MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL Recordings of the Year 2022

Click on the cover image to read the full review.

Front Page Reviewers A-L Reviewers M-Z
Len Mullenger (Founder)

Romantic Piano Masters Mariam Batsashvili (piano) rec. 2021 WARNER CLASSICS 9029629061

Mariam Batsashvili was a BBC New Generation Artist 2017-2019 and she is still in her 20s. This is her second release, welcomed by Rob Challinor; sadly we did not review her first Chopin and Liszt disc. The current disc features a number of transcriptions, many by Liszt but also Bauer's transcription of Franck's Prelude, fugue and Variations Op. 18, Thalberg's Grand caprice on La sonnambula, also transcriptions of Chopin, Schubert and Wagner. This is a satisfying mix of pieces played by Batsashvili with a delicate clarity. It is elegant playing but with considerable weight when needed as in the Wagner transcriptions. Even with these, every line is clearly discernable aided no doubt by the Yamaha piano she plays rather than a Steinway.

Stephen Barber

Before I get to my official choices, I must mention two recordings which are technically ineligible. First is the sparkling collection of Haydn symphonies under Marriner, beautifully presented in a reissue from Eloquence. The other is the new version of Weber’s Der Freischütz from René Jacobs, which restores two missing scenes, has a sensible approach to the dialogue and, for me at least, provides the modern version I have been looking for of this classic work of German romanticism.

César Franck Le temps retrouvé - Eliot Quartett Dmitry Ablogin (piano) rec. 2021 GENUIN GEN22784

Franck wrote three great works of chamber music; the Violin Sonata is well-known. Here are the other two: the passionate Piano Quintet, which was thought too erotic by some of his contemporaries, and the String Quartet, the finest of all his works and one of the great quartets. These are excellent performances, and to get both these works on one disc is a bonus.

Giuseppe Verdi Falstaff - Nicola Alaimo (bass-baritone), Simone Piazzola (baritone), Orchestra and Chorus of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Sir John Eliot Gardiner rec. 2021 DYNAMIC 37951 DVD

Falstaff is my favourite Verdi opera and I enjoyed every aspect of this production. The cast is a fine one, and Nicola Alaimo in the title role finds his way round all the aspects of his vast character. The rest of the cast is fine, the conducting assured and the set and costumes beautifully match the story.

William Bolcom The Complete Rags - Marc-André Hamelin (piano) rec. 2021 HYPERION CDA68391/2

The American composer William Bolcom was one of the first in recent years to get enthusiastic about piano rags, and started writing his own in the 1960s. He wrote a number over the next few years and continued until 2015. They are varied in mood, more often gentle than exuberant, and interesting harmonically. I must admit trying to busk through a few myself, but Hamelin plays them as to the manner born.

Graźyna Bacewicz Piano works - Peter Jablonski (piano) rec. 2021 ONDINE ODE1399-2

Bacewicz was the leading Polish composer in the period between Szymanowski and Lutosławski and it is good that her music has been getting increasing exposure. Although her main instrument was the violin, she was no mean pianist as well, and here we have the best of her piano works, namely the two numbered sonatas and her études. Jablonski makes light of the often complex writing and makes this the best recording of Bacewicz’s piano music yet.

Hans Werner Henze Das verratene Meer - Vera-Lotte Boecker (soprano), Bo Skovhus (baritone), Vienna Opera Orchestra/Simone Young rec. 2020 CAPRICCIO C5460

This powerful opera has a rather nasty story, summed up by the title, which means ‘the betrayed sea.’ The sailor Ryuji becmes attached to a widow, Fusako, who has a son, Noboru. He wants to leave the sea, marry Fusako and be a father to Noboru, but the boy, together with his friends, plots to murder him. However, the music is very persuasive, showing the influences of Berg and Stravinsky. Simone Young conducts a fine cast, and the excellent presentation includes a full libretto in German and English.

Hans Abrahamsen Schnee - Lapland Chamber Orchestra/John Storgårds rec. 2020 DACAPO 6.220585 SACD

This was the Danish composer Abrahamsen’s breakthrough work after a period of compositional silence. It is scored for a large chamber ensemble divided into two groups, and technically is based on a series of canons. However, that does not convey the haunting atmosphere of the work, which is quite gripping. It has already been accepted as a modern classic and this excellent performance is its second recording.

David Barker

Franz Joseph Haydn String Quartets op. 76/4-6 - Chiaroscuro Quartet rec. 2018 BIS BIS2358 SACD

I can't express my admiration for this exceptional ensemble any better than how I concluded my review: "The Chiaroscuro Quartet seem to be redefining what we should expect from quartets from the late Classical and early Romantic eras". The details they draw out of such well-known works is quite extraordinary.

La Folia Sebastian Bohren (violin) Stringendo Zürich/Jens Lohmann, CHAARTS Chamber Artists rec. 2021/22 AVIE AV2513

A collection of arrangements in the spirit of Corelli's La Folia sonata, but given a Romantic virtuoso twist for violin and strings. Sebastian Bohren curated the well thought-out selection and is a dazzling soloist. A quite unexpected delight.

