The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here are the Top 20 classical recordings of 2017 as chosen by famed radio station WQXR | December 14, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

As he has done in previous years, this year The Ear is offering various compendiums of the best classical recordings from the past year.

Such lists are, of course, subjective.

But many of the “judges” have a vast experience with classical music and are worth listening to and at least considering.

The lists can give you an idea of new artists and trends as well as of new releases of famous artists and tried-and-true repertoire.

So far, The Ear has offered the nominees for Grammy Awards. But that list is chosen by the industry.

Here is a link to that Grammy list:

The famed New York City radio station WQXR seems more objective and less commercial, although you will find well known veteran artists such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Evgeny Kissin mixed in with newcomers such as pianist Beatrice Rana (below).

The genres and periods are quite mixed too, going from early music to new music, from Johann Sebastian Bach to Philip Glass and Osvaldo Golijov.

Similarly, the list has familiar labels and small, relatively unknown labels.

The list could serve as a guide to what you want to give as a gift or what you want to receive as a gift.

But you can also take the list just as more information about the classical music scene, which is under-reported in the mainstream media.

In addition, each of the 20 selections features the CD album cover and a sound sample of the recording and a compact explanation of what makes the performance exceptional or outstanding.

Here is a link:

Hope you enjoy it.

Use the COMMENT section to let us know what you think and whether you agree or disagree with the choices.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. I personally don’t get all the hype about Beatrice Rana‘s Goldbergs I don’t find them to be particularly interesting. I like Rana as an artist but am going to pass on this one.


    Comment by Musicophile — December 16, 2017 @ 3:30 pm

  2. All of these lists have to be taken with pounds of salt. Especially those put out by awards groups (Grammy etc.) and various record companies and radio stations that get money from them.

    One of the few that I respect comes from the blogger and writer (Boston Globe) Zoë Madonna, who is also a musician. Her list was made back in July so it doesn’t include all albums but it is very different from the ones presented here thus far.

    It starts with:

    1) “Folk Songs” Kronos Quartet a collaboration with modern-day troubadours Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Natalie Merchant, and Rhiannon Giddens.

    2) “BACH TRIOS”

    Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer


    Wiener Philharmoniker; Jonas Kaufmann, tenor; Jonathan Nott, conductor


    Nashville Symphony; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor. Jennifer Higdon’s lush orchestral works.


    Havana Lyceum Orchestra;
    Simone Dinnerstein, piano;
    José Antonio Méndez Padrón, conductor


    Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Includes María Huld Markan Sigfusdóttir’s delicate “Aequora,” with its blooms of vibraphone, and Anna Thorvaldsdóttir’s cloudy, harsh “Dreaming.”


    Boston Symphony Orchestra; Andris Nelsons, conductor. The writer is from Boston but this album is on lots of lists.


    London Symphony Orchestra; Thomas Adès, conductor


    Various Artists including Lou Harrison, John Cage, Paul Bowles and Peggy Glanville-Hicks.

    10) “RÍMUR”

    Trio Mediaeval; Arve Henriksen, trumpet.
    “Rímur” explores Scandinavian melodies, medieval chant, improvisations, and the Icelandic polyphonic practice known as tvísöngur, or twin-song.


    Comment by fflambeau — December 15, 2017 @ 9:52 pm

  3. More mass commercialism and corporatism in classical music. Why give the Grammy link first and bury this radio link late in the story? And is it much better?


    Comment by fflambeau — December 15, 2017 @ 8:51 pm

    • Do we really need another recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (this one by an unknown pianist). It is, of course, on Warner Classics, a major commercial label. I counted 4 of the albums on this list from Deutsche Gramophone and 1 by Decca.

      Coming from an American radio station, this list has zero recordings of American composers (this in the 100th centennial of Bernstein’s birth). But lots of Haydn, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff (yet another recording of his 2nd piano concerto), Verdi, and still another Wagner’s Tannhauser (this one from Swedish Radio) etc.
      In short: all of the usual suspects and even the hackneyed story about Haydn’s “Surprise” symphony.


      Comment by fflambeau — December 15, 2017 @ 8:59 pm

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