In no particular order, I offer five of my favorite albums of 2012. Please share your favorites in the comments.
The expansive sounds from Thorvaldsdottir are exactly what I would imagine Iceland would sound like. Her writing is more than texture, though. There are lines and figures that appear and disappear. She has imagination, and that’s a rarity these days.
Brahms Ballades, Op. 10, are full of longing and affection, and Bax gives us every ounce of emotion. The lyrical gives way to virtuosity and power as the album moves through the 8 Piano Pieces, Op. 76 and into the Paganini Variations. Bax can deliver both with profundity.
It’s hard to resist Fleming’s voice. Then she records an all-French album and I become helpless. Her first Shéhérezade is divine in the literal meaning: directly from the heavens. Two French orchestras, and Alan Gilbert and Seiji Ozawa conduct, perform some of Messiaen of Dutilleux’s most romantic music. Dim the lights and open a bottle for this album.
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Greilsammer sandwiches modern composers, like Feldman and Lachenmann, in between Baroque keyboard masters like Froberger and Rameau. While Greilsammer doesn’t reinvent the wheel by combining old and new, his choices are complementary. One of the more effective mixtures is the Frescolbaldi-Lachenmann-Sweelinck set.
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Bach: Brandenburg Concertos and Shostakovich Preludes, Op. 87 (selections)
Ensemble Caprice plays the Brandenburg Concertos with abandon and precision. The horns in the first concerto will make the hair on your neck stand on end. But it’s the arrangements of Shostakovich, arranged by Matthias Maute for the ensemble, that transport. There’s no reason this recording shouldn’t become a standard for future Brandenburg recordings.