Europadisc Top 10 of 2017Europadisc Top 10 of 2017 (available until 27th Feb 2018) 1 to 10 of 10 results

Our Top 10 Recordings of 2017! All are available at special prices - simply scroll down beneath our summary to see more information.

Once again, one of the year’s greatest pleasures - and challenges - has been to select new releases for our weekly review. 2017 has been a notably strong year, and at times it has been difficult to select from an embarras de richesses. Of particularly high quality have been this year’s vocal releases - a welcome sign when the relevance of classical music in general and opera in particular is the subject of much debate.

Haas - Fata MorganaOne of our early highlights came back in March from the Yorkshire-based Resonus label, with an illuminating disc of songs by the Czech composer Pavel Haas (1899-1944), whose career was brutally snuffed out in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Masterminded by pianist Lada Valešová, and using a different singer for each of the four song cycles, it’s a powerful ear-opener to Haas’s unique blend of folk and Hebrew inflections with jazz rhythms. The title work, Fata Morgana (1923), scored for voice and piano quintet, and winningly sung by tenor Nicky Spence, makes an especially strong impression with its skilful incorporation of musical Expressionism.

4 CitiesAlso in March, Nicolas Altstaedt and Fazıl Say gave us a cello-and-piano disc with a difference on the album 4 Cities (Warner), relishing the timbral variety and tone colours of sonatas by Debussy, Janáček (Pohádka) and Shostakovich. The title work, Say’s own Four Cities suite, shows the pianist-composer’s gift for extraordinarily evocative textures as he and Altstaedt explore the sights and sounds of his native Turkey. It’s an engrossing disc, showcasing some brilliantly sensitive playing.

Music for the 100 Years' WarThe Hyperion label continues to provide a steady stream of new releases at the highest possible level of artistry. For many years now, one of the mainstays of their early music recordings has been the Binchois Consort under Andrew Kirkman, whose latest disc explores Music for the 100 Years’ War in a wider cultural context, highlighting some exquisite English alabaster sculptures from the late medieval period. And the music is of the first order too, not least John Dunstaple’s brilliant motets Preco preheminencie and Veni Sancte Spiritus.

Mahler - Symphony no.3In more mainstream repertoire, Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra continued their traversal of Mahler’s symphonies on Channel Classics with a blazingly intense, beautifully played performance of the Third Symphony. Captured in stunning surround sound, it includes an epic first movement that strikes just the right balance between control and craziness, Gerhild Romberger’s beautiful alto solo in the Nietzschean fourth movement, and an achingly intense account of the concluding slow movement. It now ranks with the very finest Mahler Thirds in the catalogue.

Vaughan Williams - Scott of the AntarcticThe ever enterprising Dutton label continues to serve up surprises. In June, their recording of Vaughan Williams’s absolutely complete soundtrack music for Charles Frend’s 1948 movie Scott of the Antarctic proved one of the year’s best sellers. It was a labour of love for conductor Martin Yates, who unearthed a staggering 79 minutes of music in all, including music that never made it into the film. With tremendously atmospheric playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and a sound picture to match, this is a must for lovers of British music, offering rich insights into the background of the Sinfonia antartica.

Strauss - Through Life and LoveAs we’ve already hinted, this has been an outstanding year for vocal discs. With so many to choose from, including recordings by Kate Lindsey, Barbara Hannigan and Sabine Devieilhe, it’s been difficult to single out just a couple of favourites. However, soprano Louise Alder’s recital of Strauss Lieder, entitled Through Life and Love, made a lasting impression. Accompanied with great sensitivity by Joseph Middleton, Alder – who deservedly won the audience prize at the 2017 Cardiff Singer of the World Competition – delivers a programme that is both fresh sounding and surprisingly mature in emotional insight.

Telemann - Fantasias for solo viola da gambaThis year’s musical anniversaries have fared well on disc, particularly Monteverdi (the Vespers from the Dunedin Consort) and Telemann. Among new recordings contributing to the ever expanding discography of the latter – one of the most prolific of all Baroque composers – Robert Smith’s performance of the recently rediscovered Fantasias for viola da gamba on Resonus proved that this is music to stand alongside Bach’s cello suites in terms of technical demands and expressive rewards. Smith negotiates these twelve Baroque jewels with a tremendous agility and sense of enjoyment.

SecretsFrench mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa provided another of the year’s outstanding vocal recitals with Secrets, a magical recital of French song on Erato that was again enhanced by Fazıl Say’s dazzlingly textured accompaniments. Including well-known cycles by Debussy and Ravel alongside mélodies by Fauré and Duparc, and rounded off with Fazıl Say’s own lament-like Gezi Park 3, this is one of the finest collections of French songs for many years. Crebassa, who possesses a voice at once sparklingly clear and tonally rich, is clearly another singer with a bright career ahead of her.

