With the holidays behind us, we’re pleased to announce Classical Ear’s top recordings of 2013: a baker’s dozen as well as our Editor-in-Chief’s Recording of the Year. Drum roll, please! Here we go, and in no particular order:

Verdi Domingo Sony (20.09.13)Domingo sings Verdi on Sony Classical, reviewed by Evan Dickerson on 20 September 2013: “Plácido Domingo has achieved great things in Verdi throughout his long career, and that shows few signs of changing in his debut recital recording as a baritone. As attentive as ever to the text, nuance of vocal line and character of the role he sings, Domingo offers key arias and scenes from nine operas. Yes, the voice does show its age slightly in preparation and production of the sound, but not in a way that unduly affects its tonal quality. The Valencia orchestra and chorus perform creditably under Pablo Heras-Casado’s attentive baton, further enhancing his growing reputation. First-class recording quality, notes, texts and translations complete a highly recommendable release.” (Amazon/iTunes)

Bach Clavier-Ubung III Farr Resonus (10.07.13)Bach’s Clavier-Übung III played by Stephen Farr on Resonus Classics, reviewed by Chris Achenbach on 10 July 2013: “Farr’s playing needs no musicological justification; it sparkles and seduces in equal measure, and the choice of instrument (the 1975 Metzler at Trinity College, Cambridge) seems completely wedded to the score. Registrations (fully listed) are often subtly piquant, and sometimes darker and deeper than one might expect. I’ll be listening to this collection for a long time.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

Coates Nimbus (04.09.13)The Definitive Eric Coates – Coates conducts Coates: All of his commercial recordings 1923-1957 on Nimbus Alliance, reviewed by Rob Cowan on 4 September 2013: “A skilled viola player who knew the orchestra from the inside, Coates had a natural facility for writing catchy tunes, which he clothed in the smartest fashions of the day. He was also a superb conductor whose recorded performances are spruce, well played, warm-hearted and about as authentic as you could possibly hope for.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

Prokofiev Vol 1 Donohoe Somm (13.08.13)Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas Nos 1-5 played by Peter Donohoe on Somm Records, and reviewed on 13 August 2013 by Michael J Stewart: “Donohoe’s authoritative playing shines through in every work – he has lived with these pieces for a long time. In his hands every sonata makes a memorable impression, and the Fifth, with its cool classicality, receives one of the finest performances I have ever encountered on disc. Next instalment, please!” (buy on Amazon)

8.660340-42 bk Semiramide_EU.inddRossini’s Semiramide with Alex Penda, Marianna Pizzolato and Lorenzo Regazzo on Naxos, reviewed by Ruth Piatkus on 23 October 2013: “This is an uncut, live performance. Despite its length, or perhaps because of it, it is completely enthralling. Alex Penda and Marianne Pizzolato are stupendous in the roles of Semiramide and Arsace. Indeed, all roles, both major and minor, are expertly sung. A wonderful production.” buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

Perle String Quartets Vol 1 Bridge (21.10.13)George Perle’s String Quartets Nos 2, 5 and 8 played by the Daedalus Quartet on Bridge Records, reviewed by Mark DeVoto on 21 October 2013: “Perle’s language shows a wide-ranging chromaticism that often reaches into tonality, but never nostalgically; the chromaticism creates a special kind of harmony that is as rich as it is varied. These are among the finest string quartets by any American composer, and the superbly accurate performances by the Daedalus Quartet are sensitive and lovingly expressive.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

Sonnerie Fantasticus Resonus Classics (16.09.13)Sonnerie: French Baroque portraits performed by Fantasticus on Resonus Classics, reviewed by Stine Frimann on 16 September 2013: “Following their impressive debut recording for Resonus Classics, the Amsterdam-based ensemble Fantasticus continue their exploration of Baroque chamber repertoire. This time they focus on musical portraits, homages and tombeaux by (among others) Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marin Marais and François Francoeur. The programme is an uncommonly interesting one, and these versatile performers do it full justice. Fantasticus bring to life each item’s distinctive character and emotional scope with unfailing perception.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

