO are magnificent. It’s an Eighth to remember: one of the elite recordings of the work.

John TAVERNER Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, Magnificats - The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips GIMELL CDGIM045

The Tallis Scholars have been trail blazers in establishing Renaissance polyphony in the concert and recorded repertoire in the last few decades.. Released to mark the fortieth anniversary of this marvellous ensemble, this is a disc that shows them at their peak. Sumptuous English polyphony, excitingly and immaculately performed.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS On Wenlock Edge, Ten Blake Songs Jonathan DOVE The End Peter WARLOCK The Curlew Mark Padmore (tenor); Nicholas Daniel (oboe/cor anglais); Huw Watkins (piano) Britten Sinfonia/Jacqueline Shave rec. 2012 HARMONIA MUNDI HMU807566

Some wonderful English songs, by Vaughan Williams and Warlock, programmed with an impressive new piece by Jonathan Dove. The performances by Padmore and the Britten Sinfonia are as eloquent and searching as the music itself. This is one of the finest discs of English song to have come my way in a long time.

Brian Reinhart

The list below is in alphabetical order. Rounding out my top ten: Lavinia Meijer playing Philip Glass arrangements for harp; the EMI reissue of Constantin Silvestri's recordings; the Trio Solisti's powerful Dvorak album; Vagn Holmboe's viola concerto; De Profundis' album of choral music from Rossini to the present day.

21st Century Spanish Guitar Volume I Adam Levin (guitar) rec. 2012 NAXOS 8.573024

I can't contain my excitement about this series. Thirty-odd newly-commissioned guitar works could rejuvenate the entire Spanish guitar tradition, or it could produce a lot of crummy music. Adam Levin's first volume contains no crummy music, a lot that delights, and outstanding playing. History in the making?

Lera AUERBACH 24 Preludes, Cello sonata, Postlude - Ani Aznavoorian (cello) Lera Auerbach (piano) rec. 2012 CEDILLE CDR90000137

Powerfully expressive music that tests the limits of the cello. The bleak or fierce emotional turns feel sincere and heartfelt rather than academic; the creepy Prelude No. 12 might be a new classic. Ani Aznavoorian's performance exceeds my ability to praise.

Aaron COPLAND Rodeo, Dance Panels, El Salón Mexico, Danzón Cubano Detroit Symphony/Leonard Slatkin rec. 2012 NAXOS 8.559758

My top-choice Rodeo, including the composer's own. Plus, it's complete, with four or five minutes of material you're unlikely to have ever heard before. This particular performance alone got the CD on my Recording of the Year list, but some colleagues and friends are enjoying the rare work Dance Panels just as much or more.

Felix MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY Songs Without Words - Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano) rec. 2011 BIS BISSACD1982

Ronald Brautigam’s Mendelssohn is so good it’s easy not to notice how good it is. That is, this playing feels so natural, so effortless, so perfectly songlike (cantabile!), that Brautigam uses many an artistic trick without ever sounding like he's trying. Superb, singing fortepiano built after the design of an 1830 Graf.

Federico MOMPOU Música callada & other works for piano - Arcadi Volodos (piano) rec. 2012 SONY CLASSICAL 88765 433262

An unlikely match of mega-virtuoso and soft-voiced poet produces even more unlikely results. Volodos' love for Mompou is evident in his song transcriptions, not to mention his playing. A fellow reviewer pointed out that Mompou's own readings are in many ways superior, but should we discourage artists from recording new music if the composer records it first? No: and especially not when the artist, like Volodos, presents a valuable new perspective on music that deserves classic status.

Simon Thompson

My choice this year has been dominated by the anniversary composers, who have done pretty well out of 2013 (with the arguable exception of Verdi who has mainly had to put up with reissues and recitals, and Parma's DVD series, which began well, but has tended to fizzle out a bit). Britten was particularly strong, and it's great to see him so widely celebrated on his hundredth birthday.

Gustav MAHLER Symphony 8 - Bavarian & Netherlands Radio Ch, Royal Concertgebouw O/Mariss Jansons rec. 2011 RCO LIVE RCO13002

A brilliantly performed and stunningly recorded Mahler 8, with a bonus film to match. Marvellous!

