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The best classical CDs of 2011

Features - Classical Music | Opera

The best classical CDs of 2011

by Melissa Lesnie on January 6, 2012 (January 6, 2012) filed under Classical Music | Opera | Comment Now
Limelight critics look back on their top five favourite albums from the year just gone.

Phillip Scott

BEETHOVEN
Diabelli Variations
Paul Lewis p
Harmonia Mundi HMC902071

A performance to live with.

 

 

DELIUS
Double Concerto; Violin Concerto; Cello Concerto
Paul Watkins vc; Tasmin Little v; BBC SO/Sir Andrew Davis
Chandos CHSA5094

Lovely music, sensitively done.

 

 

ECHOES OF PARIS
Music for Violin and Piano by Poulenc, Stravinsky, Debussy and Prokofiev
Augustin Hadelich v; Robert Kulek p
Avie AV2216

An exceptional recital.

 

 

ACADEMY OF ST MARTIN IN THE FIELDS
20th-Century Collection
Music by Stravinsky, Bartók, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Walton, Britten, Butterworth, Barber, Ives
ASMF/Neville Marriner
Decca 4782759 (10 CDs)

 

Classic recordings by this great ensemble in their prime. 

 

FRENCH MUSIC
Works by Berlioz, Gounod, Franck, Bizet, Ravel, Faure, Saint-Saens, Chabrier, Roussel, Ropartz, Honegger, Magnard, Satie, Sauguet, Duruflé et al
Toulouse NO/Plasson
EMI 37CDs 50999-906820-2-5

A comprehensive survey of French music, familiar and unfamiliar.

Sarah Noble

GIOIA!
Bellini, Rossini Donizetti, Mozart, Puccini
Aleksandra Kurzak s; Orchestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Wellber
Decca 4782730 

A delectable solo début, bursting not only with joy but with some seriously classy and exciting singing.

 

 

THE BALLAD SINGER
Gerald Finley bar; Julius Drake p
Hyperion CDA67830 

Musical storytelling at its best: vocally glorious, and by turns witty, spooky and deeply touching.

 

PORTRAITS
Miah Persson s; Joseph Breinl p
BIS Records BIS-SACD-1834 

Familiar songs and rarities from both Robert and Clara Schumann, sung with glossy, gorgeous tone and exemplary style.

 

 

PURE DIVA
Cheryl Barker s; Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Tourniaire
Melba Recordings MR301129

A magnificent tribute by one Australian diva to another: Cheryl Barker pays homage to her teacher, Dame Joan Hammond, bringing her own exceptional artistry to bear on some of Hammond's signature repertoire.

 

 

MY TRUE LOVE HATH MY HEART
Sarah Connolly ms; Malcolm Martineau p
Chandos CHAN10691  

English song was never less staid or twee than in the hands of Sarah Connolly, who brings immediacy and vivid colour to a fascinating selection of twentieth century art songs.

Greg Keane

 

BEETHOVEN
Missa Solemnis
Krassimra Stoyanova s; Elina Garanca ms; Michael Schade t; Franz-Josef Selig b
Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann
C major 705408 (DVD)
 
Thielemann and his forces do justice to both the scale of the work and the extraordinary intensity of the occasion, in Dresden’s exquisitely restored Sermper Opera House, 65 years to the day after it was destroyed by Allied firebombing in February 1945.
 

KORNGOLD 
String Quartets Nos 1-3
Doric String Quartet
Chandos CHAN10611
 
Korngold’s hallmark warm, luscious late Romantic lyricism in an endles stream of cherishable moments, in repertoire the Dorics have made their own.   

BEETHOVEN
Violin Sonatas Vol 3
Alina Ibragimova v; Cédric Tiberghien p;
Wigmore Hall Live WHLive00445

Wonderful synergy in the sublime delicacy and real passion in the culmination of this masterful traversal  of Beethoven’s violin sonatas.

SUK
Asrael
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
Supraphon SU4043-2
 
A perfectly calibrated testament to the dignity of grief caused by the death of the composer’s family members, made doubly poignant  by the death of the conductor’s own daughter around the time of the recording. A sublime posthumous release for Australia’s greatest ever conductor!
 