Schubert Ibragimova Tiberghien Hyperion (19.11.13)Schubert: Complete Works for violin and piano performed by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien on Hyperion, reviewed by Lindsay Kemp on 19 November 2013: “One of the smartest duo partnerships around, Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien have near-perfect mutual understanding, using their combined musical intelligence and expertise to produce meticulously turned but at the same time inspiritingly natural results. Superbly recorded, this set easily assumes the definitive status to which such ‘completist’ packages ought to aspire.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

Britten Grimes Bedford Signum (14.11.13)Britten: Peter Grimes conducted by Steuart Bedford on Signum Classics, reviewed by Michael Quinn on 14 November 2013: “Here’s a fiercely etched memento of Britten’s most controversial opera staged on Aldeburgh beach this summer to mark the centenary of the composer’s birth. Wholly dependent on the portrayal of the eponymous bullying fisherman accused of infanticide, cast out and hounded to suicide by his local community, this new account, taken from concert performances prior to the production, succeeds magnificently.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

410-Brahms4-Skrowa-C_v02Brahms’s Fourth Symphony performed by the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern under Stanisław Skrowaczewski on Oehms Classics, reviewed by Colin Anderson on 3 December 2013: “It is an interpretation of rare wisdom and offers illumination to the most seasoned listener of this music as well as being a wonderful introduction to Brahms’s final symphony, a reading that is consummately certain – lyrical and powerful, and virile and trenchant, in equal measure. Architecturally infallible, this account glows; a painstaking yet fresh traversal that makes you fall in love with this masterpiece all over again.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

Mahler 1 Jurowski LPO (19.07.13)Mahler’s Symphony No 1 in D major and Blumine conducted by Vladimir Jurowski on LPO Records, reviewed by Emily DeVoto on 19 July 2013: “The Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra have embraced the symphony – including the originally discarded second movement, ‘Blumine’ – with such intensity and delicacy that the listener can only be grateful. In this live collaboration, in a packed Festival Hall, Jurowski finds an ideal balance between control and abandon. Solo voices speak clearly and the orchestra are happy to sustain their energy and focus from the first note to the last in what must have been an exhausting performance.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

Verdi Kaufmann Sony (04.10.13)Jonas Kaufmann: The Verdi Album on Sony Classical, reviewed by Melanie Eskenazi on 4 October 2013: “Jonas Kaufmann’s Verdi heroes find him in splendidly ringing voice, but as always with this singer it’s the quiet passages which are the most remarkable. The two extracts from Otello reveal a readiness to take on the supreme challenge of this role; ‘Niun mi tema’ is sung with exact control of dynamics, wonderful vocal colour and mesmerizing tenderness; and just listen to ‘O gloria!’ and ‘..un bacio…’ for an example of how a great voice can characterize both powerful command and heartbreaking sadness, the final dying fall leaving the listener awed.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

Bach Christmas Oratorio Layton Hyperion (25.12.13)Bach: Christmas Oratorio from Trinity College, Cambridge, directed by Stephen Layton on Hyperion, and reviewed by Mark Walker on 25 December 2013: “The congenial surroundings seem to have provided more than just a delightfully warm atmosphere for the microphones to capture: the contribution from the college choir is especially outstanding right from the get-go with their joyous opening chorus ‘Jauchzet, frohlocket’. But throughout this is a brilliant, life-affirming account of Bach’s great festive celebration.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

And in a final postscript, our Editor-in-Chief’s Record of the Year:

Moeran VC Little Chandos (20.12.13)Moeran’s Violin Concerto performed by Tasmin Little and the BBC PO under Sir Andrew Davis on Chandos, reviewed by Andrew Achenbach on 20 December 2013: “The Lark Ascending may get top billing on Chandos’s sleeve, but the main attraction here is the first new recording in well over two decades of Moeran’s wonderful Violin Concerto: one of the most radiantly lyrical and sheerly touching of all 20th-century violin concertos, its gorgeously colourful and memorably warm-hearted inspiration is effortlessly evocative of the landscape and very life of County Kerry. Tasmin Little plays with cherishable insight, her tone beguiling in its lustrous glow, and she is partnered with acute sympathy by Sir Andrew Davis and the BBC Philharmonic.” (buy on Amazon/buy on iTunes)

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