Critics Choose Their Top Classical Recordings of 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013 - 12:00 AM

Recently, we looked at the top-selling classical albums of 2013, a list that was topped by an ensemble of singing nuns, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from rural Missouri. Beyond sales figures, there's another measurement of annual success: the music critic's best-of list.

Here is a look at several current top 10 (or 15) lists, some that were ranked in order, others that were presented alphabetically. Most of the individual albums can be found at or similar retailers.

Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe

1. Britten: The Complete Works (65-CD box set)

2. Britten: String Quartets - Takács Quartet

3. Beethoven: Diabelli Variations - András Schiff, piano

4. Eisler: “Ernste Gesänge” and other works - Matthias Goerne, baritone, with Ensemble Resonanz

5. Dutilleux, “Correspondances” - Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

6. Bach: St. Matthew Passion - Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin with Sunhae Im, Bernarda Fink and others; René Jacobs, conductor

7. Stravinsky And Prokofiev: Violin Concertos - Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Vladimir Jurowski, conductor

8. Verdi: Otello - Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Aleksandrs Antonenko, tenor, Krassimira Stoyanova, soprano; Riccardo Muti, conductor

9. In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores - Hilary Hahn, violin; Cory Smythe, piano

10. Gandolfi: From the Institutes of Groove - Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose, conductor

    Read Jeremy Eichler's Full List

      Alex Ross, The New Yorker 

      1. Liza Lim, “Tongue of the Invisible”; Omar Ebrahim, baritone, and Uri Caine, pianist, with André de Ridder conducting the ensemble MusikFabrik (Wergo).

      2. George Benjamin, “Written on Skin”; Barbara Hannigan, Bejun Mehta, and Christopher Purves, with the composer conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano (Nimbus).

      3. Britten: The Complete Works (Decca)

      4. Dutilleux, “Correspondances”; Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, with Barbara Hannigan, soprano, and Anssi Karttunen, cello (Deutsche Grammophon).

      5. Morton Feldman, “Violin and Orchestra”; Carolin Widmann, violin, with Emilio Pomàrico conducting the Frankfurt Radio Symphony (ECM).

      6. Eva-Maria Houben, Piano Music; R. Andrew Lee, piano (Irritable Hedgehog).

      7. Busoni, Late Piano Music; Marc-André Hamelin, piano (Hyperion).

      8. Corelli, Trio Sonatas Op. 2 and 4; Avison Ensemble (Linn).

      9. “Hot”; Ryan Muncy, saxophone, and the Ensemble Dal Niente play works by Aperghis, Cheung, Cassidy, Balter, Czernowin, and Donatoni (New Focus).

      10. Mahler, “Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen,” “Rückert Lieder,” “Kindertotenlieder”; Christian Gerhaher, baritone, with Kent Nagano conducting the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (Sony).

        Read Jeremy Eichler's Full List

          Andrew Clements & Tim Ashley, The Guardian 

          1. Eisler: Ernste Gesänge; Songs; Piano Sonata – Goerne/Larcher/Ensemble Resonanz (Harmonia Mundi)

          2. Poulenc: Complete Songs – Lott/Tynan/Fox/Bickley/Tritschler/Johnson/Maltman/Davies/Bernac/Johnson (Hyperion)

          3. Alkan : Le Festin d'Ésope; Trois Morceaux; Overture; Sonatine – Vincenzo Maltempo (Piano Classics)

          4. Brahms: Violin Concerto, etc – Kavakos/Nagy/Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Chailly (Decca)

          5. Gesualdo: Sacrae Cantiones Liber Secundus – Vocalconsort Berlin/Wood (Harmonia Mundi)

          6. Feldman: Violin and Orchestra – Widmann/Frankfurt RSO/Pomarico (ECM)

          7. Mahler: Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen; Rückert Lieder; Kindertotenlieder – Gerhaher/Montreal SO/Nagano (Sony Classical)

          8. Britten: The Rape of Lucretia – Kirschlager/Bostridge/Gritton/Purves/Coleman-Wright/Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble/Knussen (Virgin Classics)

          9. Szymanowski: Harnasie; Stabat Mater – Crowe/Stephen/Murray/Bretz/BBCSO & Chorus/Gardner (Chandos)

          10. Bridge: Piano Quartet; Violin and Cello Sonatas – Nash Ensemble (Hyperion)

          11. Xavier Sabata: Handel Bad Guys – Sabata/Il Pomo d'Oro/Minasi (Aparté)

          12. Casella: Symphony No.3; Italia; Introduzione, Corale e Marcia – BBC Philharmonic /Noseda (Chandos)

          13. Bach: St Matthew Passion – Im/Fink/Güra/Lehtipuu/Weisser/Wolff/RIAS Kammerchor/ Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/Jacobs (Harmonia Mundi)

          14. Susan Chilcott: The Shining River – Chilcott/Burnside (Opus Arte)

          15. Shostakovich/Shafran: Viola Sonata; Rachmaninov: Cello Sonata – Elschenbroich/Grynyuk (Onyx)

            Read The Guardian's Full List

              Anastasia Tsioulcas & Tom Huizenga, NPR Music

              1. Dawn Upshaw: “Winter Morning Walks”

              2. Minnesota Orchestra: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4

              3. Caleb Burhans: “Evensong”

              4. Isabelle Faust: Béla Bartók: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

              5. Leonidas Kavakos: Beethoven: Violin Sonatas

              6. Latvian Radio Choir: Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil

              7. John Luther Adams: Inuksuit Ensemble

              8. David Lang: Death Speaks

              9. Christian Gerhaher: Mahler: Orchesterlieder

              10. Khosro Soltani: Reza Vali: Toward That Endless Plain

                Read NPR Music's Full List

                  Ronni Reich, Newark Star-Ledger

                  (In alphabetical order)

