The Best Classical CDs of 2013

Here, Classical Music Specialist Phil Richards shares his top ten Classical CDs from 2013 - in no particular order.


Philip Glass: Metamorphosis & The Hours by Lavinia Meijer

Philip Glass is without a doubt one of the great American composers and this CD, from harpist Lavinia Meijer, is superb. Glass’ piano compositions have always had a hypnotic beauty in their original form and here, played on the classical harp, they have that and so much more.


Piazzolla: 4 Buenos Aires by Denis Plante & David Jacques

Bandonéonist Denis Plante, together with guitarist David Jacques, has produced a stunning recording of contemporary tango music. Plante’s arrangements are striking as well as faithful to the very essence of the tango spirit and as a result you cannot help but be immersed in this glorious music from beginning to end.


Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 by Donald Runnicles & the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

When released earlier this year this was certainly one of my favourites. Everything about this recording works, from the beautiful cover art to the classic Hyperion sound and, of course, the magnificent playing from the BBC SSO under the excellent direction of Donald Runnicles, whose attention to detail is second to none.


Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances, The Isle of the Dead, The Rock by Andrew Litton & the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

This recording from Andrew Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic is the perfect introduction to the music of Sergei Rachmaninov. The three pieces recorded on this disc are great examples of Rachmaninov’s compositional style. Litton’s passion for the music is obvious and all pieces are beautifully played.


Novecento Guitar Preludes by Cristiano Porqueddu

For me, there is nothing like the sound of a solo guitar, especially when played well. Cristiano Porqueddu has put together an engaging collection of twentieth-century preludes for guitar. Though they are stylistically different, the common link between the five composers featured here is that they weren’t guitarists. Sometimes that can be a problem for the performer but in this case it all works beautifully.


Solo by Leonard Grigoryan

Leonard Grigoryan, younger brother of Slava, takes centre stage with his first solo recording. Featuring four original compositions – one being homage to American guitarist Ralph Towner, one of Grigoryan’s musical heroes – as well as pieces by Villa-Lobos, Barrios and Towner, this is an excellent first up recording. The playing is exciting, precise and full of emotion and beauty.


J.S. Bach: Sonatas & Partitas by Chris Thile

This is probably my favourite classical release of the year. Thile, who made his name in the world of country and bluegrass music, is a master musician and what we get here is an astonishing performance of some of the greatest pieces for solo violin played on the mandolin. The combination of great music played by a great musician is never dull.


Vivaldi: The Four Seasons by Richard Galliano

Love it or hate it, The Four Seasons is here to stay and this version is definitely worth the effort. Richard Galliano has produced a very worthwhile performance, arranging the work for accordion and string quintet. This arrangement is simple but it also brings out the purity in Vivaldi’s writing. Galliano’s playing is delicate and, of course, technically superb.


Then: Renaissance Airs and Dances by the Stockholm Chamber Brass

Renaissance music and brass instruments are a match made in musical heaven and on this fine recording, from the Stockholm Chamber Brass, this is exactly what we get. There are pieces that will be familiar and some that will not, but the common thread is the brilliant playing and the arrangements, which always enhance these compositions.


Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 by Mariss Jansons & the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Shostakovich has always been one of my favourite composers and this is my favourite symphonic performance of the year. It seems to me that Mariss Jansons and the RCO were put on this earth to play Shostakovich and as they work their way through this magnificent work you would be hard pressed to disagree.