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      December 21, 2013

      The Best Classical Recordings of 2013


      Verdi: Otello

      Soloists; Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Riccardo Muti

      CSO Resound 901 1301 (2 CDs)

      Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday, CSO Resound releases its second recording with Riccardo Muti featuring Verdi’s second-to-last opera, Otello. Recorded live in concert at Symphony Center in 2011, this album will stand for years to come as a unique benchmark in Verdi performance and interpretation by one of today’s finest conductors.


      Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas

      Leonidas Kavakos, violin; Enrico Pace, piano

      Decca 478 3523 (3 CDs)

      Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos makes his Decca debut with his first complete recording of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas. Presented in partnership with the Italian pianist Enrico Pace, this new set is being released after the duo’s acclaimed performances of the complete cycle at the Salzburg Festival in August 2012.


      Balkan Spirit

      Hespèrion XXI / Jordi Savall

      Alia Vox AVSA-9898

      Jordi Savall once again enriches our view of a region teeming with history: the Balkans. Alia Vox presents a collection of music that sheds light on a little-known repertoire conveying the whole spectrum of human emotions. Presented with both the iconographic richness and quality packaging that Alia Vox is famous for, this journey of musical discovery is another important milestone in the discography of Jordi Savall and his ensemble Hespérion XXI.


      Mahler: Symphony No 9

      Los Angeles Philharmonic / Gustavo Dudamel

      Deutsche Grammophon B0017969-02

      This is Gustavo Dudamel’s first CD with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, recorded live at Disney Concert Hall as part of their 2012 Mahler Project. Dudamel and the LA Phil toured Europe with Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in 2011, garnering widespread critical acclaim. The Guardian praised them for “a refinement and expressivity that touched the sublime.”


      ReJoyce!

      Joyce DiDonato, mezzo soprano; Various Artists

      Erato 5099993 412124

      ‘ReJoyce! The Best of Joyce DiDonato’ is the result of an unprecedented crowdsourcing campaign with the popular singer’s vast and passionate social media followers, in which they helped to determine the album title, tracklisting, elements of the liner notes and even the album cover itself, which features a photograph taken by a fan. The double album – including 6 previously unreleased songs – celebrates DiDonato’s 10-year recording career, including five recital albums, five complete operas and two concert recordings.


      The Soviet Experience: Volume 3

      Pacifica Quartet

      Cedille Records CDR 90000 138 (2 CDs)

      The Pacifica Quartet presents the third installment of their acclaimed ‘Soviet Experience’ series. This release focuses on Shostakovich’s string quartets of the 1960s, Nos 9-12. Ranging from a balanced neoclassical form to an unpredictable riot of tonal and atonal themes, these quartets rank among the finest of Shostakovich’s later works. The String Quartet No 6 of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Shostakovich’s friend and colleague, provides another vantage point to view this period in Soviet history.


      Bach: St Matthew Passion

      Soloists; RIAS Chamber Choir; Berlin Academy of Ancient Music / René Jacobs

      Harmonia Mundi HMC-802156.58 (2 CDs & 1 DVD)

      This is René Jacobs’ first recording of the St Matthew Passion. He uses the layout of the Good Friday Vesper service from Bach’s time, with choirs front and back, rather than side-by-side. He also gives us extra soloists to complete the bi-choral effect. As ever, Harmonia Mundi’s production values are such that we are given several essays on the concept of the layout in Bach’s time, reflections on the new recording, full texts and biographies in a 176 page booklet, with sumptuous packaging.


      Music@Menlo: Resonance

      Various Artists

      Music@Menlo Live 2012 (6 CDs)

      Music@Menlo’s 10th-anniversary season, Resonance, explored the many ways in which music resonates within the listener. Music has an immense capacity to nurture the mind, transport listeners to new places, and, ultimately, delight the ears and stir the hearts of all people. Each disc of the 2012 edition of Music@Menlo Live captures the essence of Resonance and the festival’s milestone season.


      Prokofiev: Complete Works for Violin

      James Ehnes, violin

      Chandos CHAN-10787 (2 CDs)

      This two-CD set offers all the works that Prokofiev wrote for the violin as solo instrument. One of the most sought-after and acclaimed violinists today, James Ehnes is accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Gianandrea Noseda and by the pianist Andrew Armstrong, with whom he has previously made a number of highly acclaimed Chandos recordings. The distinguished Amy Schwartz Moretti joins him in the Sonata for Two Violins.


      Bellini: Norma

      Soloists; International Chamber Vocalists, La Scintilla Orchestra / Giovanni Antonini

      Decca 478 3517 (2 CDs)

      Cecilia Bartoli leads a fabulous cast in Decca’s groundbreaking new recording, which presents Bellini’s Norma in a form that is complete with the mix of vocal and instrumental colors Bellini intended for his ‘tragic opera.’ Sumi Jo, John Osborn and Michele Pertusi respectively illuminate the roles of Adalgisa, Pollione and Oroveso. The sounds of period instruments from the composer’s time underpin and blend with a cast carefully chosen to recreate the individual vocal qualities of the opera’s roles.


      Van Cliburn Gold Medalist

      Vadym Kholodenko, piano

      Harmonia Mundi HMU-907605

      Winner of the gold medal at the Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Vadym Kholodenko captured the attention of jury, audience, and critics alike for “mesmerizing and exhilarating” performances that brought the crowd to their feet. Kholodenko will perform in over 50 engagements in 2013–14 as part of his debut season as gold medalist. Also part of his prize package is this live CD of his competition performances, followed by a studio recording.


      Fellow Traveler

      Attacca Quartet

      Azica Records ACD-71280

      For its debut album, this young ensemble pays homage to one of America’s greatest living composers, playing John Adams’ complete repertoire for string quartet. In addition to the famously demanding String Quartet and John’s Book of Alleged Dances, the Attacca Quartet also presents the first recording of Fellow Traveler, a tribute to Adams’ long-time collaborator Peter Sellars.


      Beethoven: Symphonies No 4 & 7

      Academy of St Martin in the Fields / Joshua Bell

      Sony Classical 49176-2

      Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell has been named Music Director of the world-renowned Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Bell conducts mostly from the concertmaster’s chair and in this way led the orchestra for their first recording of this all–Beethoven repertoire. He is the first American and first person to hold the title of Music Director since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958.


      Schubert Edition: Volume 7

      Matthias Goerne, baritone; Andreas Haefliger, piano

      Harmonia Mundi HMC-902141

      The seventh volume in baritone Matthias Goerne’s Schubert lieder series features some of the composer’s most famous and beloved songs, including the title work, the dramatic and powerful Erlkönig. Joined here by the acclaimed pianist Andreas Haefliger, Goerne offers performances that are rich with the deep colors and intense emotions of the Romantic era.


      Janáček: The Piano

      Cathy Krier, piano

      Cavi Music 8553290 (2 CDs)

      The gifted pianist Cathy Krier, born in Luxembourg in 1985, presents an intensely compelling and beautifully played Janáček recital, featuring all of the Czech composer’s piano works, with the exception of the Etudes and folk song adaptations, on 2 CDs. The set includes On an Overgrown Path, Moravian dances and folksongs, Variations for Zdenka, In the Mists, and the Piano Sonata, among other works.


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