Richard WAGNER Die Walküre Jonas Kaufmann, René Pape, Nina Stemme, Mariinsky O/ Valery Gergiev rec. 2011/12 MARIINSKY MAR0527

Gergiev's Ring is only half-way through, and Rheingold left me disappointed, but his Walkure got the cycle off to a fantastic start.

Benjamin BRITTEN Peter Grimes Alan Oke (tenor) Giselle Allen (soprano) David Kempster (baritone) Opera North Ch, Britten-Pears O/Steuart Bedford rec. 2013 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD348

Benjamin BRITTEN The Rape of Lucretia Ian Bostridge, Susan Gritton, Angelika Kirchschlager, Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble/Oliver Knussen rec. 2011 VIRGIN CLASSICS 6026722

Benjamin BRITTEN The Turn of the Screw Miah Persson (soprano) Toby Spence (tenor) Susan Bickley (soprano) London PO/Jakub Hruša rec. 2011 FRA MUSICA FRA507

Three Britten operas that were all corkers. I didn't see Grimes on the beach, but the audio of the concert performance is stunning. Aldeburgh's fantastic Rape of Lucretia deserves to do a lot to rehabilitate the work's reputation, and Glyndebourne's deeply creepy Screw sets new standards for this work on DVD.

Johan van Veen

Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER Litanies de la Vierge Motets for the House of Guise - Ensemble Correspondances/Sébastien Daucé rec. 2013 HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 902169

This disc is a treasure. These incisive performances reveal the expressive qualities of Charpentier's vocal music to the full, also thanks to the excellent delivery and precise intonation.

Carlo GESUALDO da Venosa Sesto Libro di Madrigali La Compagnia del Madrigale rec. 2012 GLOSSA GCD 922801

Two years ago this ensemble missed out by a whisker to be included in the list of recordings of the year. This is the opportunity to make it up to them, as they have once again produced a brilliant recording of some of the most technically complicated and most expressive music ever written. They have grabbed Gesualdo's idiom perfectly. A stunning release.

Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH Testament et promesses Aline Zylberajch (tangent piano), Alice Piérot (violin) rec. 2012 ENCELADE ECL1201

This disc perfectly illustrates Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's aesthetics. His emotional outbursts are throughly explored by these two artists whose playing is often breathtaking.

La Gamme et autres morceaux de simphonie Marin MARAIS La Gamme en forme de petit Opéra, Sonate à la Marésienne, Sonnerie de Sainte Geneviève du Mont de Paris Antoine FORQUERAY Suite - Trio Sonnerie LINN RECORDS CKD434

The music on this disc bears witness to the high standard of music-making and performing in the time of Louis XIV. Trio Sonnerie feels like a fish in water. The playing is superb, technically assured and with an impressive command of the idiom.

The Birth of the Violin Le Miroir de Musique/Baptiste Romain rec. 2012 RICERCAR RIC333

This disc gives an excellent survey of the various ways in which string instruments, including the renaissance violin, were used in musical life of the 16th century in Italy. It is highly interesting from a historical point of view as the role of the violin in the renaissance is still underexposed. The performances are outstanding. This is singing and playing at the highest level.

René Drouard de BOUSSET Cantates spirituelles Le Tendre Amour rec. 2012 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94288

Quite uncommon repertoire by a composer who deserves to be better known. The ensemble delivers compelling performances. The use of historical pronunciation makes this disc even more worthwhile.

Brian Wilson

As in years past, most of these choices can be found in my Download News but apply equally to hard copies on CD or SACD.

John TAVERNER Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, Magnificats - Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips rec. 2013 GIMELL CDGIM045

My first choice has to be the Tallis Scholars’ new recording of Taverner’s Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas and Magnificats, outshining even their own recording, earlier in the year, of Jean Mouton and some very fine releases of polyphonic music on Hyperion and from The Sixteen on Coro.  I must admit that the Scholars’ concert in Canterbury (Seen and Heard review) also influenced my choice.

Johann Sebastian BACH The Complete Bach Edition WARNER TELDEC 2564 661127

My Bargain of the Year must be the complete extant works of J.S. Bach on USB.  Classic performances from Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, plus equally fine readings from Koopman, Il Giardino Armonico and others borrowed from Warner Erato and occasionally from other labels.  It’s a limited edition and selling out fast, as I imagine their recent release of the Barenboim Wagner Ring on USB – review due soon – also will.

