Don't miss these 12 classical albums from the first half of 2022
It's already been a great year for new classical recordings—here are 12 of them from the first half, among many others, that you won't want to miss.
Coleridge-Taylor: Nonet/Piano Trio/Piano Quintet (Chandos)
Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective—works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
The Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective (founding member Elena Urioste is a Curtis graduate) presents a collection of early works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The ensemble checked all the manuscripts themselves to ensure a definitive and brilliant presentation of the British composer’s time at the Royal College of Music.
Dora Pejačević: Piano Concerto/Symphony (Chandos)
Sakari Oramo/BBC Symphony Orchestra; Peter Donohoe, piano—works by Dora Pejačević
It’s not only cool that the best-known composer from Croatia is a woman, but Dora Pejačević’s orchestral writing stands up to and sometimes surpasses that of who are sometimes called “the great composers.” I’m rather partial to her symphony, which is entirely worth the three quarters of an hour.
Also recommended: Emilie Mayer: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 3 (Marc Niemann, Bremerhaven Philharmonic/Hanssler)
Angèle Dubeau/La Pietá—works by Elena Kats-Chernin, Dalal, Rachel Portman, Jocelyn Pook, Rebecca Dale, Katia Makdissi-Warren, Hildegard von Bingen, Lera Auerbach, Caroline Shaw, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Julie Thériault, Ana Sokolović
You might have heard me talk about Angèle Dubeau and La Pietá on air—I think of them as an ensemble that is very good at presenting music of the 21st century in an accessible context—violin and chamber orchestra. The all-women ensemble celebrated their 25th anniversary this year, and they celebrated with a recording of a wide variety of interesting works, spanning a whole nine centuries (thanks to Hildegard von Bingen mostly, but still).
Also recommended: The New Four Seasons (Max Richter, Chineke! Orchestra, Elena Urioste, violin/Deutsche Grammophon)
Made for Opera (Deutsche Grammophon)
Nadine Sierra, soprano; Riccardo Frizza/RAI National Symphony Orchestra—works by Giuseppe Verdi, Gaetano Donizetti, Charles Gounod
Star soprano Nadine Sierra presents an album in which she performs roles that have a special relation to what got her into singing in the first place. She and I talked about that around the time she was performing one of them at the Met—Donizetti’s Lucia.
Musical Remembrances (Chandos)
Neave Trio—works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Johannes Brahms, Maurice Ravel
The Neave Trio returned with their first album since the beginning of the pandemic, performing works that their composers would likely wind up looking back on later in their lives—early piano trios by Rachmaninoff and Brahms, as well as a trio Maurice Ravel wrote at the dawn of World War I.
Also recommended: Origin (Delta Piano Trio/Challenge)
New York Youth Symphony (Avie)
Michael Repper/New York Youth Symphony; Michelle Cann, piano—works by Florence Price, Valerie Coleman, Jessie Montgomery
For the first time in its history, the New York Youth Symphony has released an album, and it features great music by Black women both old and new—two works by Florence Price, and one each from two composers I often take the opportunity to recommend, Valerie Coleman and Jessie Montgomery. The orchestra also recorded the entire album remotely to keep its members safe.
Also recommended: William Grant Still: Orchestral Works (Avlana Eisenberg, Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Zina Schiff, violin/Naxos)
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet—works by Andrew York, Kevin Callahan, Michael Hedges, Phillip Houghton, Frederic Hand, Robert Beaser, Tilman Hoppstock
This new collection celebrates the quartet’s 40th anniversary as well as the life of Phillip Houghton, who would have been around the same age as most of the rest of the composers on this recording, all of whom are living, save Houghton. The quartet goes for a “saturation of light” in the music, one of the many interesting timbres achievable through such an ensemble.
Also recommended: Impressions of Spain (The Great Necks Guitar Trio/Navona)
Third Coast Percussion—works by Danny Elfman, Philip Glass, Jlin, Flutronix/Third Coast Percussion
Maybe music that is entirely comprised of percussion isn’t what one would consider “classical music” (feel free to write me about my own expansive definition of the term), but whatever you want to call it, Third Coast Percussion’s newest record is a great listen, featuring music from more familiar names like Danny Elfman and Philip Glass to electronic musician Jlin and Flutronix, who are flutists and composers Allison Loggins-Hull and Nathalie Joachim, both of whose work I would recommend as well.
Also recommended: Augusta Read Thomas: Bell Illuminations (Various artists/Wyastone)
Phoenix (Bright Shiny Things)
Stewart Goodyear, piano—works by Stewart Goodyear, Jennifer Higdon, Anthony Davis, Claude Debussy, Modest Mussorgsky
Pianist Stewart Goodyear’s latest is headlined by the now lesser-heard, but original piano version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Also on the record are Debussy’s Engulfed Cathedral, works by Anthony Davis and Philly’s own Jennifer Higdon, as well as Goodyear himself.
Also recommended: Arabesque (Nicolas Namoradze, piano/Steinway)
Shining Night (Avie)
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Jason Vieaux, guitar; Fabio Bidini, piano—works by Arcangelo Corelli, J.S. Bach, Niccolò Paganini, Manuel Ponce, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Astor Piazzolla, Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss, Leo Brouwer, Morten Lauridsen
Anne Akiko Meyers is joined on this album by guitarist Jason Vieaux and pianist Fabio Bidini for some interesting works originally for violin and guitar as well as transcriptions of works spanning three centuries.
Also recommended: America (Daniel Hope, violin; Zürich Chamber Orchestra/Deutsche Grammophon)
Soulscapes 2 (MSR)
Maria Thompson Corley, piano—works by Eleanor Alberga, Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, Nkeiru Okoye, Betty Jackson King, Julia Perry, Joyce Solomon Moorman, Tania León, Krystal Grant Folkestad, Errollyn Wallen, Mary Lou Williams, Judith Baity, Shirley J. Thompson, Maria Thompson Corley, and Florence Price
As you can see by the list of composers, Maria Corley (who lives in Lancaster, PA) presents a very wide variety of music by Black women on this recording, more than doubling the roster from her first Soulscapes collection and expanding to three different continents.
Strauss (Deutsche Grammophon)
Andris Nelsons/Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Boston Symphony Orchestra; Yuja Wang, piano; Yo-Yo Ma, cello—works by Richard Strauss
If Richard Strauss is a favorite composer of yours—you might know if you’ve read my host page that he’s one of mine—Andris Nelsons has recorded the entirety of Strauss’s major orchestral works with his two orchestras, the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Boston Symphony. Pianist Yuja Wang and cellist Yo-Yo Ma join for excellent solo performances.
Also recommended: Richard Strauss: Three Tone Poems (Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst)