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      December 12, 2012

      The Best Classical Recordings of 2012


      Solti: The Legacy (1937-1997)

      Soloists; Various Orchestras / Sir Georg Solti

      Decca B0017778-02 (2 CDs)

      2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir Georg Solti, one of the most important conductors of the second half of the 20th century and an exclusive Decca artist for 50 years. The label celebrated the occasion with 9 major releases. This set contains many previously unpublished live recordings and studio items spanning Solti’s entire professional career.


      Slavic Heroes

      Mariusz Kwiecień, baritone; Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Łukasz Borowicz

      Harmonia Mundi HMW-906101

      Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień has won over audiences in many of the world’s great opera houses with his powerful interpretations. For his first solo recital, he employs his burnished voice to great effect in Polish, Russian and Czech arias which are very close to his heart. It’s a collection of operatic gems, both familiar and rare.


      Something Almost Being Said

      Simone Dinnerstein, piano

      Sony Classical 88697989432

      Simone Dinnerstein’s album combines Bach’s Partitas Nos. 1 and 2 with Schubert’s Four Impromptus, D 899. She says, “Bach and Schubert, to my ears, share a distinctive quality. Their non-vocal music has a powerful narrative, a vocal element. The effect is that of wordless voices singing textless melodies.”


      Drama Queens

      Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano; Il Complesso Barocco / Alan Curtis

      Virgin Classics 265425

      Joyce DiDonato offers a rich recital of opera arias from the 17th and 18th centuries. A parade of royal personages is portrayed in a diversity of challenging situations and extreme states of mind. “For me, this is my most exciting recording project to date,” says DiDonato, “because it is everything I deeply adore about the world of opera: high drama, profound emotion, fearless vocal writing, time-stopping passages, historical significance and real discovery.”


      Music@Menlo 2011: Through Brahms

      Various Artists

      Music@Menlo Live 2011 (7 CDs)

      This set commemorates Music@Menlo’s 2011 season, which surveyed and illuminated the historical legacy of Johannes Brahms. The performances explore centuries of music through the lens of Brahms’ art, showcasing his works alongside those of composers from Bach and Mozart to Schoenberg and John Harbison.


      Pasión

      Miloš Karadaglić, guitar

      Deutsche Grammophon B0017000-02

      Internationally acclaimed guitarist Miloš Karadaglić returned in 2012 with “Pasión,” his second recording for Deutsche Grammophon. His recital program features popular Latin American selections familiar to many but brought to fresh life with new arrangements for solo guitar and string orchestra.


      Berlioz & Ravel Song Cycles

      Véronique Gens, soprano; Pays de la Loire National Orchestra / John Axelrod

      Ondine ODE 1200-2

      Véronique Gens is internationally recognized as one of today’s great sopranos. She has made a career with Baroque repertoire and Mozart, but French repertoire, especially Berlioz and Ravel, are “as natural to her” as the air she breathes. The charismatic conductor John Axelrod has been music director of the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire since 2009.


      Beethoven For All

      Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra; West-Eastern Divan Orchestra / Daniel Barenboim, piano

      Decca B0016999-00 (19 CDs & 1 DVD)

      In three installments through 2012, Decca released “Beethoven for All,” a major series of recordings of Beethoven’s complete symphonies, piano concertos and piano sonatas with conductor-pianist Daniel Barenboim. The complete set also includes a DVD documentary and a 64-page hardback book.


      Blue Moth: Music of Anna Clyne

      Various Artists

      Tzadik TZ-8084

      CSO composer-in-residence Anna Clyne is a writer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music that blends ambient soundscapes with sonic gestures that morph and collide in ever changing patterns. Her work includes collaborative projects with cutting-edge choreographers, filmmakers, visual artists and musicians. This debut CD includes works for a variety of acoustic instruments and tape, and showcases Clyne’s unique approach to sound, structure and time.


      Mozart: Keyboard Music, Volume 3

      Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano

      Harmonia Mundi HMU-907499

      In Volume 3 of his widely acclaimed traversal of Mozart’s music for solo keyboard, fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout plays a modern reproduction of an 1805 Viennese instrument by Anton Walter. The program includes the well-loved Sonata in F major K 332, alongside Mozart’s last composition for piano, the Variations K 613.