Haydn - Symphonies vol.5As the year drew to a close, two releases in particular bowled us over. Giovanni Antonini’s ambitious Haydn 2032 project on the Alpha label, recording all Haydn’s symphonies a disc at a time, imaginatively coupled with related works, reached its fifth volume. Introducing the Kammerorchester Basel on period instruments for the first time (they will share duties with Antonini’s own Il Giardino Armonico), this fully lived up to the promise of earlier discs in the series. With a striking symphony by Joseph Martin Kraus (the ‘Swedish Mozart’) as a filler, this recording demonstrated once again that one should never underestimate Haydn’s protean compositional gifts.

Berlioz - Les TroyensNovember also brought a staggering new benchmark recording of Les Troyens from Berlioz authority John Nelson, who has already set down fine performances of Benvenuto Cellini and Béatrice et Bénédict. Boasting a splendid, largely Francophone cast headed by Joyce DiDonato, Michael Spyres and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, and glorious playing from the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, this sweeps aside all competition in what is clearly Berlioz’s masterpiece, and there’s a tangible sense of epic drama throughout the opera’s nearly four-hour span.

Haas - Fata MorganaEither of those last two recordings would have been worthy winners of our Disc of the Year award. However, throughout the year we’ve been drawn back to one recording in particular, which made a huge emotional impact: the disc of Pavel Haas songs from pianist Lada Valešová, soprano Anita Watson, mezzo Anna Starushkevych, tenor Nicky Spence and bass James Platt. This is music of great beauty, toughness and resilience, some of it written in appalling circumstances, but demonstrably the work of a composer of true genius who lost his life in the cruellest of circumstances. It deserves – and we sincerely hope it receives – the highest possible accolades and widest possible circulation. It is our Disc of the Year 2017.

Berlioz - Les Troyens (CD + DVD)

Erato 9029576220
CD + DVD (5 discs)

Berlioz - Les Troyens (CD + DVD)

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Artists: Joyce DiDonato, Michael Spyres, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Stephane Degout, Nicolas Courjal, Marianne Crebassa, Hanna Hipp, Cyrille Dubois, Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Philippe Sly, Choeur de l’Opera du Rhin, Badischer Staatsopernchor, Choeur philharmonique de Strasbourg, Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg

Conductor: John Nelson

Sunday Times Best 100 of 2017 Gramophone Editor's Choice Europadisc Top 10 of 2017
Haydn 2032 Vol.5: L’Homme de genie

Alpha ALPHA676
CD (1 disc)

Haydn 2032 Vol.5: L’Homme de genie

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Artist: Kammerorchester Basel

Conductor: Giovanni Antonini

Europadisc Top 10 of 2017 Gramophone Editor's Choice
Marianne Crebassa & Fazil Say: Secrets

Erato 9029576897
CD (1 disc)

Marianne Crebassa & Fazil Say: Secrets

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Artists: Marianne Crebassa (mezzo-soprano), Fazil Say (piano), Bernhard Krabatsch (flute)

Gramophone Editor's Choice Europadisc Top 10 of 2017
Telemann - Fantasias for Viola da Gamba

Resonus Classics RES10195
CD (1 disc)

Telemann - Fantasias for Viola da Gamba

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Artist: Robert Smith (viola da gamba)

Europadisc Top 10 of 2017
Through Life and Love: Richard Strauss Lieder

Orchid Classics ORC100072
CD (1 disc)

Through Life and Love: Richard Strauss Lieder

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Artists: Louise Alder (soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano)

Gramophone Editor's Choice Europadisc Top 10 of 2017
Mahler - Symphony no.3

Channel Classics CCSSA38817
SACD (2 discs)

Mahler - Symphony no.3

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Artists: Gerhild Romberger (alto), Cantemus Children’s Choir, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Budapest Festival Orchestra

Conductor: Ivan Fischer

Gramophone Editor's Choice Europadisc Top 10 of 2017
Vaughan Williams - Scott of the Antarctic (complete)

Dutton - Epoch CDLX7340
SACD (1 disc)

Vaughan Williams - Scott of the Antarctic (complete)

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Artists: Ilona Domnich (soprano), Christopher Nickol (organ), Women of the RSNO Chorus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Conductor: Martin Yates

Europadisc Top 10 of 2017
Music for the 100 Years’ War: A Brief History in Music & Alabaster

Hyperion CDA68170
CD (1 disc)

Music for the 100 Years’ War: A Brief History in Music & Alabaster

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Artist: The Binchois Consort

Conductor: Andrew Kirkman

Gramophone Editor's Choice Europadisc Top 10 of 2017
Fata Morgana: Songs by Pavel Haas

Resonus Classics RES10183
CD (1 disc)

Fata Morgana: Songs by Pavel Haas

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Artists: Anita Watson (soprano), Anna Starvshkevych (mezzo-soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor), James Platt (bass), Navarra Quartet, Lada Valesova (piano)

Europadisc Top 10 of 2017
4 Cities: Cello Sonatas by Say, Debussy, Janacek, Shostakovich

Warner 9029586724
CD (1 disc)

4 Cities: Cello Sonatas by Say, Debussy, Janacek, Shostakovich

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Artists: Fazil Say (piano), Nicolas Alstaedt (cello)

Europadisc Top 10 of 2017