Best ‘Classical Music’ CDs 2018 (updated 25/12)

It has been a bumper year for newly recorded classical music (my taste at least). Live in particular, it’s been really astounding with exhilarating concerts with, in January, Rebecca Saunders’s “Still” (violin concerto, probably one of my favourite pieces of the last 20 years), performed by one of the best violinists currently, Carolin Widmann, and Morton Feldman’s always amazing “Neither”, stunningly performed by the American soprano Laura Aikin (and orchestra of course; those delicate timpani!). March brought Gérard Grisey’s large scale orchestral work “Les espaces acoustiques”. Equally stunningly performed by the ever excellent Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, with the great Ilan Volkov conducting.

The 7th of June brought the premiere of new orchestral work by Helmut Lachenmann, “My Melodies”, for 8 horns and orchestra. I simply have no words. Further, what Pierre-Laurent Aimard did on the piano for his performance of Lachenmann’s earlier piano piece “Serynade” borders on the insane (but it’s an insane piece of course). I’m speechless. And the fun of “La Marche Fatale” deserves an award. Italian bravura par excellence.

On October 3rd, we witnessed another stunning set of performances, with the Ensemble Modern under the baton of Enno Poppe, of Webern orchestral pieces (Fünf Stücke op. 10 & Variationen op. 30) and, especially, a series of Orchesterlieder, amazingly sung by the soprano Caroline Melzer. But the pièce de résistance was undoubtedly the Sacre of modern times: Matthias Spahlinger’s “passage/paysage” from 1990. What…a…piece…of…music!!

On disc these are “the ones” released this year that I’ve been playing constantly and recommend (bar two, all are newly recorded performances). The first two I have discovered only recently, but were released earlier in the year. 

Steve ReichPulse/Quartet (Nonesuch; cd)

Christopher FoxTopophony (HatHut; cd)

Joan La BarbaraThe Early Immersive Music of (Mode; Blu-Ray); archive material

Luigi NonoRisonanze Erranti (Shiiin; SACD) (contains a brand new recording, the second ever, as well as a never released archive recording under Nono’s own baton)

Luigi NonoComo Una Ola de Fuerza & Onde Sofferte Serene (Kairos; SACD)

Olivier MessiaenCatalogue d’Oiseaux (Pentatone; SACD) with Pierre-Laurent Aimard as pianist

Anton BrucknerSymphony 1 (RCA Japan; SACD) performers: Paavo Järvi/Frankfurt Radio Symphony

Anton BrucknerSymphony 1 (Unitel; Blu-Ray) performers: Christian Thielemann/Staatskapelle Dresden

Karl-Heinz StockhausenKurzwellen (Mode; cd) first new recording since original in 1970 by Stockhausen himself

Johannes BrahmsSymphony 1 (RCA Japan; SACD) performers: Paavo Järvi/Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

Arvo PärtThe Symphonies (ECM; cd) performers: Tonu Kaljuste/Wroclaw Philharmonic

Igor Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps & Chant Funèbre (world premiere recording) (Decca; cd) first recording of lost piece by Stravinsky / performers: Riccardo Chailly/Lucerne Festival Orchestra

Helmut Lachenmann Got Lost/Streichtrio/Serynade (Wergo; cd) “Serynade”: written for and performed by his wife Yukiko Sugawara

Brahms/Webern/Berg — Brahms the Progressive (Odradek; cd) performer: Pina Napolitano

James TenneyHarmonium (New World Records; cd)

ShostakovichSymphonies Nos. 4 & 10; performers: Mikhail Pletnev & Russian National Orchestra (Pentatone, 2xSACD)

StockhausenKlavierstücke I-XI; performer: Sabine Liebner (Wergo, cd)

Schoenberg/Berg/Webern/Zemlinsky/Hugo Wolf/Alma Mahler — performers: Barbara Hannigan/Reinbert de Leeuw (Alpha, cd)

BachCello Suites; performer: Yo-Yo Ma (Sony, 2cd)

Xenakis Orchestral Works (Mode cd)

Dmitri ShostakovichSymphonies nos 4 & 11; performers: Andris Nelsons / Boston SO (2xcd)

Igor StravinskyPetrushka (orig. vs.) + Jeu de cartes; performers: Valery Gergiev / Mariinsky (SACD)

Luigi NonoNon Consumiamo Marx. Musica Manifesto Numero 1 (first reissue of original 1969 LP, vinyl in deluxe box with book, incl. CD)

Bela Bartok — Concerto for Orchestra; Boulez/NY Philharmonic (SACD reissue)

Allan Pettersson — Symphonies 5 & 7; Lindberg/Norrköping SO (SACD)

Brahms — Symphonies 3 &4; Paavo Järvi/Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie (SACD)
Clemens von Reusner — Electroacoustic Works (SACD)