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Recommended Recordings 2020

Those marked with the ROTM symbol were chosen at the end of each month as the five best.

Charles-Valentin ALKAN (1813-1888) Symphony, Concerto - Paul Wee (piano) rec. 2017/2018 BIS BIS-2465 SACD [78:32] [JWe] Magnificent performances, recommended to anyone who enjoys superb pianism.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Sonatas & Partitas - Thomas Zehetmair (violin) rec. 2016 ECM NEW SERIES 2551/52 (4818558) [59:21 + 67:12] [DC] Grit, character and beauty – this set has it all.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Six Partitas - Angela Hewitt (piano) rec. 2018 HYPERION CDA68271/2 [2 CDs: 149:56] [SG] The greater clarity provided by the Fazioli piano gives this new version a slight edge.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Complete Well-Tempered Clavier - George Lepauw (piano) rec. 2017 ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100107 [5 CDs: 274:35] [SG] This production has been a true labour of love for everyone involved.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Concertos for Organ and Strings - Les Muffatti/Bart Jacobs (organ) rec. 2018 RAMÉE RAM1804 [79:59] [JV] A model of creative programming and music-making.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) St Matthew Passion - Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki rec. 2019 BIS BIS2500 SACD [2 discs: 162:00] [MS] An outstanding St Matthew Passion conceived and performed in ways that bring new insight and ensuing fresh levels of enjoyment.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2, Rondo - Boris Giltburg (piano) Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2019 NAXOS 8.574151 [73:51] [RC] Performances to rank with the best, but also the bonus of the splendidly played Rondo.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) A Beethoven Odyssey Vol. 6 - James Brawn (piano) rec. 2018 MSR CLASSICS MS1470 [73:43] [RC] A fresh, often distinctive view of these sonatas.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) & Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)  Violin Concertos - Christian Tetzlaff (violin) Deutsches SO Berlin/Robin Ticciati rec. 2018 ONDINE ODE1334-2 [71:22] [MC] This outstanding new album provides the strongest possible competition to my established favourites.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphonies Nos 5 & 6 - O Wiener Akademie/Martin Haselböck rec. 2018/19 ALPHA 479 [80.16] [MW] As exciting as anyone could wish: thrilling, musical period performances in a venue Beethoven knew so well.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano Sonatas Nos 30-32 - Maurizio Pollini (piano) rec. 2019 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4838250 [56:07] [SG] After a lifetime’s experience, the pianist has ‘discovered new riches in every detail’ in these sublime sonatas.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) The Final Piano Pieces - Stephen Hough (piano) rec. 2014/18 HYPERION CDA68116 [69:08] [JQ] A top-class survey of Brahms’ last compositions for solo piano.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) The Final Piano Pieces - Stephen Hough (piano) rec. 2014/18 HYPERION CDA68116 [69:08] [RWe] Now the top modern recommendation.

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphonies Nos 1-9 - Berlin PO rec. 2009-19 BERLINER PHILHARMONIKER BPHR190281 CD/BD-A [595 mins] Blu-ray [639 mins] [JQ] A set that will grace any Bruckner collection.

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony No. 1 - Philharmonie Festiva/Gerd Schaller rec. 2019 PROFIL PH19084 [50:30] [RMo] Makes the strongest possible case for the symphony’s consideration – or even its rehabilitation.

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony No. 1 - Philharmonie Festiva/Gerd Schaller rec. 2019 PROFIL PH19084 [50:30] [MC] A quite stunning account.

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony No. 5 - Matthias Giesen (organ) rec. 2018 GRAMOLA 99169 [84:40] [JWe] Full marks to all concerned for this remarkable recording.

Chiara Margarita COZZOLANI (1602-1676/1678) Vespro - I Gemelli/Emiliano Gonzalez Toro rec. 2019 NAĎVE V5472 [79:38] [CRo] A wonderful gem of early Baroque choral music.

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Nocturnes, Premičre rapsodie, Marche Écossaise, La Damoiselle élue - Sergio Castelló López (clarinet) Sophie Bevan (soprano) Anna Stéphany (mezzo) Hallé O & Ch/Mark Elder rec. 2018/19 HALLÉ CDHLL7552 [64:56] [RHa] Yet more ravishing Debussy from Sir Mark and his revitalised Hallé.

Ernő DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960) Piano Quintets, String Quartet No. 2 - Marc-André Hamelin (piano) Takács Qt rec. 2018 HYPERION CDA68238 [80.58] [DJB] Underappreciated works in performances that surely won’t be bettered.

