The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music reviews: New York Times critics offer their pick of the Top 25 classical CDs of 2011 in their gift-giving guide.

December 3, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday I offered you the list of classical music nominations for the upcoming 54th annual Grammy Awards. It is interesting to read in its own right but it also provides a useful guide for holiday gift-giving.

With the shopping weekend still ahead of us – and lots of time still for bricks-and-mortar shopping or on-line ordering — I thought I would also send you to the New Yorks Times gift-giving guide of top classical CDs of 2011. It is compiled by their various critics including Vivien Schweitzer, Allan Kozinn, Zachary Woolfe, James Oestreich (who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison) and of course Anthony Tommasini (below), who will come to Madison in late March to give free lectures as part of the Pro Arte Quartet’s Centennial celebration.

I can’t honestly say I know all the titles personally and have listened to them all the way through with complete attention. But I have sampled many enough to know that, for recordings, it has been very good year – also a Liszt Year marking his bicentennial — and a very plentiful one, despite all the laments about the demise of classical music and major labels.

But I have heard many of them,  in part in whole, and I concur with their assessments, including top honors going to: oboist Heinz Holliger’s Bach album on ECM; Schumann Piano Trios with Leif Ove Andsnes on EMI; all four violin sonatas by Charles Ives with Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa on Deutsche Grammophon (below); Jenny Lin’s complete CD of Federico Mompou’s enigmatic and appealingly brief and haunting “Musica Callada” (Steinway and Son); Nicholas McGegan’s CDs of Haydn Symphonies and vocal music with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s 2-CD homage to Liszt and composers he influenced for Deutsche Grammophon; Paul Lewis’ Schubert recordings for Harmonia Mundi; pianist Nelson Freire’s Liszt album for Decca; Beethoven’s opera “Fidelio” with Claudio Abbado and Jonas Kaufmann on Decca; and the newly released and terrifically exciting 5-CD Beethoven symphony and overture set for Decca by Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra – about which I will have more to say tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is the link to The New York Times and its story-guide:

Happy reading!

Happy listening!

And Happy Shopping!

What recordings of the past year pleased you the most?

Do you have suggestions of your own?

Other readers want to know.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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