Grand Tour a Venezia Zefiro/Alfredo Bernadini (oboe) rec. 2021 ARCANA A534

This came on the heels of a number of disappointing recordings and concerts, and I was starting to wonder if music had lost the power to raise my spirits. Zefiro has been around thirty years but somehow had eluded my attention. All the best elements of HIP without any of the bad ones. Six works from composers with some connection to Venice in the early eighteenth century provide a wonderfully entertaining listen.

Trace of Lament Audun Sandvik (cello) Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Thomas Klug, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra/Per Kristian Skalstad rec. 2018/20 LAWO CLASSICS LWC1234

The lottery that is the thirty-second sample of contemporary music by unknown (to me) composers more often than not ends in disappointment when the full work is heard, but not so here. Three Norwegian composers known in their homeland for TV and movie scores have produced five works for cello and orchestra that are moving, stirring and exciting.

Nick Barnard

For me the process of requesting discs to review can occasionally be a hit-and-miss affair. Nailed-on certainties might disappoint where a disc requested on a whim can dazzle - my choices this year included a couple of delightful 'dazzlers'. Also, the Vaughan Williams 150th Anniversary has produced a wealth of fine new recordings and reissues. My choice here is a "first amongst equals" - for example SOMM's release of Boult conducting "Job" in Boston was revelatory and part of a fine series "Vaughan Williams Live" that any admirer of this composer should hear. Other discs that just failed to make the cut include the Chandos/Dora Pejačević Symphony, Manfred Honeck's latest stimulating release on Reference and the beautiful but eccentric Koechlin Seven Stars' Symphony on Capriccio. As ever my choices must be fascinating repertoire, superbly played and well recorded. It is a credit to artists and labels how often these demanding criteria are met. In no particular order:

Impromptu Sarah O’Brien (harp) rec. 2020 AUDITE 97.807

A remarkable disc on many levels - a supreme example of how to create a diverse and fascinating recital on a single disc. Backed up with the most beautiful harp sound I have ever heard - rich and colourful - played with sovereign technique and musicianship by Sarah O'Brien. Just gorgeous from first note to last and an education into the rich harp repertoire I did not know or appreciate.

Mischa Spoliansky Orchestral Music - Liepāja Symphony Orchestra/Paul Mann rec. 2021 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0626

As a label, Toccata Classics has the unerring ability to unearth unknown or forgotten music. The Spoliansky Symphony is a case in point: an hour long work written over a period of twenty-eight years which is both a testament to its creator and in turn his memorial to the Holocaust. A remarkably moving and impressive work presented with power and sincerity.

Ralph Vaughan Williams Vaughan Williams on Brass - Ross Knight (tuba) Tredegar Town Band/Ian Porthouse, Martin Brabbins rec. 2021/22 ALBION RECORDS ALBCD052

As mentioned, this year's major anniversary has been celebrated by any number of fine recordings, concerts and publications. If one disc represents the all-round genius of the composer, the range of his music from hymn tunes to abstract masterpieces, with a real sense of serving the society and community in which he lived, this is it. Albion Records have produced many fine discs dedicated to Vaughan Williams and this is one of many I could have chosen. The Tredegar Band play with exemplary character and technique - a joy from first to last.

Love is like a Violin Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library - Simon Blendis (violin), Saoko Blendis (piano) rec. 2021 NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6428

This disc is a a triumph. At first glance it might seem like 'just' a collection of light-music trifles. Scratch the surface and you will find a fastidiously researched, lovingly compiled and brilliantly performed tribute to music of an earlier age. Simon Blendis and his wife Saoko Blendis play this far from easy music with real skill and flair - not profound perhaps but a delight.

Ruth Gipps Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Juliana Koch (oboe) BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba rec. 2019/22 CHANDOS CHAN20161

To quote from my original review; "Chandos has been announced as the Gramophone’s “Label of the Year” and to my mind this kind of release embodies the reasons for the label’s enduring success; rare but valuable repertoire performed with skill and insight by the finest artists superbly recorded and produced. To that I would simply add that the music here richly deserves revival with hopefully many more volumes to come.

Ian Venables Requiem Herbert Howells Anthems - Choir of Merton College, Oxford Oxford Contemporary Sinfonia/Benjamin Nicholas (organ) rec. 2021 DELPHIAN DCD34252

A disc to celebrate in many ways. The actual sung performances are ravishingly beautiful; the new orchestrations of the well-known Howells anthems, as well as being an important first recording, are important additions to the catalogue. The Delphian recording in the chapel of Merton College is demonstration class. All topped off by the first recording of the orchestral version of Ian Venables' powerful Requiem. Surely a work that will enter the repertoire of many choirs both professional and amateur. Accessible yet profound, all of this music is deeply moving.

Rob Barnett (Founding Editor)

Ruth Gipps Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Juliana Koch (oboe) BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba rec. 2019/22 CHANDOS CHAN20161

Instantly attractive and rewarding music from a composer whose music is taking wide strides into the light. An understated but impressively commanding talent.

William Baines Pictures of Light - Duncan Honeybourne (piano), Gordon Pullin (tenor) rec. 2022 DIVINE ART DDA25234

Duncan Honeybourne has worked with dedication, great tehcnical and emotional virtusoity to introduce listeners to the finest in neglected British music. I do hope that this will signal interest in his impressionistic orchestral music including the miniatures Island of the Fey and Thoughtdrift.