César FRANCK (1822-1890) Rédemption - Eve-Maud Hubeaux (mezzo-soprano) Vlaams Radio Ch, Royal de Liège PO/Hervé Niquet rec. 2018 MUSIQUE EN WALLONIE MEW1994 [51:28] [MR] An excellent performance of Franck’s woefully overlooked masterpiece.

Lars Petter HAGEN (b. 1975) Harmonium Repertoire - Cikada/Christian Eggen rec. 2019 LAWO CLASSICS LWC1190 [48:21] [RHa] The quietness of this extraordinary disc and its spare means of production are in completely inverse proportion to its impact.

Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947) Complete Songs - Tassis Christoyannis (baritone) Jeff Cohen (piano) rec. 2018/19 BRU ZANE BZ2002 [4 CDs: 253.09] [SG] I cannot praise this whole venture too highly.

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Tullochgorum: Arrangements of Scottish Songs - The Poker Club Band  rec. 2016 BIS BIS-2471 SACD [61:38] [RHa] A delightful hour’s listening.

Michael HAYDN (1737-1806) The Collection rec. 1972-2013 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95885 [28 CDs] [SSi] This is a wonderful set, which should win new friends for Michael Haydn and his music.

Jēkabs JANČEVSKIS (b. 1992) Aeternum - Mixed Ch of Riga Cathedral Choir School/Jurģis Cābulis rec. 2018/19 HYPERION CDA68328 [56:59] [MR] An arresting beauty, with an immensity of imagery and emotional intensity which demands repeated listening.

Reinhard KEISER (1676-1739) Der blutige und sterbende Jesus - Cantus Thuringia, Capella Thuringia/Bernhard Klapprott rec. 2018 CPO 555 259-2 [2 CDs: 128:54] [JV] A marvellous oratorio whose rediscovery has to be considered an event of major importance.

Jesper KOCH (b. 1967) Dreamscapes - Michaela Fukačová (cello) Eugen Tichindeleanu (violin) John Kruse (clarinet) Odense SO/Justin Brown rec. 2017 DACAPO 6.220579 SACD [67:41] [RHa] Three terrific new works in outstanding performances and sound.

Tőnu KŐRVITS (b. 1969) Hymns to the Nordic Lights - Estonian Ntl SO/Risto Joost rec. 2015-19 ONDINE ODE1349-2 [57:42] [DC] Substantial and satisfying: sharpen your senses and dive in.

Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Kaleidoscope - Shin-Haea Kang (piano) rec. 2019 OEHMS OC1713 [72:53] [JWe] Buy this disc!

Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Complete Piano Works Vol. 54 - Jenő Jandó (piano) rec. 2018 NAXOS 8.574059 [77:58] [RC] Lisztians and piano connoisseurs take note!

Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Between Heaven & Hell - Joseph Moog (piano) rec. 2018 ONYX 4195 [63:44] [JWe] I’ve run out of superlatives for this disc.

Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687) Isis - Ève-Maud Hubeaux (mezzo-soprano), Bénédicte Tauran (soprano), Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset rec. 2019 APARTÉ AP216 [77:00 + 79] [SSi] A valuable addition to the growing catalogue of Lully’s music on disc.

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No. 4 - Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Minnesota O/Osmo Vänskä rec. 2018 BIS BIS-2356 SACD [59:25] [MW] This performance belongs among the very finest Mahler 4th recordings, never routine in any way.

Felix MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY (1809–1847) Piano Concerto No. 1, Double Concerto - Lachezar Stankov (piano) Ivo Stankov (violin) Royal PO/Linus Lerner rec. 2019 MERIDIAN CDE84656 [64:06] [GF] A disc to treasure.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Piano Concertos Nos 20 & 21 - Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) Manchester Camerata/Gábor Takács-Nagy rec. 2018 CHANDOS CHAN20083 [65:08] [RHa] This is rapidly becoming THE modern instrument cycle of choice.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791) Piano Concertos Vol. 5 -Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) Manchester Camerata/Gábor Takács-Nagy rec. 2019 CHANDOS CHAN20137(2) [60.49 + 64.22] [CRa] These are discs to treasure, and play often.

Johannes OCKEGHEM (c.1420-1497) Complete Songs Vol. 1 - Blue Heron/Scott Metcalfe rec. 2018 BLUE HERON BHCD1010 [76.49] [GH] All quite brilliantly done and completed by a first-class recording.

Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706) Complete Organ Works III - Michael Belotti, Christian Schmitt, James David Christie (organ) rec. 2009-13 CPO 777 558-2 SACD [3 discs: 189:34] [SSi] A very fine conclusion to this survey.

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY (1848-1918) Judith - Sarah Fox (soprano) Kathryn Rudge (mezzo) London Mozart Players/William Vann rec. 2019 CHANDOS CHSA5268 SACD [61:40 + 69:32] [JQ] A major and distinguished addition to the Parry discography.

