The critics have spoken and the results are in. Here are Limelight’s five top recordings of 2015.

Orchestral Recording of the Year

Chamber Recording of the Year

Instrumental Recording of the Year

Vocal Recording of the Year

Opera Recording of the Year

Last year Gerald Finley’s intense recording of Shostakovich song cycles carried off the Limelight Recording of the Year in what was a closely contested fight. This year again saw a pair of hot favourites engage in a regular battle royal to choose the final winner. Remarkably, in the end only two votes separated our champion from its closest rival! In a sign of healthy competition, the 15 finalists represent a genuine spread across the labels. Big beasts mix it with giant-slayers, and independent recording outfits measure up well against the corporate behemoths – indeed, there were a fair few surprises among the five category winners. Among the most heartening signs for the robust health of classical music and the art of recording, several contemporary music discs made our final 15. That, plus an impressive showing from a number of Australian artists makes us reckon the future looks relatively rosy for the listening public at home. So just what and who did our critical panel consider outstanding on disc in 2015, and which recording ended up carrying off the top award?

Sokolov 
The Salzburg Recital 
Grigory Sokolov p
Deutsche Grammophon 4794342 (2CD)

PIANIST SEIZES THE HOUR…

I’ve known Grigory Sokolov for a number of years. He is a very personable fellow, an amiable, talkative and humorous person backstage. But there’s something that makes him think that the whole idea of promotion is non-existent, that it would be a breach of his rights as an artist. There is the artist and there is the social man. His refusal to play with orchestras is a bit like Mozart, who refused to be dictated to in anything.

In Sokolov’s playing there is an absolute prodigiously controlled technique, with a totally uncompromising attitude towards music. The open-mindedness in terms of originality of phrasing, which goes all the way down to the last millimetre of sound, is something that is almost incomparable today. There is also a way of stepping onto the stage and isolating himself completely from the public as if playing for himself. It’s the total concentration that is so extraordinary. There is never a sense of brutal sound, although he has a power and he can produce a volume that is also unparalleled. I must say that when I hear him or when I work with him, I don’t go into any kind of analysis. I’m just mesmerised by his playing.

He is very careful too not to repeat himself in the sense that he knows where he played, the number of encores and exactly which pieces he played. I once asked him, “would you play tomorrow as an encore the Toccata from The Tombeau de Couperin by Ravel?” He looked at me as if I was mad. “I played it last year!” Usually when Sokolov and I talk about music it has to do with the vague details of the score that he is playing. Last year he said, “I really want to have something I have never played and I do not know what to look for.” I tried to suggest a few things but on occasions there was a reaction of horror. This is how I discovered he did not like Bartók. I said, “Bartók?” and he said, “No way. I can’t stand that music!” Otherwise he is very open-minded. Bruno Monsaingeon (Film-maker)

“In the style of great artists such as Michelangeli, he plays when, where, and precisely what he wants. So is this enigmatic, marketing nightmare of a pianist worth your attention? Defintitely!.”
– Limelight Review, April 2015