The Best Classical CDs of 2014
Here are our top ten classical CDs of the year, as chosen by our classical music specialists Kate Rockstrom and Alexandra Mathew. Displayed in no particular order.
Prayer by Sol Gabetta
Ernesto Bloch has been following me in the last six months. I’ve been performing, listening and teaching his repertoire, which has made me wonder why he’s not more popular. Sol Gabetta takes two of his works and through her cello sings the praises of Bloch, along with Shostakovich and the ever popular ‘Song of the Birds’ by Pablo Casals.
Brahms: The Symphonies by Riccardo Chailly & Gewandhausorchester
It’s incredibly difficult to find a recording of the Brahms Symphonies that truly encompasses all that Brahms was both as a man and a composer. Musicians must walk the fine line between severity and sensuality, joy and despair and every other emotion you can name. Chailly seems to have achieved the impossible: this is the greatest recordings of Brahms that I have ever heard.
Dances by Benjamin Grosvenor
Benjamin Grosvenor burst onto the music scene with his debut recording and then one-upped himself with his second. Now his third is him just showing off! He will be considered one of the greatest pianists of the 21st Century. He has a clarity of style with everything from Bach to Albeniz. It’ll give you goosebumps.
Escape to Paradise: The Hollywood Album by Daniel Hope
Daniel Hope’s last few recordings have been spectacular. I’ve had his Spheres on repeat since it came out in 2013, walking the fine line between popularity and musical integrity. I’m so thrilled to have a new recording of Hope’s, one featuring the works of some of the greatest film composers ever exiled from their homelands. The centrepiece is the stunning, Hollywood-inspired Violin Concerto by Korngold.
Mosaic: Australian Guitar Concertos by Karin Schaupp
Karin Schaupp’s albums are like a breath of fresh air in the world of big, heavy classical music. No Beethoven or Brahms for her, rather the floral world of Peter Sculthorpe and Ross Edwards. I find that this music can transport you to a world of bright sunlight, wide landscapes and a riot of colours.
J.S. Bach: The Cello Suites by Nina Kotova
The angelic portrait photo on the cover of Nina Kotova’s recording of the Bach cello suites belies the raw emotion and gutsiness, intelligence, and feeling of a world-wise musician that she demonstrates. She plays with intention and precision, and enviable virtuosity especially apparent during Suite No. 6 in D major.
La Belle Excentrique by Patricia Petibon & Susan Manoff
Listening to La Belle Excentrique is like stumbling into a ’20s French music hall, complete with idiosyncratic accordion accompaniment. Patricia Petibon’s CD is a mixture of divine and absurd French art song, ranging from Poulenc’s languorous ‘Hôtel’ to the kooky ‘Ba, be, bi, bo, bu,’ with delectable offerings from Satie, Hahn, and Fauré along the way.
Monteverdi: Vespri Solenni Per La Festa Di San Marco by Rinaldo Alessandrini & Concerto Italiano
Monteverdi’s Vespers are a treat for the ears and this recording, conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini, evokes the splendour and beauty of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice where the Vespers were first performed. The well-known ‘Beatus Vir’ is a highlight, and is a lesson in fine consort singing.
Mozart & Haydn: Jeunehomme by Alexandre Tharaud, Les Violons du Roy & Bernard Labadie
French pianist Alexandre Tharaud presents sparkling renditions of Mozart and Haydn piano concertos alongside the concert aria ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te?’, in which guest mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato dazzles. Tharaud captures Mozart’s precocity and brilliance particularly in Piano Concerto No. 9 (nicknamed ‘Jeunehomme’), which is considered one of Mozart’s greatest compositions.
Road Trip by Aurora Orchestra
London’s Aurora Orchestra takes us on a road trip across America, featuring offerings from John Adams, Charles Ives, and Aaron Copland, and a special appearance from Paul Simon. The Ives is a particular standout, evoking the grandeur of New England’s Housatonic River.