We reveal who took the coveted title of this year’s finest classical recording.

Last year it was Jonas Kaufmann’s Wagner Arias album that walked off with the Limelight Recording of the Year – at the time the first choice of a fair majority of our critics. This year the field has been far more closely contested with several hot favourites popping up at different stages of the exhaustive long-listing and short-listing, and then a regular battle royal to choose the final winner. Remarkably in the end, only one vote separated our champion from its closest rival! In a sign of healthy competition, the finalists represent a genuine spread across the labels. Big names mix it with giant slayers, and independent recording outfits measure up well against the corporate behemoths.

So just what and who did our critical panel consider outstanding on the disc in 2014, and which recording ended up carrying off the top award? Here is a preview of the category winners; the full list of all 15 short-listed recordings, plus our critics’ choices of the best of the rest is featured in the January issue of Limelight Magazine, on sale this week.

ORCHESTRAL

Schumann
Symphonies Nos 1-4
Berliner Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle

BERLINER PHILHARMONIC BPHR140011

“After I while I realized, actually, that with Schumann you can’t change an enormous amount of it – you just have to find the way to what is there. That took me a lot of my career to find out” Simon Rattle

CHAMBER

The Messiaen Nexus
Music by Messiaen, Dukas, Benjamin et al
Elizabeth Sellars v, Kenji Fujimura p

MOVE MD3369

“For musical influence, the most obvious would be that of Messiaen on Boulez. But, as with all good teachers, both Dukas and Messiaen were able to let their students’ own language blossom, rather than expect clones of themselves” Kenji Fujimura

INSTRUMENTAL

Handel
The Eight Great Suites
Danny Driver p

HYPERION CDA68041

“Some listeners seem to be ‘anti-harpsichord’… I am certainly not one of them, but I hope that by performing Handel on a modern instrument I can help move his music past the ‘harpsichord or piano’ debate” Danny Driver

OPERA

Stella di Napoli
Bel Canto Arias
Joyce DiDonato ms, Lyon Opera/Riccardo Minasi

ERATO 2564636562

“I was curious about the musical world surrounding Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini, and to give lesser-known composers a moment in the spotlight. But the prerequisite was that it had to be great music in its own right. It can’t just be a gimmick.” Joyce DiDonato

Limelight Magazine Recording of the Year 2014

VOCAL

Shostakovich
Six Romances on Verses by English Poets, Suite on Poems by Michelangelo
Gerald Finley bar, Helsinki Philharmonic/Thomas Sanderlin

ONDINE ODE12352

“Like Michelangelo the sculptor, Shostakovich is here trying to fabricate music out of this sheer mass of notes. There must have been a great affinity between them as one artist reflecting on the challenges of another” Gerald Finley