The best classical CDs of 2016

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 CDs of the year, voted for by Readings' staff, and displayed in no particular order.

(You can find all our best picks for books, CDs & DVDs of 2016 here.)


Arias by Pumeza Matshikiza

South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza is one to watch. Her first album Voice of Hope provided only a taster of the capabilities of her luscious lyric voice, while Arias demonstrates Matshikiza’s full potential. Her rendition of ‘Song to the Moon’ will make your spine tingle, while ‘A Chloris’ will melt your heart.


Bach by Nemanja Radulovic

Serbian violinist Nemanja Radulovic’s latest album will have listeners jumping to their feet. Radulovic has selected his favourite works by Bach, alongside new arrangements of Bach’s music by Serbian composer Aleksander Sedlar. Radulovic’s virtuosity is both astonishing and electric, particularly in Partita No. 3 for Solo Violin.


Bach: Goldberg Variations by Mahan Esfahani

In the wake of Glenn Gould’s Romantic interpretations of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani has stripped the work to its bare essence. Iranian-born Esfahani is a virtuoso of the harpsichord, and his exhilarating and assertive performance style has caused riots. Esfahani’s Bach album will appeal to purists and dissenters alike.


Handel–Mendelssohn: Israel in Egypt by Robert King and the King’s Consort

Conductor Robert King spent two years piecing together Mendelssohn’s 1833 arrangement of Handel’s 1739 oratorio Israel in Egypt. The resulting recording is well worth the time and effort. Sung in Mendelssohn’s German rather than English, the score is brought to life by an impressive line-up of singers and instrumentalists.


The Guitarist: The Complete Columbia Album Collection by John Williams

Australian-born guitarist John Williams is among the top flight of classical musicians, and this Complete Columbia Album Collection is a fitting tribute to his talent and success. The 58-CD set traces Williams’ phenomenal recorded legacy, from his virtuosic 1964 recording of Bach lute suites to his experimental 1991 recording of Takemitsu.


John Jenkins: Six-Part Consorts by Phantasm

English composer John Jenkins (1592–1678) is best remembered for his role in the development of viol consort music. This re-release of Jenkins’ six-part consorts showcases his fine, understated compositional style – unique at a time when Italian complexity threatened to overshadow the English musical scene. Jenkins’ music is hypnotic, elegant, and sublime.


Monteverdi by Magdalena Kožená

Mezzo soprano Magdalena Kozena’s dark and silvery voice is a fine fit for the vocal music of Monteverdi. She injects ‘Quel sguardo sdegnosetto’ with both spirit and spite, while she imbues the heartbreaking ‘Addio Roma!’ with the hurt of a spurned lover. One of Kozena’s most inspiring albums yet.


Shostakovich – Under Stalin’s Shadow: Symphonies 5,8 & 9 by Andris Nelsons and Boston Symphony Orchestra

Shostakovich – Under Stalin’s Shadow is part of a greater series featuring music composed during Stalin’s reign. At the heart of this recording is Shostakovich’s popular Fifth Symphony, composed not long after his denouncement by Stalin in Pravda. Andris Nelsons leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra in an exciting and dramatic recording.


The Secret Lover by Tenet

Tenet’s The Secret Lover features music for, by, and dedicated to the concerto delle donne – an extraordinary group of professional female singers who performed in the court of Ferrara. It’s a beautiful album featuring little-known treasures by Barbara Strozzi, such as the beguiling ‘Amor dormiglione’ performed by soprano Jolle Greenleaf.


Vaughan Williams: Symphonies 2 & 8 by Andrew Manze and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Vaughan Williams’ London Symphony evokes the majesty of the great city after which it is named. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Andrew Manze, bring both the symphony and the sounds of the city alive. Brief solos from woodwind bring to mind The Lark Ascending in a beautiful recording.

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Nemanja Radulovic: Bach

Nemanja Radulovic: Bach

Nemanja Radulovic: Bach, Les Trilles du Diable

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