Johann Sebastian BACH Sacred cantatas Volume 55 - Hana Blažíková (soprano) Robin Blaze (counter-tenor) Gerd Türk (tenor) Peter Kooij (bass) Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki rec. 2013 BIS BIS-SACD-2031

I must also choose another Bach recording, the final volume in the BIS series of the Church Cantatas recorded by Masaaki Suzuki (BIS-SACD-2031).  My own thoughts in Download News 2013/16 are not yet online as I write so I refer you to David Barker’s review.  These recordings now join the classic complete sets on Teldec and Gardiner’s on SDG.

Hector BERLIOZ Édition du bicentenaire London SO & Ch/Sir Colin Davis LSO LIVE LSO0046

Another considerable bargain comes in the form of Colin Davis’s recordings of Berlioz for the LSO label, 12 CDs on LSO0046 from in an mp3 download for £25.99.  It also serves as a superb tribute to the late conductor alongside several reissues of his earlier recordings on Beulah.

Claudio MONTEVERDI Heaven and Earth Carolyn Sampson (soprano) Sarah Connolly (mezzo) James Gilchrist (tenor) Michael George (bass) The King’s Consort/Robert King – rec. 2002 VIVAT 104

The return of Robert King on his own label has so far brought some very fine recordings, the fourth of which has seen the King’s Consort return to their home territory in the music of Monteverdi - Heaven and Earth - filling some of the gaps left by their wonderful series of recordings of Monteverdi’s Sacred Music for Hyperion.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY The Nutcracker and the Mouse King Anna Tsygankova, Matthew Golding, James Stout, Holland Symfonia/Ermanno Florio rec. 2011 ARTHAUS MUSIK 108087

For all my small initial reservations, my DVD/Blu-ray choice is a seasonal recording which has grown on me: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker from Amsterdam, a lavish production in a rethought but sensible choreography. This would make a wonderful present for a young music-lover.

Jonathan Woolf

Every January I make the time-honoured resolution to keep assiduous track of all my Records of the Year. Every November I find I have failed to keep assiduous track of my Records of the Year. In these circumstances, and with a heavy reviewing schedule, one can only ask oneself the question: what most sticks in your mind? What, this year, could one least do without? Devoted though I am to new recordings, once again I could least do without older material. These releases have provided me with the most surprises, the most opportunities to question critical commonplaces; or else they are comprehensive packages that will give pleasure for as long as one has ears to listen.

Irene Scharrer The complete electric and selected acoustic recordings rec. 1925-33 APR 6010

This is, thus far, the most revelatory release in APR’s ‘The Matthay Pupils’ series. Best known on disc for her last recording, a 78 of Litolff’s Scherzo from the Concerto symphonique with Henry Wood accompanying, this fluffy piece of bravura doesn’t at all reflect the depth of her musicianship or her long discography. This outstanding pianist deserves to be reckoned alongside her contemporary and friend, Myra Hess.

Johann Sebastian BACH Cello Suites André Navarra (cello) rec. 1977 PHAIA PHU017.18

This re-release of a 1977 LP provided me with my most cherished Bach experience of the year. The ex-boxer André Navarra tackled the Cello Suites with selfless humanity; as I wrote at the time, everything simply feels right - in terms of tempo, tone, articulation, and characterisation. The only thing being paraded is the music’s greatness and the artist’s role in acting as the agent of that greatness.

Szymon Goldberg The Centenary Collection - Vol. II: Commercial Recordings, 1932-1951 MUSIC & ARTS CD-1225

No apologies for promoting the second and final volume in Music and Art’s Szymon Goldberg series. I made the first set one of my ROTY in 2010 [Music & Arts CD-1223]. Now we have the commercial recordings, as opposed to the live ones, an 8-CD box of recordings made on 78s between 1932 and 1951. All this and Feuermann, Hindemith, Krauss, Riddle and a host of other colleagues and collaborators. It doesn’t get much better.

Antonín DVORÁK Symphonies 8 & 9 Bedrich SMETANA Vltava Ottorino RESPIGHI Pines of Rome NHK SO Tokyo/Wilhelm Schüchter rec. 1959 KING INTERNATIONAL KKC2024/25

Wilhelm Schüchter – journeyman? I’ve now spent a lot of time this year listening to his studio and live recordings, after a lifetime never having heard much at all. All I can say is that his Dvořák is superb. He made a studio LP of the Ninth, but this Japanese performance is something else. He has musicianship, interpretive insight, and technical skill. And the Eighth is pretty splendid too. Jaded repertoire? Well, maybe. Inspired conducting? Yes!