MAHLER
Symphony No 3
Bernarda Fink ms; Netherlands Radio Choir;
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam/Mariss Jansons
RCO LIVE RCO10004
 
One of the greatest Mahler performances I’ve ever heard with playing not just beyond praise, but beyond belief.

Will Yeoman 

 

VIVALDI, CAGE
8 Seasons
Rudolfo Richter; B'Rock
Et'cetera KTC1429

It takes a lot to make Vivaldi's Four Seasons sound really fresh, but these guys do it, not just by juxtaposing these ubiquitous concertos with an arrangement for Baroque orchestra of John Cage's String Quartet in Four Parts but by delivering intense, driven performances that really "make it new".

 

SOR
Le Calme: Late Works
William Carter g
Linn CKD380

Sor's exquisite miniatures are daily bread for any serious classical guitarist. But who could have thought them so profound? Carter is one of the best lutenists and baroque guitarists in the business; here he lavishes his unique musical intelligence on the late solo guitar works of a classical Spanish composer to stunning effect.

 

BACH
Cello Suites
Michael Goldschlager vc
ABC Classics 4764625 (2 CDs)

Goldschlager takes a historically informed and meticulously conceived yet improvisatory, in-the-moment approach to these great works, reminding us that real art and real artistry never go out of fashion. 

 

THE WARSAW RECITAL
Chopin 
Daniel Barenboim p
Deutsche Grammophon 4779519

To hear Barenboim's Chopin captured live is to experience a true poet of real depth and imagination in full flight. Some of the most exquisite piano playing ever committed to disc.

 

THE CHRISTMAS STORY
Ars Nova Copenhagen; Theatre of Voices/Paul Hillier
Harmonia Mundi HMC807565

Utterly ravishing singing and a traditional yet imaginative approach to programming makes The Christmas Story, a kind of Nine Lessons and Carols Danish-style, an instant classic.

Anthony Clarke

 

BEETHOVEN
The Late String Quartets
The Tokyo String Quartet
Harmonia Mundi HMU80748183

Definitive recordings of these seminal works; demonstration-quality in both performance and playback. 

 

THE VIRTUOSO CLARINET
Michael Collins cl; Piers Lane p
Chandos CHAN10615

This is a luscious disc. The clarinet is by no means my favourite instrument but this sort of performance could convert me! 

 

RACHMANINOV
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; Second Piano Concerto
Yuja Wang p; Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Abbado
Deutsche Grammophon 4779308

This release demands shelf-space, whether this is your first or 21st recording of these pieces. 

 

MOZART
Violin Concertos Nos 1, 2 and 4; Rondo K371, Adagio K261
Richard Tognetti/Australian Chamber Orchestra
BIS Records BIS-SACD-1755

Fresh, vital performances which show just why our own Australian Chamber Orchestra under Richard Tognetti has become an international benchmark. Winner of the 2011 Limelight Award for Best Classical Recording.  

THE FIRST RECORDINGS
Dame Nellie Melba
ABC Classics 4763556

This wondrously restored clutch of old acoustic discs lets us realise why little Nellie Mitchell ruled the world of opera so absolutely, in a famous era of Golden voices.

James McCarthy

 

HOWELLS
The Winchester Service
Winchester Cathedral Choir/Lumsden
Hyperion CDA67853
Beautiful choral music from the composer who sits comfortably at the centre of the Anglican Church’s musical tradition.

 

 

DANÇAS BRASILEIRAS
Nepomuceno, Villa-Lobos, Jobim, Guarnieri; Mignone; Guerra-Peixe et al
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Minczuk
BIS Records BIS-CD-1430   
This selection is a fine reminder of the excellent music of Brazil, played by its top orchestra.

 

NIELSEN
Complete symphonies and orchestral works
Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Dausgaard, Schønwandt
Dacapo 8206002
3 CDs, 1 SACD and 2 DVDs 
A superb starter set for those interested in this splendid composer; an affirmation for his fans.

 

 

BERLIOZ
Symphonie fantastique
Anima Eterna Orchestra/Imerseel
ZigZag ZZT100101
A remarkable performance from Anima Eterna Brugge, of an overly familiar masterpiece using original instruments

 


BARBER
Chamber works for cello and piano
David Berlin vc; Len Vorster p
Tall Poppies TP214
An eclectic and absorbing selection of top chamber works, illuminated by excellent Australian performances.