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Ten Notable Classical-Music Recordings of 2012

Jeremy Denk, New York Polyphony
The New Yorker

By Alex Ross

According to ancient custom, I’m making two end-of-year lists for the magazine, one of live performances and the other of recordings. Lest I neglect events still to come in December—David Lang’s “love fail” and Michael Gordon’s “Timber” at BAM, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra’s performances at Carnegie, and the JACK Quartet’s “Modern Medieval” program at the Met Museum, among others—I’ll withhold the “live” list until the end of the month. Here, though, is a selection of notable classical releases from 2012, which may be of assistance as you seek the perfect gift for your decadent niece who worships Wagner. A few audio and video samples are embedded. Two of the selections—the “Winterreise” and the Vivaldi—were, in fact, released at the end of 2011, but they reached my desk too late to make last year’s list.

“Drama Queens”: Arias by Orlandini, Porta, Handel, Hasse, Cesti, Keiser, Monteverdi, Giacomelli, and Haydn; Joyce DiDonato, Alan Curtis leading Il Complesso Barocco (Virgin Classics).

Berg and Beethoven, Violin Concertos; Isabelle Faust, Claudio Abbado, Orchestra Mozart (Harmonia Mundi).

Schubert, “Winterreise”; Florian Boesch, Malcolm Martineau (Onyx Classics).

Bach, St. Matthew Passion; Mark Padmore, Christian Gerhaher, Magdalena Kozena, Topi Lehtipuu, Thomas Quasthoff, Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic and the Rundfunkchor Berlin, Peter Sellars directing (Berlin Philharmonic DVD).

Wagner, “Tristan und Isolde”; Nina Stemme, Stephen Gould, Kwangchul Youn, Michelle Breedt, Johan Reuter, Marek Janowski conducting the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (PentaTone).

Vivaldi, Bassoon Concertos, Vol. 2; Sergio Azzolini, L’Aura Soave Cremona (Naïve).

 “endBeginning”: Works by Brumel, Crecquillon, Clemens non Papa, Josquin, Jackson Hill; New York Polyphony (BIS).

Kristin Norderval, “Aural Histories” (Deep Listening)

Feldman, “Crippled Symmetry”; Eberhard Blum, Jan Williams, Nils Vigeland (frozen reeds).

Ligeti, Etudes Books I and II, Beethoven, Sonata Opus 111; Jeremy Denk (Nonesuch).

Music Book of the Year: Matthew Guerrieri’s “The First Four Notes: Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination” (Knopf).

Movie Score of the Year: Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score for Bill Morrison’s “The Miners’ Hymns.”