We gathered a panel of Limelight reviewers, ABC Classic FM producers and industry experts to choose the finest recordings of the 21st century so far. Listen to them here!

SAINT-SAËNS

Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra

Stephen Hough p
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Sakari Oramo
Hyperion CDA67331/2

The complete piano and orchestra works of Camille Saint-Saëns appear together on this two-disc release from 2001. British-born Stephen Hough, now an Australian citizen, displays fine workmanship, but also demonstrates extreme sensitivity to the French composer’s writing. This recording was made early in Sakari Oramo’s tenure at the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Finnish conductor having taken over from Simon Rattle in 1998. It is clear, however, that the chemistry was already there – as the orchestra and their leader provide the perfect backup for their inspirational soloist. The five concertos are complemented well by the four shorter works, and the recording quality throughout is superb. Little surprise, then, that this recording won the 2008 GramophoneAwards Gold Disc – chosen as the best Record of the Year winner from 1978 to 2007.

WHY IT MADE THE TOP TEN

There are many aspects to this two-CD set that made it special. Firstly, it adds to the ongoing series by Hyperion of Romantic piano concertos, which to me is one of the most exciting projects to be found on CD at the moment. Then there is the superb sound quality of the recording, made in Symphony Hall, Birmingham. There is the dynamic performance by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and lastly, of course, there is the beautiful, warm and dynamic playing of Stephen Hough, a pianist who always rewards with a fine listening experience. Extraordinary music played by a brilliant artist and bound up in one complete package. Ivan Lloyd, ABC Classic FM