The best classical albums of 2019

Every year our staff vote for their favourite books, albums, films and TV shows of the past 12 months. Here are our top 10 classical albums of the year, voted for by Readings' staff, and displayed in no particular order.

(You can find all our best picks for books, music & DVDs of 2019 here.)


Mari by Mari Samuelsen

Mari – Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen’s first solo recording for Deutsche Grammophon – is described by the artist as an ‘urge to live slow… to keep yourself, your life and your mind in balance’. This beautiful recording consistently moves our Readings customers, some lingering in store just to listen to Samuelsen’s extraordinary playing and ambient repertoire choices.


Rise by Jess Gillam

At only twenty years of age, Jess Gillam was the first ever saxophonist to reach the final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year award. Rise – Gillam’s solo debut album for Decca – traverses a wide range of repertoire from Dowland to Kate Bush, and is testament to her award-winning brilliance and fine musicianship.


Maddalena and the Prince by Maddalena Del Gobbo

Maddalena and the Prince is the second of Maddalena del Gobbo’s concept albums for Deutsche Grammophon, following on from Henriette: The Princess of the Viol. Moving forward in time and shifting from France to Germany, the repertoire includes baryton music by lesser-known composers Andreas Lidl, Franz Hammer, and Luigi Tommasini. An exquisite recording.


Mozart: Le Testament Symphonique by Le Concert des Nations & Jordi Savall

Jordi Savall – gambist, musical director and prolific recording artist – leads his orchestra Le Concerts des Nations in a dazzling performance of Mozart’s last three symphonies, alongside ‘Maurerische Trauermusik’ (‘Masonic Funeral Music’). Under Savall’s direction the orchestra is magnificent, producing a luscious sound that one might not usually associate with period instruments.


Mendelssohn: Piano Concertos and Works for Solo Piano by Jan Lisiecki & Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Young pianist Jan Lisiecki proves his musical chops in this recording of Mendelssohn piano concertos, for which he is both soloist and conductor. And young is the operative word here, considering Mendelssohn himself was only twenty one when he composed his first piano concerto. Lisiecki plays with the requisite lightness of touch.


Florence Beatrice Price: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4 by Fort Smith Symphony & John Jeter

Florence Price, the first African American woman to gain recognition as a symphonic composer, was remarkable. As this recent Naxos recording of the first and fourth symphonies attests, her relative obscurity certainly isn’t because of the quality of her music: Price was without doubt an exceptional symphonist.


J.S. Bach: Cello Suites (arranged for violin) by Rachel Podger

Rachel Podger, a master of baroque violin with an impressive discography, has added a new string to her bow: she has made perhaps the first violin transcription and recording of Bach’s cello suites. After taking a moment to adjust to the higher sound world, Podger’s Bach arrangements make for enjoyable listening.


Terry Riley: Sun Rings by Kronos Quartet

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing, Kronos Quartet has released their recording of Terry Riley’s unusual composition Sun Rings. Sun Rings incorporates pre-recorded space sounds, provided by none other than NASA, the commissioning body behind this groundbreaking work. The result is beautiful, and, dare I say, otherworldly.


Women of Note: A Century of Australian Composers by various artists

To coincide with International Women’s Day 2019, ABC Classics released Women of Note – a 2CD collection of music by Australian women. Some music here will be familiar to listeners, and some will be less so. Regardless, all of it has merit, and the collection highlights the sheer inventiveness and genius of Australian female composers.


Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp. 54 & 78 & Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata No. 2 Op.36 by Ivo Pogorelich

After a twenty-year recording hiatus, legendary Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelich is back with an album of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff sonatas. And it was well worth the wait – Pogorelich, as always, creates a stir with unusual tempo choices, and plays with the compelling combination of virtuosity, power and fire for which he is renowned.

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Terry Riley: Sun Rings

Terry Riley: Sun Rings

Kronos Quartet

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