Tālivaldis Ķeniņš Symphonies 2, 3 & 7 - Latvian National Symphony Orchestra/Andris Poga rec. 2021 ONDINE ODE14012

Music by a little-known composer who does indeed deserve wider recognition, more than that his music rewards time spent exploring his works.

Ralph Vaughan Williams Live Vol. 3 - London Symphony & Philharmonic Orchestras, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Ralph Vaughan Williams rec. 1936-52 SOMM RECORDINGS ARIADNE5019-2

Ushering in, mostly for the first time, rarest recordings of the composer conducting some his most substantial works; one in two versions, including the premiere. A headliner of a response to RVW150.

British Piano Concertos Simon Callaghan (piano) BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Martyn Brabbins rec. 2021 LYRITA SRCD407

Drama and delight on display here. A belvedere on a wide vista of compact British piano concertos. Delight and drama in neglected works for piano and orchestra.

Camille Saint-Saëns Saint-Saëns Edition rec. 1904-2020 WARNER CLASSICS 9029674604

34 CDs of recordings, many unfamiliar, from Warner’s deeply echoing and capacious archives.

Marc Bridle

2022 has been the year of the pianist. More specifically, the Korean, Chinese and Japanese pianist if my shelves are any guide. Young pianists today are the most formidable generation since the late 1950s and early 1960s, and before that the 1930s. Some CDs have missed out this year (such as Takuma Onodera’s outrageously virtuosic first disc for Triton); others, like an Akito Tani recital, will be released after this is published. But two of my 2022 discs are by young pianists and they are, by any measure, exceptional recordings. I expect next year to be an even more exciting one.

Anton Bruckner Symphony No. 9 - Berliner Philharmoniker/Wilhelm Furtwängler rec. 1944 GRAND SLAM RECORDS GS-2220

The Japanese release on Grand Slam of Furtwängler’s wartime Bruckner Ninth has never made this touchstone recording sound better. Where there were only previously hints of the real power and catastrophe of climaxes in earlier issues, here the wider dynamic range and almost stereophonic sound make this a cataclysmic performance. There is a sense of revelation here, of uncovering decades of frustration that we were hearing something incendiary but we never quite experienced it. The performance is in a class of its own. Not a Bruckner Ninth for every day listening, but like so much Furtwängler it can’t be ignored either, especially in this transfer.

Ludwig van Beethoven Violin Concerto - Daniel Lozakovich (violin) Münchner Philharmoniker/Valery Gergiev rec. 2019 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 483 8946

By the time I had finished this review the conductor was persona non grata and the teenage soloist a year older. On Amazon someone described my review as “poetic” and in many ways Daniel Lozakovich’s Beethoven is exactly that. It is also decidedly big-boned and old-fashioned by today’s standards – Christian Ferras was my reference point here. This is great Beethoven, however, and sounds just overwhelmingly beautiful. We are not in an age of great young violinists – Lozakovich is an exception, and one who harks back to the era of Oistrakh, Kogan and Milstein. He’s unquestionably special, as is this CD.

Fryderyk Chopin Piano Works - Bruce Liu (piano) rec. 2021 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4861555

Winner of the 2021 International Chopin Competition, Bruce Liu has recorded an Chopin disc. His earlier than planned UK debut, with the Philharmonia, wasn’t Chopin but Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.2 – audacious, thrilling and on the horizon for a CD release with DG. Liu’s Chopin can be wonderfully muscular, but it’s also poetry in motion. His technique is dazzling but time and time again he makes his Chopin vivid and instrumentally colourful. One doesn’t often obsess over a particular aspect of a pianist but Liu’s left hand is very powerful – would he make a great Rachmaninoff Third I wonder? It’s still the best Chopin disc of 2022.

Philip Glass Akhnaten - Anthony Roth Costanzo (counter tenor) , J’Nai Bridges (mezzo), Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Karen Kamansek rec. 2019 ORANGE MOUNTAIN DVD OMM5011

Akhnaten is Philip Glass’s greatest operatic work and I have reviewed this ENO/MET co-production several times. Anthony Roth Costanzo – now 40-years old – has made the role of the Egyptian king something of his own. Phelim McDermott’s production really is stunning – this is opera that pulls you in, compels you to watch it, is stagecraft of the highest order. It can be raw but emotionally powerful. Glass’s music is hypnotic – although he used no brass in this opera – but forget the idea it’s somehow robotic. Watch it on the largest TV possible, with the best speakers, for the most immersive effect. ENO is one of the world’s great Glass innovators – this DVD is a reminder of that, even if that’s been forgotten elsewhere just recently. Mike Parr reviewed this in January.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Complete Piano Sonatas - Mao Fujita (piano) rec. 2021 SONY 19658710762

Mao Fujita’s complete Mozart sonatas is the most exceptional of recordings and he is a quite remarkable pianist. It isn’t just the sheer joy and wistfulness he gets from this music, it’s the wisdom he applies to it which makes this cycle so special. Mozart can be like Bach – a challenge for a young musician where often years of experience and thinking are needed to unlock secrets. Fujita has found the key. He is, I think, that very rare pianist, an artist, a craftsman and one willing to bare his soul. Time and again listening to these performances, I was reminded of Cortot or Arrau. This is Mozart cut with the precision of diamonds and yet everything is also remarkably free and improvised. A magical and magnificent set.

