Music Critics Survey the Best of 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011 - 12:00 AM

'Tis the season for a year-end list... many year end lists. But between wrapping presents, cooking for family members, and voting for your favorite pieces of music in our 2011 Classical Countdown, who has time to keep up with the onslaught? That's where we come in.

We've scoured the Internet for our favorite critics' end-of-the-year picks, and compiled them below. We were pleasantly surprised to find a minimal amount of overlap in their picks, not to mention a lot of 20th and 21st century music. As many critics acknowledged, these lists never represent all of the worthy music that was released in 2011, but we encourage you to add your favorite recordings or performances from this year in the comments section.

For the full critics' lists, check the links below:

The New York Times (James Oestreich, Vivian Schweitzer, Anthony Tommasini, Allan Kozinn, Zachary Woolfe)

• Alex Ross, classical music critic, The New Yorker

Justin Davidson, classical music critic, New York Magazine

Anne Midgette, classical music critic, Washington Post

Fiona Maddocks, classical music critic of The Observer

Amanda MacBlane, classical music critic of Time Out New York

NPR Classical's Tom Huizenga and Anastasia Tsioulcas

Peter Burwasser, classical music critic, Philadelphia City Paper

Mark Swed, classical music critic, Los Angeles Times

Below are some of the recordings that have stood out across many of the lists:

Deutsche Grammophon

At the top of the recording heap this year is Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa, who recorded Charles Ives “Four Sonatas” for Deutsche Grammophone. This CD appeared on the year end lists of Time Out, The Awl, The Washington Post, NPR, and the Culture Desk of The New Yorker, where you can hear an audio excerpt.

Hyperion

Next up is Marc-André Hamelin, who was a favorite on both recording and performance year-end lists. Hamelin’s well-rounded, virtuosic performances often include his own works; lately, they’ve been any of his own collection of 12 etudes in minor keys. Hamelin recorded the Études on the Hyperion label this year.

Nonesuch Records

The original album art for WTC 9/11 seemed to be more infamous than the music when it was initially released on Reich’s longtime label Nonesuch. But this recording made impressions well beyond the eventually-altered cover image, showing up as a year-end favorite of NPR’s Anastasia Tsioulcas and the Washington Post's Anne Midgette.

Decca Classics

Jospeh Calleja’s album, The Maltese Tenor, was praised by both Time Out and NPR for his unique, easily identifiable timbre. This is the third solo record by Calleja, who was recently featured on WQXR's own Operavore blog.

ECM Records

Meredith Monk, a pioneer of the avant-garde vocal scene, released Songs of Ascension, a spatial work that involves the Montclair State University Singers, among others. An approachable introduction to her work, which was noted by Anne Midgette and others.

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Comments [1]

Michael Meltzer

Does the absence of listener commentary here for the past six days mean that listeners no longer care what the critics think (at long last)?

Dec. 21 2011 02:21 AM

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