1. Los Angeles Philharmonic
Lutoslawski: The Symphonies (Sony Masterworks)
This year was the centennial of the birth of the great Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski. Conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, this vivid set reveals Lutoslawski as one of the greatest symphony writers of his time, with pungent and deeply expressive music.
2. Hristo Kazakov
Debussy: From the Preludes Book 2 (self-released)
This Bulgarian pianist has issued a series of self-produced piano recitals that shows off some of the most voluptuous and poetic piano playing you are likely to hear.
3. WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne
Grieg: Complete Symphonic Works, Vol. III (Audite )
Grieg is best known for a handful of works that are played over and over again, but he was a prolific and long-lived composer. This beautifully performed and produced series demonstrates how consistently fine his music was. Eivind Aadland conducts.
4. Kawai Shiu
Prepared Condemned Piano (Ablaze)
Inspired by a destroyed piano that washed ashore after the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan, this music is a kind of modern requiem. Shiu’s style is, in parts, experimental, impressionistic, jazzy, poetic and devotional.
5.Serafin String Quartet
Jennifer Higdon: Early Chamber Works (Naxos)
An excellently performed selection of early works by Philly’s own Jennifer Higdon (written before her Grammy and Pulitzer). She has a distinctive and direct voice, even as she experiments with different styles.
6.Barbara Govatos/Marcantonio Barone
Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas (Bridge)
Veteran concertgoers will know both of these artists very well: Violinist Barbara Govatos is a longtime member of the Philadelphia Orchestra; pianist Marcantonio Barone is a regular recitalist and chamber-music performer. Together, the dynamic duo gives us this box set of magnificently enlivened Ludwig van Beethoven.
7. Nicolas Horvath
Liszt: Christus (Hortus)
Liszt reduced his massive oratorio on the life of Christ to solo piano. For some reason, it is rarely performed, but it is a quietly powerful masterpiece. French pianist Horvath makes it sing.
8. Royal Scottish National Orchestra
American Piano Concertos: Gershwin, Copland, Barber (Chandos)
Dazzling young Chinese pianist Xiayin Wang performs three big-boned concertos from 20th-century America. Exciting performances from all, and a brilliant, captivating recording. Peter Oundjian conducts.
9. BBC Symphony Orchestra
Toscanini at the Queen’s Hall (West Hill Radio Archives)
The legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini is best known for his late-in-life recordings for RCA, but these celebrated BBC recordings (on four CDs) from 1935 show an even more dynamic artist, with performances of often breathtaking energy and joy.
10. Silke Avenhaus
Salon Chromatique et Harmonique (CAvi-Music)
There is music by Liszt, Wagner and Rossini here, but the salon-like structure of this recital by young German pianist Avenhaus is so seamless that it is all of a piece. Her dreamy, creamy playing greatly enhances the atmosphere.
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