I’ve taken the easy way out and nominated three albums as equal first place because it is impossible to choose between them. With the others, although they are ranked, if truth be told there is little to choose between them.
1. Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 3 [Martha Argerich] The great Martha Argerich gives us Beethoven’s third piano concerto for the first time. She is dynamic and lyrical and brings a remarkable energy to this exciting live performance.
1. Mozart: Marriage Of Figaro [Ren?acobs/Concerto K? This marvellous rendition of one of Mozart’s most popular operas won the prestigious Gramophone Record of the Year award. Jacobs is at the height of his talent, his superb period instrument band, Concerto K? play furiously and the singing is wondrous, full of style and individual ornamentation.
1. Vivaldi: Vespers For The Assumption Of The Virgin Mary [Rinaldo Alessandrini/Concerto Italiano] This is a reconstruction of a Vespers service for the feast of the Assumption, assembled out of Vivaldi choral and instrumental pieces. It’s a breathtaking tour de force giving us choral Vivaldi like we’ve never had before.
2 Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier I [Till Fellner] A beautifully simple interpretation of Bach’s much recorded piano work. It is gentle, intuitive playing of great interiority. Some will find it too restrained but I find it just perfect.
3 Beethoven: Early Quartets & Late Quartets [Takacs Quartet] With the release of both their second and third instalment in the Beethoven Quartet project, Takacs have had a brilliant year. There is not a pause that is not deliberate to the millisecond -“ this is playing of extraordinary dexterity. They bring a compelling sense of absolute clarity and confidence to these works.
4 Arie, Madrigali & Cantate [Sara Mingardo] A carefully chosen selection of complementary songs from Monteverdi, Handel, Vivaldi. Mingardo’s contralto voice is rich, deep and entrancing. A beautiful recording, thoughtfully conceived and wonderfully executed.
5 Haydn: The Seven Last Words [Emerson Quartet] The Emerson String Quartet has a long relationship with Haydn’s music, having previously released acclaimed versions of his quartet repertoire. They are in fine form for this pinnacle piece and produce a measured performance filled with careful detail.
6 Arias De Zarzuela Barroca [Maria Bayo] This Spanish music, from the zarzuela tradition, an indigenous Spanish operatic form, is a terrific discovery. Bayo dazzles with her wondrous coloratura, the purity of her tone and the sincerity of her performance.
7 Biber: The Mystery Of The Rosary [Andrew Manze] These early baroque violin concertos are unique and haunting and Manze brings characteristic care and excitement to their stylish execution.
8 Magdalena Kozena: Songs Czech mezzo Magdalena Kozena surprises with songs in five languages and five divergent styles. Her voice is compelling not only in its muscled strength of tone but in the drama, passion and gravitas that she brings to everything she sings.
9 Gluck: Orph?Et Eurydice [Marc Minkowski] Recordings of this original French version for haute-contre or high tenor voice are rare and Minkowski gives us what will undoubtedly become the benchmark recording of this version.
10 Haydn: Cello Concertos [Gautier Capu?] Twenty-three-year-old Gautier Capu?’s playing is agile, exciting and ruminative, as required, and is marked by exceptional conviction and maturity of insight.
Penguin Rosette Series [Various artists] The debut of this new series from Universal has been one of the highlights of the year with the re-release of a wonderful treasure trove of top recordings. My favourite two are: John Elliot Gardiner’s version of Gluck’s Iphigenie En Tauride and Brendel’s Haydn Sonatas. Gardiner’s Iphigenie is sublime, his pacing energetic and perfectly felt. Brendel’s recording has all the careful intellectual consideration that makes him admirable, as well as the sense of wonder that makes him lovable.