Dominy Clements

My reviewing has been curtailed this year, a side-effect of Brexit meaning that packages of review CDs to the Netherlands from the UK are now being hit by punitive taxes. Please therefore accept my apologies for thin pickings this year and onwards. These are from a batch we managed to smuggle in under some tins of baked beans, and those from year’s releases that most left me wanting more.

Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphonies 6 & 8, England, my England - Roderick Williams (baritone), BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins rec. 2019/21 HYPERION CDA68396

Vaughan Williams’ symphonies have been something of a blind spot for me until now, but Martyn Brabbins’ Hyperion recordings have proven something of a revelation thanks to their gripping performances and richly detailed sound. Having discovered this series I shall be making sure I acquire the full set.

Johann Sebastian Bach Italian Concerto, French Overture, Duets, Capriccios - Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord) rec. 2021 HYPERION CDA68336

This has to be one of the most colourful and musically impressive harpsichord recordings I have ever heard, and certainly inspires acquisition of past and future albums from this source.

Ludwig van Beethoven & Igor Stravinsky Violin Concertos - Vilde Frang (violin) Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Pekka Kuusisto rec. 2021 WARNER CLASSICS 9029667740

My first proper encounter with a recording from Vilde Frang and I have become an instant fan. Powerful Beethoven and all of the contrast and virtuosity you could wish for in both concertos, both from orchestra and soloist. A very well-balanced recording adds to the appeal.

Michael Cookson

For my ‘Recordings of the Year’ for 2022 it is the world of opera that predominates in both complete operas and aria collections, and what a fruitful year it has been for me. I didn’t set out to champion opera, my choices simply reflect the new albums that I have enjoyed the most this year, and those I feel others will enjoy too. My only non-opera choice is the album of Massenet's ‘Songs with Orchestra’ that includes twenty-one world premiere recordings.

Benjamin Bernheim (tenor) Boulevard des Italiens - Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Frédéric Chaslin rec. 2021 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4861964

On balance, the album providing me with the most enjoyment this year is French tenor Benjamin Bernheim’s ‘Boulevard des Italiens’. This is a fascinating collection of eighteen airs, all sung to French texts from operas written by Italian composers. What a beautiful voice Bernheim has! From the first to last note, this much sought-after Romantic tenor gives an entirely compelling performance.

Giacomo Meyerbeer Robert le Diable - John Osborn, Erin Morley, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine/Marc Minkowski rec. 2021 BRU ZANE BZ1049

Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable is a seminal five act French grand opera that creates drama and fuses love and romance with mystical elements. This striking Bru Zane recording with a splendid cast and conducted by Grand Opera specialist Marc Minkowski demands to be heard by opera devotees.

Jodie Devos (soprano) Bijoux Perdus - Brussels Philharmonic/Pierre Bleuse rec. 2022 ALPHA CLASSICS 877

This Jodie Devos album - the title translates as ‘Lost Jewels’ - is a most delightful collection of French opera arias. With a single exception, Devos avoids the old warhorses in favour of rarely heard repertoire, including works by Auber, Thomas, Halévy, Adam and Massé. These first-class performances by Devos feel like a breath of fresh air.

Jules Massenet Songs with Orchestra - Nicole Car, Véronique Gens, Jodie Devos, Chantal Santon-Jeffery (soprano), Cyrille Dubois (tenor), Étienne Dupuis (baritone), Orchestre de Chambre de Paris/Hervé Niquet rec. 2020 BRU ZANE BZ2004

A credit to the Bru Zane label, this is a beautifully performed, recorded and presented collection of twenty-two of Massenet’s orchestral songs. The songs are shared between the six fine soloists. All but one of the songs have French texts and twenty-one are premiere recordings. I’ve nothing but praise for this outstanding album.

Jonas Kaufmann (tenor) & Ludovic Tézier (baritone) Insieme - Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Sir Antonio Pappano rec. 2021 SONY CLASSICAL 19439987002

Friends Jonas Kaufmann and Ludovic Tézier are certainly in their element with ‘Insieme’ (‘Together’) their outstanding new collection of opera duets. The duo have chosen repertoire from Verdi, Ponchielli and Puccini that is predominantly serious and darkly dramatic rather than duets infused with joie de vivre. Kaufmann and Tézier may not be Italian-born yet there is no shortage of hot-blooded Latin passion in these gratifying performances.

Lisette Oropesa (soprano) French Bel Canto Arias - Dresdner Philharmonie/Corrado Rovaris rec. 2021 PENTATONE PTC5186955 SACD

Lyric coloratura soprano Lisette Oropesa is in sparkling form with an outstanding collection of bel canto arias by Rossini and Donizetti. Rather than select the more usually encountered Italian arias, Oropesa has chosen arias from their French language operas that were all premiered in Paris.

Paul Corfield Godfrey

The lifting of COVID pandemic restrictions has not only led to a resumption of recording schedules but also in the issue of a number of items that for one reason or another had been delayed, with the result that the lists of new issues have been bolstered with valuable new discoveries as well. And there have also been a succession of valuable reissues, which has yielded a rich harvest for the reviewer.