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Piano Sonatas Nos 6-8 - Steven Osborne (piano) rec. 2020 HYPERION CDA68298 [74:21] [DM] White-hot performances, straight from the forge; superlative sound, even by Hyperion’s stellar standards.

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Piano Sonatas Nos 6-8 - Steven Osborne (piano) rec. 2019 HYPERION CDA68298 [74:28] [LW] Steven Osborne demonstrates a real affinity for Prokofiev piano sonatas.

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Piano Sonatas Nos 6-8 - Steven Osborne (piano) rec. 2019 HYPERION CDA68298 [74:28] [TB] Magnificently assured yet highly sensitive performances of this uncompromising music.

Henry PURCELL (1659–1695) One Charming Night - David Hansen (countertenor) Oslo Circles rec. 2018 SIMAX CLASSICS PSC1367 [57:58] [GF] Excellent playing and singing, an interesting programme with several goodies, and a recording from the top drawer.

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Piano Sonata No.1, Moments Musicaux, Études-Tableaux - Alfonso Soldano (piano) rec. 2019 DIVINE ART DDA25155 [79:56] [JF] Soldano’s playing left me both impressed and amazed.

Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (1928-2016) Vigilia - Niall Chorell (tenor), Tuukka Haapaniemi (bass), Helsinki Chamber Choir / Nils Schweckendiek rec. 2018 BIS BIS-2422 SACD [70:34] [JQ] A wonderful new recording of a composition of great sincerity and eloquence.

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Jeux de Miroirs - Javier Perianes (piano), O de Paris/Josep Pons rec. 2017/18 HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902326 [81:05] [JQ] I loved this disc.

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Carnival of the Animals Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Mother Goose Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Peter & the Wolf Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra - Britten-Pears O/Marin Alsop (narrator) rec. 2017/18 NAXOS NBD0102V Blu-ray [98 mins] [RC] Alsop does a marvelous job in both roles.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Winterreise - Thomas Oliemans (baritone), Paolo Giacometti (piano) rec. 2018 CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS42119 [71:24] [GF] A very touching, very involved reading with a warm heart.

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Dichterliebe, Lenau-Lieder und Requiem Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Wesendonck Lieder - Christoph Prégardien (tenor) Michael Gees (piano) rec. 2018 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72788 SACD [63:36] [GF] Full marks.

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56) Violin Sonatas - Eriikka Maalismaa (violin), Emil Holmström (piano) rec: 2018 ALBA ABCD438 [73:06] [RHa] A truly unexpected find; fascinating, probing accounts of all three of Schumann’s late violin sonatas.

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56) Complete Music for Piano 4-Hands - Roberto Plano, Paola Del Negro (piano duet) BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95675 [2 CDs 129:12] [PBW]  This excellently performed and recorded collection is an outstanding bargain.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Symphony No. 10 - Bavarian RSO/Mariss Jansons rec. 2010 BR KLASSIK 900185 [53.48] [WH] A magnificent Shostakovich 10 from the late and much lamented Jansons.

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Symphony No. 2, King Christian II Suite - Gothenburg SO/Santu-Matias Rouvali rec. 2019 ALPHA CLASSICS 574 [70:43] [RMo] Masterly Sibelius, alternately refined and red-blooded.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Frankfurt Sonatas - Gottfried von der Goltz (violin), Annekatrin Beller (cello), Torsten Johann (harpsichord/positive organ), Thomas C. Boysen (theorbo) rec. 2018 APARTÉ AP217 [66:01] [MC] An album to treasure.

Louis VIERNE (1870-1937) Organ Symphonies Vol. 3 - Stephen Tharp (organ) rec. 2010/14 AEOLUS AE11191 SACD [86:06] [SG] If the previous volumes are pitched at the same level, the whole series becomes a reference cycle.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Concerti per Violoncello III - L'Onda Armonica/Christophe Coin (cello) rec. 2018 NAÏVE OP30574 [58:29] [SSi] One of the most enjoyable hours in the company of Vivaldi that I have had in a long time.

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Tristan und Isolde - Stuart Skelton (tenor) Gun-Brit Barkmin (soprano) West Australian SO & Ch/Asher Fisch rec. 2018 ABC CLASSICS 4818518 [3 CDs: 222.01] [PCG] A very real contender to be one of the great recordings of Tristan und Isolde.

Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996) Flute Concertos, Pieces - Claudia Stein (flute) Elizaveta Blumina (piano) Szczecin PO/David Robert Coleman rec. 2017/18 NAXOS 8.573931 [68:32] [SA] It includes some of the most gorgeous tunes any composer has given this most songlike instrument.

Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996) Cello Sonatas - Wojciech Fudala (cello) Michał Rot (piano) rec. 2017 DUX 1545 [59:20] [SA] Superlative playing.

All My Life’s Buried Here The Story of George Butterworth prod. 2019 HADJUKINO PRODUCTIONS Blu-ray [97 mins] [JQ] An outstanding film portrait.

Clytemnestra Works by Berg, Mahler & Samuel - Ruby Hughes (soprano) BBC Ntl O Wales/Jac van Steen rec. 2018 BIS BIS2408 SACD [54:46] [RWe] Whether adding to your Mahler songs, exploring Berg, or investigating murder in Mycenae, this is highly recommended.

Concurrence Works by Thorvaldsdóttir, Tómasson, Sigfúsdóttir & Pálsson - Iceland SO/Daniel Bjarnason rec. 2018/19 SONO LUMINUS DSL-92237 CD & Blu-ray [55:21] [RHa] Literally awesome music of geophysical detail and visceral impact with outstanding Sono Luminus sound as ever - miss out at your peril!

Dearest Lenny Letters from Japan and the Making of the World Maestro by Mari Yoshihara publ. 2019 OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS [MMB] Charming and delightful.

English Piano Trios Trio Anima Mundi rec. 2017 DIVINE ART DDA25158 [77:53] [JF] Each one of these five ‘trios’ is special and deserves our attention.

Escales Sinfonia of London/John Wilson rec. 2019 CHANDOS CHSA5252 SACD [79:05] [SB] A delightful collection and a real winner.

European Organ Music Colin Walsh (organ) rec. 2019 PRIORY PRCD1223 [77:55] [MR] Truly stupendous organ music, organ playing and organ sound.

Firenze 1350: A Medieval Florentine Garden Sollazzo Ens/Anna Danilevskaia AMBRONAY AMY055 [57:21] [GH] Excellent all around.

Ivana Gavrić (piano) Origins - Southbank Sinfonia/Karin Hendrickson rec. 2015-19 RUBICON RCD1038 [64:21] [RHa] The concept is unusual and stimulating, and it works as well in reality as it must have looked on paper.

Angela Gheorghiu (soprano) Plaisir d’amour - Alexandra Dariescu (piano) rec. 2018 DECCA 483 4999 [67:19] [GF] This should be a disc for the wish list of Angela Gheorghiu’s many admirers.

The Godfather Masters of the German & Italian Baroque - La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler rec. 2019 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD602 [64:08] [CRa] Another first-class collection from the people who put the rock into baroque.

Maria Grinberg (piano) The Art of rec. 1946-76 SCRIBENDUM SC814 [34 CDs] [SG] One of the finest piano collections I've ever had the pleasure of reviewing.

Hush! Papagena rec. 2019 SOMM RECORDINGS SOMMCD0608 [65:40] [JQ] Another winner from Papagena.

Music For My Love Vol. 3 Ukrainian Festival O/Paul Mann rec. 2018 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0504 [70:45] [WH] Music of the highest quality in performances to match.

Ninna Nanna Lullabies from Baroque Italy - Pino De Vittorio (voice), Laboratorio ’600/Franco Pavan rec. 2019 GLOSSA GCDP33003 [78:34] [GPu] A quite wonderful recording.

Piano Lessons: Reflections from a Life in Music by Vladimir Feltsman publ. 2019 [MMB] Beautifully written and providing great insights.

Praga Rosa Bohemiae Cappella Mariana/Vojtěch Semerád rec. 2018 SUPRAPHON SU4273-2 [62:56] [JV] A perfect combination of an interesting programme and superb singing.

Pričres pour Notre Dame Works by Boulanger, Dupré, Demessieux & Poulenc - Colin Walsh (organ), Senior Girls of Romsey Abbey Ch/George Richford rec. 2018 REGENT REGCD538 [67:27] [MR] That rare combination of outstanding performance, sumptuous recording and gorgeous music.

Song’s First Cycle Robin Tritschler (tenor) Malcolm Martineau (piano) rec. 2017 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD587 [82:31] [GF] Every lover of art song should invest in this issue to earn a deeper understanding of the development of art song.

String Quartets Works by Morawski, Stojowski, Tarnowski & Wagner - Tono Qt, Four Strings Qt rec. 2014/19 ACTE PRÉALABLE AP0459 [64.59] [MW] Unfamiliar and deeply rewarding music, wonderfully performed.

Arturo Toscanini (conductor) Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York: Complete Recordings - Vol. 1 rec. 1929-36 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC575 [3 CDs: 213:15] [DD] Some of the greatest orchestral recordings ever, magnificently restored.


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