Eric COATES The Definitive Eric Coates: Eric Coates conducts his own compositions - rec. 1923-57 NIMBUS NI 6231

Over 7 CDs, and nearly 9 hours, Nimbus has provided us with the ‘definitive’ Eric Coates. All his studio recordings are here, and there’s an appendix of acoustic recordings of his music played by others. Mackerras, Groves, Kilbey and Boult – to cite just four - were fine conductors of Coates’s music but there’s something special about hearing the composer himself on the rostrum. All the Coates you’ll ever need, in one package. Fine sound too.

Leslie Wright

As in the past, I am very fortunate to have reviewed a number of outstanding discs this year. If not limited to six, I would have also included the Beethoven Violin/Piano Sonatas with Kavakos/Pace, Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony, Stravinsky’s works for piano and orchestra with Steven Osborne on Hyperion, and the Bartók Violin Concertos with Zehetmair/Fischer reissued on Brilliant Classics. Instead I have chosen the following, all of which have quickly become regular friends.

Lieux retrouvés Steven Isserlis (cello) Thomas Adès (piano) rec. 2011 HYPERION CDA67948

This special collection of works by Liszt, Janáček, Fauré, Kurtág, and Adès in magisterial performances includes a major new work by Adès from which the disc takes its title. My review appeared in December last year and nothing I have reviewed since surpasses the disc for sheer enjoyment.

Béla BARTÓK Violin Concerto 2 Peter EÖTVÖS Seven György LIGETI Violin Concerto - Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin) Frankfurt RSO, Ensemble Modern/Peter Eötvös rec. 2011/12 NAÏVE V 5285

The young Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja blew me away with her exciting performances on this two-disc set. One might find her Bartók over the top, but it is anything but dull. Her account of the LIgeti concerto is the best I’ve heard and I am even coming to terms with Eötvös’ Seven. Peter Eötvös, who conducts these works, in no way takes a back seat either.

Leoš JANÁČEK Violin sonata Karol SZYMANOWSKI Mythes Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994) Subito, Partita - Isabelle Faust (violin) Ewa Kupiec (piano) rec. 2002 HARMONIA MUNDI HMA1951793

A most welcome reissue of Slavic chamber masterpieces by the terrific duo of Isabelle Faust and Ewa Kupiec. It is especially appropriate in the Lutosławski anniversary year to have his Partita and Subito here. The Janáček Sonata, one of my favorites, and Szymanowski’s Mythes also receive royal treatment.

Henri DUTILLEUX Correspondances, Tout un monde lointain, The Shadows of Time Barbara Hannigan (soprano) Anssi Karttunen (cello) Radio PO France/Esa-Pekka Salonen rec. 2011/12 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 1180

This revelatory recording debut of Dutilleux's song cycle turned out to be an all-too-fitting memorial, as the composer died ironically just after I had submitted my review. Barbara Hannigan is the marvelous soloist here. Accompanying Correspondances are two of Dutilleux's major orchestral works, the cello concerto Tout un monde lointain...and The Shadows of Time, both receiving superb treatment.

Modest MUSSORGSKY Pictures from an Exhibition Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Sarcasms, Visions fugitives Steven Osborne (piano) rec. 2011 HYPERION CDA67896

Steven Osborne’s dynamic pianism contributed two of my favorite discs this year, one of them the Stravinsky referred to above, the other these outstanding accounts of Musorgsky’s piano masterpiece and fascinating miniatures by Prokofiev. I find myself returning to the Visions fugitives and Sarcasms with greatest frequency.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Missa Solemnis Marlis Petersen (soprano) Elisabeth Kulman (contralto) Werner Güra (tenor) Gerald Finley (bass) Netherlands Radio Ch, Royal Concertgebouw O/Nikolaus Harnoncourt rec. 2012 C MAJOR 712704

I reviewed a number of DVDs and Blu-rays this year, but nothing that moved me as much as Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s wonderful performance of the Missa Solemnis. Harnoncourt combined period practice with modern resources and four world-class soloists, resulting in a truly spiritual experience. Both video and audio leave nothing to be desired, either.