Armstrong Gibbs The Songs - Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano) Nathan Vale (tenor) Adrian Farmer (piano) rec. 2020/21 LYRITA SRCD2400

Another of Lyrita’s invaluable collections of the English musical heritage, much of which is totally unfamiliar and some of which is even unpublished. The quality of the music (and performances) inevitably is variable, but there are some real gems to be found here and it is very welcome to discover Gibbs’s often startlingly original settings of poets beside Walter de la Mare.

Alfredo Catalani La Wally - Izabela Matula (soprano), Leonardo Capalbo (tenor), Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Andrés Orozco-Estrada rec. 2021 UNITEL 806404 Blu-Ray

Operas on video can be a problematic issue, especially in modern and updated productions; but this down-and-dirty staging of Catalani’s early verismo opera works well in this dramatically involving presentation. And the singing is generally far superior to that available in any of the audio sets, even those cast with stalwart Italian singers of the older generation.

Christian Frederik Emil Horneman Aladdin - Bror Magnus Tødenes (tenor), Danish National Choir & Symphony Orchestra/Michael Schønwandt rec. 2020 DA CAPO 6.200007 SACD

A superlative production, taken from a concert performance of a Danish opera that was previously known only from its overture and short orchestral extracts. The work may perhaps be overlong for its content, but it is good that we are given the score uncut so that we can judge its merits for ourselves. The presentation and performance leave almost nothing to be desired.

Daniel Jones Rediscovered Piano Works - Martin Jones (piano) rec. 2019-21 LYRITA SRCD2396

This is a real set of discovery, consisting as it does entirely of newly unearthed and previously totally unknown piano music written by the composer in the period before he commenced his symphonic cycle in the late 1940s. Martin Jones, who excavated the music from the archives at the National Library of Wales, gives a superb performance (well recorded) of pieces that may vary in quality, but certainly do not deserve total oblivion. A single disc selection is also available.

Ralph Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony - Isobel Baillie (soprano), John Cameron (baritone) London Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult rec. 1953/54 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC658

This Pristine ambient stereo remastering of the Vaughan Williams cycle of the early 1950s, when the composer attended the recording sessions, has been a revelation in supplying an excellent sound in a work which even today can cause balance problems for recording engineers. And the performance remains absolutely thrilling, too.

Sir William Walton The Complete Façades - Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players/JoAnn Falletta rec. 2021 NAXOS 8.574378

There has been some controversy about how actually complete this advertised ‘complete Façade’ actually is, and how many of the claimed first performances are really premieres. In the end this is the most conveniently comprehensive of the collections of this music, with many rivals no longer listed as available. And we are given the complete printed texts, which is not the case with many other recordings. The American performances are engaged and engaging.

Hubert Culot

I have again been able to listen to a number of very fine records over the last twelve months and I believe that some of them were worth singling out. However, I decided that my choice for 2022 would be for discs of particular musical interest, i.e. as far as I am concerned, which means that it will be highly subjective.

Tālivaldis Ķeniņš Symphonies 5 & 8 - Latvian National Symphony Orchestra/Andris Poga rec. 2021 ONDINE ODE1388-2
Symphonies 2, 3 & 7 rec. 2021 ONDINE ODE1401-2

This pair of discs was the second and third instalments of Ondine's recordings of Talivaldis Kenins' eight symphonies. (The first instalment had been reviewed in October 2020.) A recording of the complete cycle of Kenins' symphonies was long overdue for the music is of the highest quality and deserves consideration and wider exposure. All these performances and recording are superb and do the music and its composer full justice. The complete cycle undoubtedly may rank among some other similar ones that had remained overlooked, were it not for some record labels that bravely rose to the occasion.

Daniel Jones Rediscovered Piano Works - Martin Jones (piano) rec. 2019-21 LYRITA SRCD2396

I was not alone in recognising Daniel Jones as the composer of thirteen substantial symphonies and of chamber music including eight impressive string quartets, but I must admit that I did not know anything at all of his vast output for piano. This generous set from the ever-enterprising Lyrita label superbly played and recorded allows for a wider appreciation of Jones' output. Mention may be made of selection from the same set available of Lyrita SRCD.410 that might appeal to those who do not feel ready for the 4-CD set.

British Piano Concertos Simon Callaghan (piano) BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Martyn Brabbins rec. 2021 LYRITA SRCD407

A release that concentrates on shorter works for piano and orchestra by British composers that may not be earth-shattering but quite often prove quite entertaining. It presents some unexpected gems and rarities, such as a quite early, rather uncharacteristic though interesting, work by Rubbra. This selection is played with commitment and enjoyment by all concerned and is thus self-commending.

Lee Denham

Johannes Brahms Symphony 4 Sir James MacMillan Larghetto - Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck rec. 2017/18 REFERENCE RECORDINGS FR-744 SACD

Indisputably the finest – and possibly the most important – recording to emerge in 2022 was this release of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony by Manfred Honeck. In an age where recordings of the old war-horses are not universally welcomed, the general thought being that everything that has been said about the music has already been said countless times, it is wonderful to be able to welcome this release of a genuinely great performance of one of the cornerstones of the repertoire. That it is also wonderfully played, in exceptional sound and with a unique coupling (the likes of which you will not have in your collection), all means this is an exceptional release.

