The best classical albums of 2020

Every year our staff vote for their favourite books and music 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 and music here.)

Elgar: Violin Concerto by Nicola Benedetti, Petr Limonov, London Philharmonic Orchestra & Vladimir Jurowski

Scottish-Italian violinist Nicola Benedetti thrills and delights with this recording of Edward Elgar’s 1910 Violin Concerto, coupled with three short works for violin and piano. Conductor Vladimir Jurowski and London Philharmonic Orchestra play their parts with aplomb, and the result is a bold, sumptuous album with plenty of heart

Dowland: A Fancy by Bor Zuljan

Drawing from his varied musical influences, multi-instrumentalist Bor Zuljan explores the expressive and colourful sounds of English Renaissance composer lutenist, and singer John Dowland. Zuljan moves from muted and sombre, to sparkling and lively, as he revels in his playing. Listeners will savour this masterfully curated debut solo album.

Women of Note: A Century of Australian Composers (Volume 2) by various artists

In this second volume from ABC Classic celebrating Australia’s female composers, listeners are treated to a lavish array of works from known names and those less familiar. Two works from First Nations composers are not to be missed: Deborah Cheetham’s incredibly moving ‘Eumerella: A War Requiem for Peace’, and Nardi Simpson’s ‘Wilga’s Last Dance’

Corelli: Concerti Grossi Op. 6 by Genesis Baroque, Sophie Gent & Lucinda Moon

Arcangelo Corelli is one of the great composers of the Baroque era. Here, the vibrant Melbourne-based ensemble Genesis Baroque apply their fresh and unique musicality to a complete recording of the works on Corelli’s seminal Opus 6 volume – the first by an Australian orchestra. This is an elegant and compelling release, one worthy of acclaim.

Aspects of America: The Pulitzer Edition by Oregon Symphony & Carlos Kalmar

Oregon Symphony and conductor Carlos Kalmar continue their acclaimed Aspects of America series with this second installment, this time featuring three beautifully crafted Pulitzer Prize-winning symphonic works from Walter Piston, Morton Gould and Howard Hanson. These wonderful works have all but disappeared from the classical repertoire and this album seeks to remedy this disappointing oversight.

Verdi: Otello by Jonas Kaufmann, Orchestra e Coro dell'Academia Nationale di Santa Cecilia & Antonio Pappano

This is an impeccably sung vision of Verdi’s Otello – the Italian composer’s memorable four-act opera based on Shakespeare’s play Othello. Star tenor Jonas Kaufman applies his remarkable, richly layered voice to the role of Otello, accompanied splendidly by Virginie Verrez as Emilia, Liparit Avetisyan as Cassio, and the Coro dell’Academia Nationale di Santa Cecilia. A gift for opera fans.

Vivaldi: Works for Clarinet and Orchestra by Martin Fröst & Concerto Köln

Swedish clarinettist Martin Fröst’s new album is inspired by a question: What might Vivaldi have composed for the clarinet if it had been more fully developed? Together the help of instrument specialists and Concerto Köln, he has consequently created three new ‘Clarinet Concertos’ using Vivaldi’s operatic works as a starting point. An imaginative and rewarding offering that perfectly accentuates the soaring beauty of the clarinet.

Elgar: Cello Concerto by Skeku Kanneh-Mason, London Symphony Orchestra & Sir Simon Rattle

Much-adored and award-winning cellist Sheku wows fans anew with this collection of works anchored around Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Sheku has a personal connection with this concerto – arguably the best-known work in the classical canon written for cello – and he applies his innate artistry to stunning effect in nine exquisite pieces.

Bluetongue: Australian Guitar Quartets by Guitar Trek

Australia’s premier guitar quartet reflects life in modern Australia with a programme that showcases works of immense colour and rhythmic vitality. Featuring the music of Richard Charlton, Nigel Westlake, Philip Houghton and Elena Kats-Chernin, this diverse and exciting offering is a must-have for guitar lovers and anyone with an interest in our homegrown musical landscape.

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-5 by Jordi Savall & Le Concert des Nations

Jordi Savall brings his intense fervour to this set of Beethoven’s first five symphonies. Efforts have been made to keep the sound as close to what the composer originally imagined as possible, such as by using instruments corresponding to those used at the time and honouring the articulation markings made in each score, and makes for an emotionally poignant recording.

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Women of Note: A Century of Australian Composers, Volume 2

Women of Note: A Century of Australian Composers, Volume 2

Various Artists

$26.99Buy now

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