      Los Pájaros Perdidos

      L’Arpeggiata / Christina Pluhar

      Virgin Classics 50999 07095023

      A fusion of musical styles and techniques is a trademark of L’Arpeggiata. This collection of South American music takes its name from a piece by Ástor Piazzolla. Echoes from the pre-Columbian era, African rhythms and the styles and structures of the European Baroque all enrich this survey of music from the 17th century to the present day


      Get Happy

      Jenny Lin, piano

      Steinway & Sons 30011

      Jenny Lin presents some of the most indelible melodies in American music refracted through a kaleidoscope of keyboard virtuosity. Lin says: “What sets these arrangements apart is that they are all by performing pianists. I have always admired pianists who can play and compose, and I wanted to pay tribute to them with this album.”


      Twilight of the Gods: Ring Cycle at the Met

      Soloists; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra / James Levine & Fabio Luisi

      Deutsche Grammophon B0017249-02 (2 CDs)

      Wagner’s Ring Cycle presents the ultimate challenge for any opera company, and the Metropolitan Opera’s new production, unveiled between 2010 and 2012 and starring some of the greatest Wagnerian singers of today, is among the most ambitious stagings ever mounted. This 2-CD compilation features highlights from all four operas.


      Tune thy Musicke to thy Hart

      Stile Antico; Fretwork

      Harmonia Mundi HMU-807554

      Stile Antico and the instrumental group Fretwork explore a long-neglected repertory – the wealth of Tudor and Jacobean sacred music written for domestic devotion, rather than for church worship. Pieces by Tomkins, Campion, Byrd, Tallis, Dowland, Gibbons and others have been culled from collections intended for use in private homes.


      Live at the Royal Albert Hall

      Valentina Lisitsa, piano

      Decca B0017091-02

      Valentina Lisitsa, the most viewed classical musician on YouTube, made her solo debut at London’s Royal Albert Hall on June 19, 2012. Streamed live, the concert received more than 74,000 views. Originally from Ukraine but now a resident in the United States, Lisitsa is known for performances balancing virtuosity with spontaneous and poetic communication.


      Requiem for a Pink Moon

      Joel Frederiksen, bass; Ensemble Phoenix Munich

      Harmonia Mundi HMC-902111

      Joel Frederiksen and Ensemble Phoenix Munich pay tribute to one of the great singer/songwriters of the past 50 years — Nick Drake (1948-74). Under fine melodic lines is a rhythmically driving guitar part which Frederiksen has arranged for Renaissance instruments. Parts of the plainsong Requiem Mass interweave with Drake’s finely crafted songs and music of composers from the Renaissance.


      A Second of Silence

      The Knights / Eric Jacobsen

      Ancalagon ANC-137

      The Knights are an orchestra of friends from a broad spectrum of the New York music world. The celebrated ensemble, under the direction of Eric Jacobsen, presents a program juxtaposing works of Schubert with examples of minimalism from Satie, Feldman and Glass. This release marks the group’s second appearance on the Ancalagon label.


      Mozart: Don Giovanni

      Soloists; Mahler Chamber Orchestra / Yannick Nézet-Séguin

      Deutsche Grammophon 477 9878 (3 CDs)

      Deutsche Grammophon’s complete recording of Don Giovanni is the first installment in a cycle of Mozart’s seven main operas. It features a remarkable cast of opera’s biggest names (including Ildebrando D’Arcangelo in the title role) under the direction of rising star Yannick Nézet-Séguin and was recorded at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus.


      Joan of Arc: Battles & Prisons

      La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Hespèrion XXI / Jordi Savall

      Alia Vox AVSA-9891 (2 CDs)

      Twenty years after his work on the soundtrack of the film Jeanne la Pucelle, Jordi Savall returns to this powerful subject. Alongside works by composers from Joan of Arc’s time, the program also features compositions and arrangements by Savall, further illustrated through spoken dialogue. The accompanying hardbound book is richly illustrated and provides historical perspective as well as texts and translations.


      Songs of Smaller Creatures

      Grant Park Chorus / Christopher Bell

      Cedille CDR 90000 131

      Celebrating its 50th season in 2012, Chicago’s Grant Park Chorus conducted by Christopher Bell, made its a cappella CD debut with an all-American program of eight imaginative, moving, and sometimes whimsical works written between 1975 and 2005, including four world premieres.

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      The Best Classical Recordings of 2012, 3.3 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

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