Thomas de Hartmann Orchestral Works Vol. 1 - Bülent Evcil (flute) Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine/Theodore Kuchar rec. 2021 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0633
Orchestral Music - Elan Sicroff (piano) Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine/Tian Hui Ng rec. 2021 NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6429

In a year during which Ukraine has suffered immense tragedy, it has been my privilege to review three releases of orchestral music from this newly discovered Ukrainian composer. The final release, from this month, arrived too late to be included in this year’s nominations but of the previous two, his Piano Concerto and his ballet suite Une fête en Ukraine are both marvellous works in the style of the early twentieth century Russian Romantic School of Rachmaninov, Prokofiev and Glazunov. Well worth discovering and all played wonderfully by the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mischa Spoliansky Symphony in Five Movements - Liepāja Symphony Orchestra/Paul Mann rec. 2021 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0626

Some readers may recognise Spoliansky’s name as the composer for a host of British films from the 1930s onwards, including Sanders of the River, The Ghost Goes West, King Solomon's Mines, The Happiest Days of Your Life , Saint Joan and North West Frontier. That he wrote this marvellous symphony during his ‘time off’ is quite something – tuneful, richly orchestrated, cleverly planned and gloriously uplifting, it remains one of the biggest surprises I have come across for a long time. Kudos to my MWI colleague Nick Barnard for bringing it to my attention with his fine review of this release.

Göran Forsling

For me 2022 turned out to be a year of vocal recitals and the influx increased towards the end of the year. This meant that some of the main contenders from the first half of the year had to be relegated to the runners-up list with a small margin, but they are still worthy candidates. So don’t miss Benjamin Bernheim’s “Boulevard des Italiens”, male soprano Samuel Mariño’s “Sopranista”, Isabel Bayrakdarian’s “La Zingarella” and Freddie De Tommaso’s “Il tenore”.

Edvard Grieg Songs - Lise Davidsen (soprano) Leif Ove Andsnes (piano) rec. 2021 DECCA 485 2254

After two sensational recital discs and a complete Fidelio it was only a matter of time before the quicky rising star on the firmament of dramatic sopranos would tackle the songs of her compatriot Edvard Grieg. The legendary Kirsten Flagstad paved the way in the thirties, and now Lise Davidsen, cooperating with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, offers 80 minutes of some of the most glorious Grieg singing I have heard in many a moon. Haugtussa is the centre piece, by the side of some relative rarities – and a handful of Grieg’s most popular gems.

Allan Pettersson Complete Songs - Peter Mattei (baritone) Bengt-Åke Lundin (piano) rec. 2021 BIS BIS2584 SACD

Allan Pettersson was the odd bird in Swedish music life with his 17 symphonies, which only slowly found acceptance among the general listeners. Barfotasångerna (The Barefoot Songs), composed in the early 1940s, with a folk-musical simplicity, have on the other hand reached great popularity and been recorded a number of times. Peter Mattei avoids being too overtly operatic and sings them with great warmth, simplicity and sensitive nuances. He and pianist Bengt-Åke Lundin have assimilated the essence of Pettersson’s very special world.

Sápmi Nordic Choral Music - Erik Westberg Vocal Ensemble/Erik Westberg rec. 2018-21 SWEDISH SOCIETY DISCOFIL SCD1184

“Sapmi” means “Sami person” and “The land of the Sami people”. This land covers a large area in the northernmost part of Europe, and there exist no political borderlines, even though technically speaking Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia (the Kola Peninsula) are involved. The Sami’s ancient “yoik” has here been the basis for new choral compositions, which resulted in a wholly fascinating mixture of thrilling rhythms, ancient melodies and modern harmonies. The individual numbers are engrossing in various ways, but most of all it was the totality, the sum of the parts, that lifted me to the Elysian fields. I do urge readers to allow themselves the pleasure to be transported to a faraway country without borderlines and a cultural and musical life of its own. The choral singing is breath-taking.

The Crown Heroic Arias for Senesino - Randall Scotting (countertenor), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Laurence Cummings rec. 2021 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD719

The famous contralto castrato Senesino collaborated with Handel to and fro between 1720 and 1736 and created leading roles in 17 of his operas, but here we don’t hear a bar of Handel. Instead we get music by Handel’s contemporaries, most of them long forgotten. Apart from one aria, the music is comprised of first recordings, and there isn’t a dull piece. American countertenor Randall Scotting, whose debut recital this is, has a big powerful and beautiful voice and matching technical competence that seems to be similar to Senesino’s – according to descriptions by contemporary earwitnesses. A disc that should be attractive to lovers of good singing – and not only Baroque freaks.

Johannes Brahms Lieder - Anna Lucia Richter (mezzo-soprano) Ammiel Bushakevitz (piano) rec. 2022 PENTATONE PTC5186986

I first encountered Anna Lucia Richter three years ago as a superb interpreter of Schubert. Now she is back with a Brahms recital – and has changed from soprano to mezzo-soprano. At her new pitch she seems ideal for Brahms, who often explored the warm mid-register of the female voice. She has also chosen songs connected with twilight, a field where Brahms feels at home and inspires him to some of his most beautiful and touching songs. Besides the beauty of her voice per se, Anna Lucia Richter also delivers deeply considered readings of the texts, which makes this one of the best Brahms recitals to have come my way during the last few years.

