Best Classical Recordings of 2014
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Riccardo Muti
CSO Resound 901 1402
This CSO Resound album features the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Riccardo Muti in performance from October 2013, playing an extended suite drawn from Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet score. The ten movements were selected by Muti from two other orchestral suites that Prokofiev created, and their chronology closely follows the storyline of the tragedy.
The Carnegie Recital
Daniil Trifonov, piano
Deutsche Grammophon 479 1728
In the past thirty years, the honor of a live Carnegie Hall recital recording has been bestowed by Deutsche Grammophon upon only two other pianists: Mikhail Pletnev and Lang Lang. Daniil Trifonov now joins this elite company for his first recording on the Yellow Label, performing music of Scriabin, Liszt, Chopin and Medtner.
John Luther Adams: Become Ocean
Seattle Symphony / Ludovic Morlot
John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean is the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner for music. Written for three distinct orchestras within the orchestra, the piece expands on some of the ideas Adams explored in his 2007 work Dark Waves, with the different sections following their own rhythms and eventually meeting each other at the peak of three huge crescendo-like waves. Commissioned and premiered by the Seattle Symphony in June 2013, the piece was described by Alex Ross in The New Yorker as “the loveliest apocalypse in musical history.”
1930s Violin Concertos
Gil Shaham, violin; Various Orchestras
Canary Classics CC-12 (2 CDs)
Since its launch in 2009, Gil Shaham’s exploration of ‘Violin Concertos of the 1930s’ has fostered a wealth of collaborations between the violinist and the foremost orchestras and conductors. Now the first installment of this journey has been captured on a double album. Shaham gives live accounts of five of the decade’s most compelling concertos, with works by Barber, Berg, Stravinsky, Britten and Hartmann.
Jonas Kaufmann, tenor; Helmut Deutsch, piano
Sony Classical 88883795652
For Jonas Kaufmann, however much he loves opera, he considers interpreting the classical lieder repertory the highest order of singing. It demands far more detailed work than any other vocal discipline, more color, more nuances and a greater range of dynamics. Says Kaufmann, “I think that Winterreise has the same sort of cathartic effect as a Greek drama: the emotional experience purges the soul.”
Prokofiev: Complete Piano Concertos
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano; BBC Philharmonic / Gianandrea Noseda
Chandos CHAN-10802 (2 CDs)
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet performs all five of Prokofiev’s formidable piano concertos in partnership with Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic. The flair of Bavouzet for powerful 20th-century repertoire was made clear in his recording of Bartók’s Piano Concertos, described by the Daily Telegraph as ‘vibrant in color, vital in rhythm and detail, and viscerally exciting in impact.’
Jason Vieaux, guitar
Jason Vieaux celebrates his 20th anniversary as a performer by featuring the Spanish, Mexican, South American, Cuban, French and American classics that he has found to be universal favorites over the past two decades. The guitarist has earned a reputation for putting his expressive gifts and virtuosity at the service of a remarkably wide range of music, equally at home playing classical, jazz and rock.
Dvořák: Complete Symphonies & Concertos
Various Soloists; Czech Philharmonic / Jiří Bělohlávek
Decca 478 6757 (6 CDs)
Marking a triumphant return to the orchestra where he trained, conductor Jiří Bělohlávek has recorded Decca’s first Dvořák cycle since the 1960s. Dvořák himself conducted the Czech Philharmonic’s first concert in 1896, and the shared Bohemian heritage of composer, conductor and orchestra lends a special authenticity to these recordings. Dvořák’s three concertos are featured alongside his nine symphonies, with cellist Alisa Weilerstein, violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann and pianist Garrick Ohlsson.
Stella di Napoli
Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano; Lyon National Opera Chorus & Orchestra / Riccardo Minasi
Joyce DiDonato breathes new life into little-known arias by Saverio Mercadante, Michele Carafa, Carlo Valentini and the prolific opera composer Giovanni Pacini, whose Stella di Napoli gives the album its title. DiDonato worked closely with Italian conductor Riccardo Minasi to bring three neglected arias to light in new editions and world premiere recordings. Alongside these little-known gems, she presents music by the three bel canto greats — Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti.
Bruckner: Symphony No 9
Lucerne Festival Orchestra / Claudio Abbado
Deutsche Grammophon 479 3441
In January 2014, music lovers worldwide were saddened to learn that Claudio Abbado had passed away. Deutsche Grammophon has released his final concert from the Lucerne Festival in August 2013, featuring Bruckner’s Symphony No 9. “Abbado led an otherworldly account of Bruckner’s Ninth. Never have I heard as magisterial and moving performance of the work as that given by the 80-year-old maestro and his fabulous Lucerne Festival Orchestra.” (Wall Street Journal)
Turina: Chamber Music for Strings & Piano
Cedille Records CDR 90000 150 (2 CDs)
The Lincoln Trio brings its “interpretative flair” (The Strad) to the early 20th-century chamber music of Spanish-born, French-trained Joaquín Turina in a richly varied program of works blending Spanish dance and folk influences with romanticism and French impressionism. The album offers Turina’s complete works for multiple strings and piano — four trios, a quartet, quintet, and sextet, including what is only the second recording of his lovely early Piano Trio in F Major.
Music of Palestrina, Volume 5
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers
Harry Christophers and The Sixteen continue their exploration of Palestrina’s great works with the fifth disc in their celebrated series. This album features a selection of music for Pentecost including Missa Iam Christus astra ascenderat. Alongside the Mass are motets from the Song of Songs, containing some of Palestrina’s most sublime and expressive works.
Wagner Without Words
Llŷr Williams, piano
Signum Classics SIGCD-388 (2 CDs)
Pianist Llŷr Williams explores Richard Wagner’s rich and evocative sound world from a less well-known angle. Featuring insightful arrangements of Wagner’s operas by Franz Liszt and Glenn Gould (as well as Williams’ own arrangement of music from Parsifal), at the center of the program is a selection of Wagner’s own piano pieces – many of which were written earlier in his compositional career.
Fauré: Orchestral Music
Seattle Symphony / Ludovic Morlot
Seattle Symphony Media SSM-1004
Fauré’s most beloved orchestral works are presented here in refined and beautifully recorded performances. With charismatic interpretations of the three short works for solo instruments and a rare recording of the choral version of the famous Pavane, this is a definitive collection of Fauré’s orchestral music.
Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas
Igor Levit, piano
Sony Classical 88883703872 (2 CDs)
For the last three years, Igor Levit’s name has been the first to be mentioned whenever there has been talk of the most exciting pianists of the younger generation. He is not only mature in his interpretations, but Levit’s appetite for new repertoire of works as difficult and demanding as possible is boundless. For his debut 2-CD album on Sony Classical, the twenty-six-year-old pianist has chosen some of the most challenging repertoire ever written for the piano: Beethoven’s last five piano sonatas.