1. Various Artists
LigAlien: Works by Mari Takano | (BIS)
Japanese composer Takano has assembled a beautifully crafted and exquisitely performed homage to her teacher, the late, great György Ligeti. Honoring his increasingly influential body of work, Takano writes with both wit and wisdom.
2. Cleveland Orchestra
Mozart Piano Concertos Nos. 9, 21 | (Decca)
These miraculous concertos can endure a range of interpretive approaches. Mitsuko Uchida, long considered one of the finest Mozart players of our time, plumbs the rich textures of the scores rather than emphasizing the dazzling energy as she conducts from the keyboard.
3. Various Artists
Jan Krzywicki: Alchemy | (Albany)
Philadelphia-based composer Jan Krzywicki — perhaps best known in the community as the conductor of Network for New Music — has an extraordinary knack for creating expressive and accessible music in an almost paradoxically complex and daring language. Here is an omnibus of recent chamber music.
4. Mimi Stillman/Charles Abramovic
Odyssey: 11 American Premieres for Flute & Piano | (Innova)
Stillman is more than just a wonderful flutist; she is a one-person musical industry. This double CD — featuring pianist Abramovic — demonstrates that, with just a few of the musicians and composers in our area she has championed.
5. Harry Partch
Bitter Music | (Bridge)
One of the great iconoclasts of American music: inventor, historian, hobo. Harry Partch’s fascinating world is celebrated here with both words (his own) and music. This three-CD set, based largely on Partch’s Depression-era notebooks, is as much a cultural history as a musical testament.
Los Ministriles in the New World | (Navona)
Even if you don’t think you like Renaissance music, you should hear this band play; it may well prove revelatory. Philadelphia’s Piffaro squeezes every bit of joy and beauty out of its remarkably varied repertoire.
7. András Schiff
Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier Books I & II | (ECM)
Performing all 48 preludes and fugues of the Bach Well-Tempered Clavier is a major feat. Schiff can be a bit dry, but he brings erudition and superb technique to this touchstone of classical music.
8. Quator Diotima
American Music | (Naïve)
Three very different, but equally powerful, American string quartets are turned out with vivid and passionate playing by this young French foursome. The kick-ass trio: Reich’s “Different Trains,” the String Quartet of Samuel Barber and George Crumb’s “Black Angels for Electric Quartet.”
9. Vassily Primakov
Live in Concert: Medtner, Schumann, Brahms, Ravel | (LP Classics)
The great Russian piano-player factory hums along, but Primakov is a standout even among his powerhouse compatriots. He is a classic Slavic piano package; technically brilliant, capable of glorious tone and radiating a sure sense of style.
10. Yoko Kaneko
Beethoven Piano Sonatas Nos. 6, 13, 14, 17 | (Anima)
Kaneko plays a reproduction of a late-18th-century pianoforte, the appropriate vintage for this music, but her music-making is anything but academic. She plays with an exhilarating sense of joy and discovery, as if the ink was still wet on the pages.
Next Week: Shaun Brady tabulates the Top 10 Jazz albums of 2012. Will a trumpeter rise to the top? Too early to say! Oh, and we're still rattling off our favorite songs of the year over at citypaper.net/criticalmass.