I have to confess that we weren’t planning on doing a “best of the year” feature. Let’s face it: there are many superb recordings issued every year and no one can listen to enough of them to claim that their sample is truly “the best”; but then again, there’s no harm in picking a “Top Ten” just to remind readers what some of the great recordings of the past year actually were. So here, in no particular order, is our selection. Thank you all for your support, Happy New Year, and here’s looking forward to many more great releases in 2016.
David Hurwitz, Executive Editor
- Maurice Emmanuel’s marvelous piano Sonatinas belong in the collection of anyone who cares about 20th century keyboard music. They are ceaselessly inventive, fascinating, and wonderfully appealing.
- The Elora Festival Singers offer a splendid Poulenc recital containing his gorgeous Mass and a selection of ever-popular motets and chansons. This group consistently does superb work and receives less attention than it deserves. Give this one a try.
- 2015 was a Sibelius year—150 years since his birth in 1865, and two releases celebrate the event: Ondine’s excellent release of the Lemminkäinen Legends on SACD, and one of the best in conductor Leif Segerstam’s consistently fine series of theatrical music for Naxos.
- Rebecca Miller is an extremely fine conductor of classical repertoire, and this exceptional disc of CPE Bach symphonies allows her to demonstrate her interpretive gifts to fine effect. It doesn’t hurt that the music too is fabulously fun.
- Augustino Steffani—composer, diplomat, and early supporter of Handel—seems to be getting a lot attention in recent years. His opera Niobe is a real novelty, splendidly played and sung in classy period style.
- The English piano school seems to be enjoying something of a golden age, fortuitously documented by Hyperion Records. This delicious Grieg recital from Stephen Hough really does make you listen afresh to music you probably thought that you knew.
- Charlie Chaplin wrote his own film scores, even though his musical ability was limited—but that was a technicality. His own score for Modern Times has to be one of the greatest of its kind, and it’s long past due that we had a complete recording. Thank conductor Timothy Brock and CPO that it’s such a good one.
- Composer Frederick Rzewski composed his epic masterpiece The People United Will Never Be Defeated for Ursula Oppens, yet her first recording of it was in many ways unsatisfactory. She has rectified this in her vibrant new recording for Cedille, an interpretation that joins uninhibited virtuosity with interpretive wisdom, making a genuine statement about a work that she has lived with for a long time.
- What is there to say? Every release from Manfred Honeck and his Pittsburgh Symphony is an event. This pairing of Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh symphonies demonstrates yet again that when played as they are here, the classics never grow old.