Consumer Reports

Because it’s the time of year you should also spend some money on yourself, here’s another Consumer Reports …

Theodor Currentzis’ excellent, refreshing recording of Le Nozze di Figaro has a spot on my top classical recordings for 2014, and if that interests you at all, you should take a look at his next installment of his Da Ponte operas recording project, Cosí fan tutte. Like the previous release, you can get the CDs in a lovely, bound book, or pay more for an edition that includes Blu-Ray. The set is currently available at Presto Classical, but if you can wait until the domestic release date of 3 February, 2015, the best price is at Amazon.

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If you have a turntable, you can enjoy the vinyl reissue of a fine set of early Steve Reich pieces from Ensemble Avantgarde (best price right now is at ImportCDs). The program is Phase Patterns, Four Organs, Piano Phase, and three different performances of Pendulum Music. This is fascinating music that show Reich in transition to his most familar style, and Four Organs is an avant-garde masterpiece.

If you want to save your dollars for something really special, there are two substantial boxes of recordings from Sviatoslav Richter coming out early next year, The Complete Album Collection on Sony (18 CDs of Columbia Masterworks and RCA Victor live and studio recordings), and the Complete Decca, Philips and DG Recordings, 51 CDs. I don’t really need to say much about these; Richter is arguably the greatest pianist of the last century, and absolutely one of the greatest musical artists of the recording era. These are the kind of things that, if you are serious about music, you acquire, and cost doesn’t really matter.

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These are listed both at ImportCDs and Amazon, the former at much better prices, but it’s worth checking out the balance of price and speed you can find through AmazonUK. What you get there is a better price than US Amazon, pretty fast delivery, and the same pre-order guaranteee available domestically: if you pre-order, you get the lowest price that ever comes up by release date. I ordered my Boulez box that way, got a better price than even at ImportCDs, and it came in three days.

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Best Classical Albums 2014

First, a note on genres and categories: Like my jazz list, this one is defined by the genre, and like that jazz list I’m doing this to be inclusive. In terms of history and tradition, the accumulation of ideas, styles and forms through time, classical music (like jazz) had a long-expanding common language, then reached a revolutionary point where that splintered. What we have is, one on the one hand, a system of tuning, harmony and structure that has proliferated through epochs of style for hundreds of years and, after WWII, a tradition of experimentation and avant-garde exploration that takes discrete aspects of the old tradition and uses them as the foundation for the on-going, and still unfinished, creation of new systems.

That means this list is the first of two, one that is concerned with new recordings of the standard classical repertoire and new music that belongs to that tradition (including minimalism and post-minimalism)—today’s list—the other in the post-WWII tradition. One is the descendent of the other, but instead of going into the family business, decided to do something more … I don’t know, DIY. That list will come soon.

You can buy everything below through this list compiled at Amazon.

Best 2014 Releases of the Standard Repertoire (music that has been recorded before):