Lisette Oropesa (soprano) French Bel Canto Arias - Dresdner Philharmonie/Corrado Rovaris rec. 2021 PENTATONE PTC5186955 SACD

Lisette Oropesa’a reading of the title role in the first studio recording of La Traviata for ages, earlier this year, was triumphant, and here, on her own, in rarely heard arias by Rossini and Donizetti, she is a sure winner. Her coloratura singing is of course stunning, but this is so much more than canary twittering. She has retained the soubrette ease and lightness, but during the eleven years that have passed since I first heard her, she has also grown to a fully-fledged Lirico spinto and digs into the characters’ feelings with great intensity. A winner in every respect. More, please!

Stephen Greenbank

Harold Shapero Orchestral Works - Vivian Choi (piano) Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Gil Rose rec. 2014-16 BMOP/SOUND 1072

Harold Shapero was one of a group of composers who ventured into Neo-Classicism. Turning his back on serialism, he opted for the more traditional path of tonality. For this he was side-lined and his music neglected. This release was timed to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the composer’s birth. The enthusiasm and zeal of the BMOP, under the inspirational direction of Gil Rose, injects new life into this refreshing oasis of scores. Here we have music with plenty of personality, brimming over with energy, appeal and confidence.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Sonatas and Rondos - Marc-André Hamelin (piano) rec. 2021 HYPERION CDA68381/2

This is one of those new releases that grabs you from the start and ticks all the right boxes. Hamelin has chosen a fascinating programme, offering a selection of sonatas and rondos, demonstrating the range, contrasts and imaginative scope of C.P.E. Bach's highly distinctive works. The music works well on the modern concert grand, and there’s enough variety to focus one’s attention throughout. Hamelin’s stunning virtuosity, sheer musicality and sense of drama showcase these magnificent works at their best. The bright-sounding Steinway and perfect acoustic all add up to a winning combination.

Johanna Martzy (violin) Her Columbia Graphophone Recordings - Jean Antonietti (piano) Philharmonia Orchestra/Paul Kletzki, Wolfgang Sawallisch rec. 1954-1955 WARNER CLASSICS 9029648857

Johanna Martzy was one of a group of female violinists whose careers peaked in the mid-to- late-twentieth century. Thanks to the potent advocacy of far-eastern collectors, most notably the Japanese, she has now been elevated to cult status, with her LPs fetching large sums. Welcome, indeed is this newly released 9 CD set of the artist’s Complete Columbia Graphophone recordings, which date from 1954-1955. Each of the recordings, all of which are mono, are remastered by Art & Son Studio, Annecy, 192kHZ/24bit (96kHZ/24bit) from original tapes. The recordings reveal a marked improvement, sound-wise, on previous incarnations. Definitely one not to be missed.

Grigory Sokolov (piano) At Esterházy Palace rec. 2018 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4861849 CD/Blu-ray

Yet another wonderful live recital from Grigory Sokolov, this time from the Esterházy Palace in Eisenstadt. Haydn and Schubert form the backbone, with the usual generous helping of encores the pianist has become famous for. The bonus is a Blu-ray, enabling the purchaser to get a flavour of the live event as the audience experienced it. The camera work and sound quality are first rate in every way.

Claudette Sorel (piano) Rediscovered rec. 1958-1962 SOREL CLASSICS SCCD018

Of the numerous historical recordings of pianists I've reviewed over the year, this one is a highlight. I had never encountered Claudette Sorel before until this 2 CD set came along. What a discovery! Sorel’s pianism combines supreme virtuosity, an extraordinary colour range, fertile and vivid imagination, personal magnetism and impeccable musicianship. It’s all there for the listener to savour. Worth seeking out.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Complete Piano Sonatas - Mao Fujita (piano) rec. 2021 SONY 19658710762

Here's a young pianist who is already making his mark. He already displays all the qualities which will make him a significant presence on the concert stage of the future, namely innate musical sensitivity, a formidable technique and impeccable taste. His beautifully recorded cycle of Mozart's piano sonatas compares favourably with my favourite traversals by Mitsuko Uchida, Ingrid Haebler and William Youn. An absolute winner.

Michael Greenhalgh

I’m doing as I did last year, which is taking the opportunity to provide details of pieces and interpretation that didn’t get into my review as linked. I usually select an especially striking work and make that the focus for comparing an earlier interpretation, but this leaves other works on the CD less represented. My summaries here provide previously unpublished attention to the qualities of these and their performance. I find it a comforting validation of my original recommendation that I am able to do this even after a time lag.

Franz Joseph Haydn Piano Sonatas Vol. 11 - Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) rec. 2021 CHANDOS CHAN20193

The Fantasia in C, in the Henle Urtext more suitably termed Capriccio, is a Presto very merry piece from Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, abounding in semiquaver runs and ornamentation, demanding light fingering yet energetic progress which Bavouzet gleefully supplies. The main theme is exuberance, irrepressible momentum yet absolute command. There’s a strutting second theme (tr. 7, 0:51) with guffawing descant, a grand cavalcade of semiquaver flourishes against left-hand discords (1:05), while the earlier guffaws become more substantial and switch register (2:40). An apt party piece for the final CD of Bavouzet’s piano sonatas which since volume 4 has included selected piano pieces.

