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The Classical Tradition

2019 Best Classical Part 1

I see so many classical concerts that it takes a helluva lot to get me interested in new releases of standard repertoire, so everything on here is aces.

Classical music discography is different than that for other kinds of music; music from the common practice period of the 18th century through the early 21st is rerecorded constantly, while modern and contemporary music is recorded infrequently. Both are on the same continuum, but the critical criteria is different—a recording of Beethoven is about the performance, while the first recording of anything is much more (though not exclusively) about the composition.

Because of that my list of best classical recordings comes in two parts, this first one is the albums that are all (or predominantly) music that has been recorded before—which means Robert Ashley and Stockhausen belong—while the second list (to come soon) is all (or mostly) music getting its first recording.

One further note about this list: I see so many classical concerts that it takes a helluva lot to get me interested in new releases of standard repertoire, so everything on here is aces and a baker’s dozen means it was a good year.

  1. Gelsey Bell, Amirtha Kidambi, Brian McCorkle, Paul Pinto, Dave Ruder, ALiza Simons, Improvement (Don Leaves Linda) (Lovely Music)
  2. Pittsburgh Symphony, Manfred Honeck, Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Reference Recordings)
  3. Anna Gourari, Elusive Affinity (ECM)
  4. London Symphony Orchestra, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4 (LSO Live)
  5. András Schiff, Schubert: Sonatas & Impromptus (ECM)
  6. Colin Currie Group, Synergy Vocals, Colin Currie & Steve Reich: Live at Foundation Louis Vitton (Colin Currie Records)
  7. Lucas Debargue, Scarlatti: 52 Sonatas (Sony)
  8. Solistes Européens Luxembourg, Christoph König, Dvořák: Symphony No. 9; Copland: Quiet City; Ives: Washington’s Birthday (Rubicon)
  9. George Barton, Siwan Rhys, Karlheinz Stockhausen: Kontakte (all that dust)
  10. Nicky Spence, Julius Drake, Janáček: The diary of one who disappeared (Hyperion)
  11. Andrey Gugnin, Shostakovich: Preludes & Piano Sonatas (Hyperion)
  12. Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth, Berlioz: Harold en Italie; Nuits d’été (Harmonia Mundi)
  13. David Owen Morris, Katy Bircher, Caroline Balding, Andrew Skidmore, The Jupiter Project (Hyperion)

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Robert Ashley

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By gtra1n

I'm a writer and editor here (musician otherwise), with bylines in The Wire, Down Beat, New York Classical Review, VAN, Music & Literature, Grove Dictionary of American Music, Signal to Noise, and many others. I'm also the Music Editor at the Brooklyn Rail. Contact me for any of your word needs.