                  1. Baroque: Nadia Sirota, viola (New Amsterdam)

                  2. Goldberg Variations: Jeremy Denk, pianist (Nonesuch)

                  3. In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores: Hilary Hahn, violin; Cory Smythe, piano

                  4. Mahler — Orchestral Songs: Christian Gerhaher, baritone; Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal; Kent Nagano, conductor (Sony Masterworks)

                  5. Mahler: Symphony No. 5: Budapest Festival Orchestra; Ivan Fischer, conductor (Channel Classics)

                  6. Messiaen: Harawi: Tony Arnold, soprano; Jacob Greenberg, piano (New Focus)

                  7. Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Berlin Philharmonic; Sir Simon Rattle, conductor (EMI Classics)

                  8. Stravinsky & Stokowski: Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Philadelphia Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon)

                  9. Voyages: Conrad Tao, pianist (EMI Classics)

                  10. Wagner: Jonas Kaufmann, tenor; Orchester der Deutschen Opera Berlin; Donald Runnicles, conductor (Decca)

                    Read Ronni Reich's Full List

                      John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

                      1. Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4. Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Vasily Petrenko, conductor

                      2. Mercadante: "I Due Figaro" ("The Two Figaros"). Soloists, Philharmonia Chorus of Vienna, Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini, Riccardo Muti, conductor (Ducale, three CDs)

                      3. "Jonas Kaufmann—Wagner" (Decca). "Jonas Kaufmann—The Verdi Album" (Sony)

                      4. "Panorama of American Piano Music." Yvar Mikhashoff, piano (Mode)

                      5. "Il Cor Tristo." Hilliard Ensemble (ECM New Series)

                      6. Raff: Symphony No. 2; Four Shakespeare Preludes. Suisse Romande Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi, conductor (Chandos)

                      7. Britten: "The Rape of Lucretia." Soloists, Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble, Oliver Knussen, conductor (Virgin Classics)

                      8. Bach: "Goldberg" Variations. Jeremy Denk, piano (Nonesuch)

                      9. Dutilleux: "Correspondances," "Tout un Monde Lointain," "The Shadows of Time." Soloists, Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (DG)

                      10. Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 13-15; Schnittke: String Quartet No. 3. Pacifica Quartet (Cedille)

                        Read John von Rhein's Full List

                          The Los Angeles Times classical music critic Mark Swed presented a list of the year's highs and lows, which included a new album of baritone Christian Gerhaher singing Mahler songs with Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony.

                          The New York Times critics compiled a grand list of the year's top 20 recordings.

                          Anne Midgette of the Washington Post writes that the CD industry has rebounded significantly in 2013. "There are more CD releases out than ever, from more and more labels, some of them operating as nonprofits, many of them relying on Kickstarter campaigns to fund individual projects." She goes on to cite a range of imaginatively programmed recordings, from Cecilia Bartoli to Brooklyn Rider. Read her full list.

                          Weigh in: What was your album of the year?


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                          Comments [5]

                          JoeVee from NJ

                          re: Anastasia Tsioulcas & Tom Huizenga, NPR Music
                          I, too, very much enjoyed Maria Schneider's composition for Ms. Upshaw

                          Dec. 31 2013 07:32 PM
                          Charles Fischbein from Front Rpoyal, Va.

                          Sorry the exact web site for more information on the Eagle Release is ( God Speed, Charles Fischbein

                          Dec. 31 2013 07:53 AM
                          Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

                          Les, Just listened to "Village Festival" festival over morning coffee, found clips form it and was able to find a full download. I think it is excellent and the title is also excellent as so many people from Front Royal, Va. and neighboring Winchester Va, including Vets from the Smithsonian Wildlife Zoo for Endangered Animal, also in Front Royal, Va, were involved in the rehab of the Eagle. In this case it did "Take a Village" to save this beautiful Eagle but to re train him so he could once again live in the wild by the Shenandoah River where he belongs flying free.
                          We expect quite a crowd down at The Low Water Bridge on the Shenandoah River, in Front Royal, Va. for the release and have asked the Press to be sure they allow those who worked with the bird and want to view its release to give everyone space to see him fly free once again. Hopefully they will agree to this. The release is scheduled for 1 PM New Years Day. It can be followed on the Web by referencing (Eagle Release in Front Royal, Va.) Thank you for you choice, excellent in many ways. Happy New Year, God Speed, Charles Fischbein.

                          Dec. 31 2013 07:46 AM
                          Les from Miami, Florida

                          How about "Village Festival" from MacDowell's Suite No. 2? I think the thematic material in the winds is evocative and "airy".

                          Dec. 31 2013 06:38 AM
                          Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

                          Great Post, excellent choices.
                          This may be out of place but I would like some music suggestions for a local event to take place, weather permitting, on New Years Day. The Shenandoah Valley Wild Life Refuge will be releasing an American Eagle it nursed back to health after it was hit by a car in Front Royal, Va. in early October. The Vet clinic my wife works at was involved in the surgery and rehab for the Eagle.
                          Local press and a national news crew will be at the Shenandoah River low water bridge New Years day at 1 PM, and a some of us are planning to bring a portable stereo to play music for the Eagles release to his nesting area on the Shenandoah River where a number of other Eagles also nest.
                          We want to honor the many volunteers, Vets, and Vet Techs who saved this beautiful bird, and give him a hearty send off, any suggestions of fitting music for this event will be appreciated. God Speed, Happy New Year, Charles Fischbein

                          Dec. 30 2013 10:32 AM

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