James Bennett II is a staff writer for WQXR.
Top 20 Selling Classical and Crossover Albums of 2016
Monday, December 05, 2016 - 12:00 AM
As 2016 makes its way towards the exit, we take a look at some of the best that music had to offer over the past 52 weeks. Today, let’s take a listen to 20 of the top-selling classical music releases. We relied on Billboard, whose rankings are determined by sales and Nielsen data. This ranking is approximate, and based on a combination of the number of weeks a release ranked on the Billboard Classical Chart. Each release broke into the top five.
What did we learn? We can’t get enough of Star Wars and Gregorian chant, crossover artists like the Piano Guys are still super popular, and everyone seems to like winding down with contemporary operatic groups like Il Volo.
20) New York Rhapsody— Lang Lang
Release Date: September 17, 2016
Lang Lang’s tribute to his adopted city sees him collaborate with artists such as Andra Day and Herbie Hancock, performing pieces that evoke the spirit of New York.
19) Notte Magica: A Tribute To Three Tenors— Il Volo With Placido Domingo
Release Date: September 30, 2016
This tribute comes 26 years after Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti came together in Rome to introduce the world to The Three Tenors. On Notte Magica, Domingo joins the crossover trio to sing some of the most memorable tunes from Italian Opera.
18) Star Wars: The Ultimate Soundtrack Collection— John Williams
Release Date: January 8, 2016
After the release of the long-awaited seventh Star Wars installment, Sony Classical capitalized on our collective nostalgia by unleashing this behemoth release— the nearly 12-hour long collection contains the soundtracks from both the original and prequel trilogies.
17) George Frideric Handel: Messiah— Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Release Date: March 4, 2016
The all-volunteer choir, backed by the Orchestra at Temple Square, performs this uplifting and familiar oratorio.
16) A New Creation— Paul Cardall
Release Date: September 16, 2016
A New Creation is a spiritual piece, tracing the story of creation, the Fall, and humanity’s ultimate redemption. Cardall wanted to evoke a sense of awe and wonder at the power of the Universe, and his pastoral textures are sure to put many listeners at ease.
15) Adoration at Ephesus— Benedictines Of Mary, Queen Of Apostles
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Music is a central part of the lives of these Missouri Nuns and they regularly share their song with listeners of all backgrounds. The angelic and tranquil chants of Adoration at Ephesus encourage both deep concentration and peaceful daydreams. If you want to sample their music, check out this performance of “O Deus Ego Amo Te”, from their 2013 release, Angels and Saints at Ephesus.
14) Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets—Rufus Wainwright
Release Date: April 22, 2016
Recorded to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Take All My Loves features Wainwright’s arrangements of several of the Bard’s sonnets. He’s joined by guests including the BBC Orchestra, composer Marius de Vries, and soprano Anna Prohaska.
13) Brave Enough— Lindsey Stirling
Release Date: August 19, 2016
The third release from Lindsey Stirling was an instant favorite in crossover circles, and featured a near-even mix of instrumental and vocal tracks. Especially popular was the cinematic lead single, The Arena, whose music video highlighted Stirling’s dancing talents.
12) Wonders— Piano Guys
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Though it was initially released over two years ago, the fifth outing from The Piano Guys has stuck around the Classical charts for 78 weeks. And with the pop music/classic mashups featured on this album, it’s not hard to see why.
11) Awakening— Jenny Oaks Baker
Release Date: April 29, 2016
Save the fiery tones of “O Fortuna”, Awakening features violinist Baker largely demonstrating the powerful serenity of her instrument. Also, listen for a guest appearance by pianist (and former Secretary of State) Condoleeza Rice.
10) Gregory Alan Isakov With The Colorado Symphony— Gregory Alan Isakov With The Colorado Symphony
Release Date: June 10, 2016
South African folk musician Gregory Alan Isakov’s already intimate sound gets a whole new layer of emotional depth, thanks to the orchestral contributions of the Colorado Symphony.
9) Benedicta: Marian Chant From Norcia— The Monks Of Norcia
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Another older release that’s kept kicking into 2016. The Monks of Norcia prove again that our appetite for the meditative qualities of sacred chant won’t let up anytime soon. Check out this trailer for the album.
8) Sing Me Home— Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble
In this companion album to the documentary film The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble, the famed cellist teams up with the Silk Road Ensemble to explore musical traditions from all over the globe.
7) Live!: Carnegie Hall Audio + Red Rocks Concert Video— Piano Guys
Release Date: November 13, 2015
The first live album from the Piano Guys features audio from a Carnegie Hall performance and video footage from an outing at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
6) Rise— Gentri
Release Date: February 12, 2016
The Gentlemen Trio teased the public with a warmly received EP, and soon followed up with their debut full-length album. Since its release in February, the album has remained a favorite, appearing on the charts for 36 weeks.
5) Grande Amore: International Version— Il Volo
Release Date: September 25, 2015
Unlike their Three Tenors tribute, Grande Amore features the Italian trio presenting more contemporary songs.
4) Amor & Pasión— Il Divo
Release Date: October 28, 2015
The multinational quartet explores its Hispanic roots in its first completely Spanish-language album, where they present a set full of tango-tinged and mambo steeped songs.
3) Cinema— Andrea Bocelli
Release Date: October 23, 2015
Andrea Bocelli brings his signature warmth to selections from Hollywood favorites such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and West Side Story.
2) Star Wars the Force Awakens— John Williams
Release Date: December 18, 2015
One of the biggest draws to the Star Wars reboot was its tendency to dabble in nostalgia with characters, storylines, and locales that were new, yet felt familiar. The John Williams' score offers similar comforts and fits right alongside the original soundtracks moviegoers have grown to love.
1) If I Can Dream— Elvis Presley and Royal Philharmonic
Release Date: October 30, 2015
By Billboard’s measure, the King has extended his reign to the classical charts. This release combines the old with the new, fusing Elvis hits with contemporary arrangements from the Royal Philharmonic.
Remember, this is just the best-sellers list. How many of these have you encountered this year? What are you pleased (or shocked!) to see ranking?