The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Holiday shopping grows more frantic, so here are more gift guides from Alex Ross of The New Yorker magazine, Anne Midgette of The Washington Post, NPR, WFMT in Chicago and others with the Best Classical Music recordings of 2011 | December 10, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

The holidays are drawing closer, and more critics and media outlets are releasing their list of The Best Classical Recordings of 2011.

In past days, I have listed the complete Classical Music nominations for the Grammy Awards and the New York Times Top 25.

Here are some more than may prove useful to you as you shop either in stores or on-line.

Please feel free to leave your own suggestions in the COMMENTS section of this blog. I and others would appreciate them. Which recordings did you most enjoy? What recordings – current or older – make the best gift in your opinion?

You will notice, as you check out these various sites, that some choices seem common or even unanimous: violinist Hilary Hahn’s complete sonatas by Charles Ives on Deutsche Grammophon (below); Bohuslav Martinu’s six symphonies on Onyx; pianist Nelson Freire’s modest and unusual Liszt album on Decca; composer Steve Reich’s “WTC 9/11” and other works on Nonesuch.

But some telling differences emerge too, which only goes to prove how subjective these judgments can be.

And that should reassure you when it comes to choosing gifts. Trust and Follow your own instincts too, even if you use these suggestions as a guide:

Here is the list by prize-winning critic Alex Ross (below, author of “The Rest Is Noise:” and “Listen to This,” which also make great gifts with or without CDs) in The New Yorker magazine:

Here is a list from National Public Radio’s (NPR) innovative, exciting and informative blog “Deceptive Cadence” overseen by Tom Huizenga (below):

For New York Times critic Anne Midgette (below) – the same one who fought with opera superstar Placido Domingo — now reviews for and blogs for The Washington Post. She mixes five live concerts and five recordings for the best of 2011. The Ear says give a CD WITH a ticket to a live concert, even of the same work, in 2012:

Want to see what appeals in a different culture or country? Try Readings book store in Australia:

And let’s not forget alternative media. So try the Philadelphia Citypaper:

Newspapers and magazines are not the only outlets to name Best of 2011 recordings.

Here is a list by famed radio station WFMT in Chicago, out of which composer and former conductor Bill McGlaughlin (below top) does his “Exploring Music” program. It also picks out a recording of symphonies by  Hans Gal and Robert Schumann conducted by the Madison-born and Madison-trained conductor, now living and working in Wales, Kenneth Woods (below bottom). The CD was reviewed favorably earlier by NPR, but did make NPT’s Best of 2011 lis even though it should have:

Posted in Classical music


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