Felix Mendelssohn Lieder ohne Worte Vol. 1 - Peter Donohoe (piano) rec. 2021 CHANDOS CHAN20252

The Songs Without Words are a treasure trove from which you can select at random. One example, the Hunting Song, Book 1, No. 3, is absolutely that from Peter Donohoe, robustly played full of verve and bounce so you feel like a rider careering along. But also, Donohoe takes care to make pointed the soft contrasts (first at tr. 7, 0:14), so sheer happiness is savoured as from a distance as well as immersion. It is all capped by a thrilling peroration of right-hand six semiquavers’ ostinato descant motif (from 1:57) over the song in the left-hand.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Concertos 20 & 25 - Anne-Marie McDermott (piano) Odense Symfoniorkester/Sebastian Lang-Lessing rec. 2020 BRIDGE 9562

The slow movement of Piano Concerto 25 is a lovely foil for the first movement’s pomp. Within the relaxation of Sebastian Lang Lessing’s orchestral introduction, the care of his phrasing is matched by the reflection of Anne-Marie McDermott’s repeat. She shows less effort, which works well because she extends the material, revealing more its underlying emotion. The piano is equally capable of piquant accompaniment when the woodwind has the soulful singing (tr. 2, 3:35) and growingly dramatic when adding ornamentation between the two-octave leaps (4:10). This is playing of intimate relationship and unanimity of purpose, deeply considered and cherished.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart String Quartets Vol. 1 - Doric String Quartet rec. 2020 CHANDOS CHAN20249(2)

I’m impressed by the rigour of the Doric Quartet’s first movement of Quartet 23. Their imperative is to communicate in quite searingly emphatic manner, thereby working towards a goal of less frequent contentment. It first appears at 0:19 (CD2, tr. 1) with hearty response (0:30). The second theme (1:09) is a fuller, more optimistic rewrite of the first but you wait until the exposition codetta (2:11) for real peace. The development makes a tense play of the first theme, its descending emphasis (5:44) then transformed to an ascending one (5:56), the relief finally underlined by a terse, nicely turned coda (12:39).

Franz Schubert Piano Sonatas 17 & 21 - Anne-Marie McDermott (piano) rec. 2021 BRIDGE 9550A/B

Anne-Marie McDermott gives the second movement of Piano Sonata D850, a Con moto, crucially also legato, the right smoothness, the first theme Schubert at his most tender, every note significant and honoured as the melody moves from stasis to steely affirmation, then back to calm. The second theme (tr. 2, 2:54) becomes a loud, ecstatic explosion. The opening theme returns with a soft, delicate descant, a simultaneous variation (5:25). The alternation of restfulness and turbulence characterises both themes’ later returns, until the first bows out in benign variants in subterranean bass. McDermott gives a gripping account of this vivid journey.

Franz Schubert Works for Solo Piano Vol. 6 - Barry Douglas (piano) rec. 2021 CHANDOS CHAN20253

In this release, Barry Douglas includes a Liszt transcription of Schubert, here of his song Ave Maria, which upstages the entire CD. Listening to Schubert’s original will enhance your appreciation of Liszt and Douglas’ playing. Schubert offers an intimate prayer from one maiden to another, the emotion largely in the voice. Liszt is more stagey, deliberate and intense: the mezzo song line marcato ed espressivo and with an extra, descant layer of accompaniment. Liszt increases Schubert’s semiquaver clusters later to demisemiquaver ones (tr. 9, 2:50) and finally to hemidemisemiquavers (4:33) as if the whole of creation is joining the prayer.

Richard Hanlon

Work commitments and ill health have both conspired this year to limit my contributions to MWI this year; indeed I’m afraid to say that my listening has been sporadic at best throughout 2022. I am thus restricting my choices to two outstanding orchestral recordings.

Andrea Tarrodi Four Elements - Constantin-Reznik (harp) Nordic Chamber Orchestra/Patrik Ringborg, JoAnn Falletta rec. 2021 DB PRODUCTIONS DBCD204

My runner-up is a disc of approachable and imaginatively crafted fare by the Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi. Whilst the Symphony in Fire, Water, Earth and Air is a winning synthesis of austerity and idealism, the spiralling repetitions of her harp concerto Choryn have provided reliable succour throughout challenging times. Tarrodi’s work is contemporary in every way; I find it consistently fulfilling and frequently beautiful.

Ruth Gipps Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Juliana Koch (oboe) BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba rec. 2019/22 CHANDOS CHAN20161

My disc of the year is a recent Chandos issue – a second volume of orchestral works by Ruth Gipps. If the two symphonies which featured in Volume 1 revealed a composer whose neglect seemed especially scandalous (no doubt explained by institutionalised misogyny at the heart of the British musical establishment of the time), the substantial Symphony No. 3 which dominates the follow-up is even more impressive, coherent, memorable and superbly orchestrated. Nor are the couplings mere fillers – there are a few English oboe concertos which have been performed and recorded relatively frequently – I would argue they do not hold a light to Gipps’ serious, substantial example. The soloist Juliana Koch and the BBC Philharmonic under the indefatigable Rumon Gamba have also been captured in a warm yet detailed recording which is exemplary even by Chandos’s exalted standards. It’s unmissable. Hopefully Gipps’ first and last symphonies will follow in due course.

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