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The best classical albums released in 2021 so far

A list of the greatest classical music recordings released so far in 2021, as chosen by the BBC Music Magazine critics

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The best orchestral recordings

Ben-Haim
Symphony No. 1; Pan*; Pastorale variée**
*Claudia Barainsky (soprano), **John Bradbury (clarinet); BBC Philharmonic/Omer Meir Wellber
Chandos CHAN 20169   60:45 mins

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‘The First Symphony is the most substantial work here. Composed during the early years of the Second World War, its fiercely dynamic outer movements – a combative Allegro energico and an obsessively rhythmic finale marked Presto con fuoco, performed with mesmerising urgency by Wellber and the BBC Philharmonic – surely reflect the turbulent political environment the composer faced at the time.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

Read more reviews of the latest Ben-Haim recordings here

Scriabin R Strauss
R Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra; Scriabin: Symphony No. 4  ‘The Poem of Ecstasy’
Seattle Symphony/Thomas Dausgaard
Seattle Symphony SSM 1025   52:23 mins

‘I’d thought of Dausgaard as a febrile kind of conductor, but he knows when to go slow and spacious here, when to drive to thrilling climaxes. His booklet notes are excellent, too.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

Read more reviews of the latest R Strauss recordings here
Read more reviews of the latest Scriabin recordings here

Myaskovsky Prokofiev
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5; Myaskovsky: Symphony No. 21
Oslo Philharmonic/Vasily Petrenko
Lawo LWC 1207   62:31 mins

‘Admirable it may be of Vasily Petrenko to continue his winning streak in an ever-growing discography by pairing symphonies by Prokofiev and his lifelong friend Myaskovsky, ten years his senior, but there can be no doubt what really matters here – a powerful and revelatory take on a masterpiece, Prokofiev’s Fifth.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

Read more reviews of the latest Prokofiev recordings here
Read more reviews of the latest Myaskovsky recordings here

Haydn
Symphony No. 15 in D; Symphony No. 35 in B flat; Symphony No. 45 in F sharp minor ‘Farewell’; Scena di Berenice, Hob.XXIVA:10*
*Sandrine Piau (soprano); Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
Alpha Classics ALPHA684   77:34 mins

‘This is the latest release in Giovanni Antonini’s project to record all of Haydn’s symphonies by the tercentenary of his birth in 2032. It centres on two great ‘farewell’ works: the fiercely concentrated Symphony No. 45, from which the players gradually depart at the end, and the emotionally charged Scena di Berenice, premiered together with the Symphony No. 104 towards the end of Haydn’s last London visit in 1795.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

Read more reviews of the latest Haydn recordings here
Find out more about Haydn and his works here

Rachmaninov
Symphony No. 1; Symphonic Dances
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
DG 483 9839   79:32 mins

‘You need not only a sensitivity to the special string warmth but also an ideal flexibility for the tempo rubato implied when not explicitly requested in so much of Rachmaninov’s music. Charles Dutoit, who recorded the major orchestral works with the Philadelphia in the early 1990s, didn’t have it; Nézet-Séguin does, in spades, and he’s allowed an occasional largesse which slightly holds up the pell-mell progress of the First Symphony’s fateful finale cavalcade.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

The best (and worst) recordings of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances

CD_4839839_Rachmaninov

Find out more about Rachmaninov and his works here
Read more reviews of the latest Rachmaninov recordings here

Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 ‘Choral’
Christina Landshamer (soprano), Jennifer Johnson Cano (mezzo-soprano), Werner Güra (tenor), Shenyang (bass); Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck
Reference FR-741 (CD/SACD)   62:44 mins

‘Everything about this performance has heft, from the orchestra to the soloists, with precision sculpting from Honeck verging on the maniacal, the Finale a joyous argy-bargy of conflicting forces, beset with moments of transcendent, expressive beauty.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Beethoven recordings here
Read our guide to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 here

Rachmaninov
Symphony No. 2 in E minor
London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle
LSO Live LSO 0851   58:50 mins

‘Not only does it feature superior orchestral playing, but Rattle’s wonderfully fluid approach, his magisterial control of rubato and keen sensitivity to all the different colours in this opulently scored work all combine to produce an interpretation that keeps you engaged from the first bar to last.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Find out more about Rachmaninov and his works here
Read more reviews of the latest Rachmaninov recordings here

Beethoven
Symphony No. 7 in A major
MusicAeterna/Teodor Currentzis
Sony Classical 19439743772   39:07 mins

‘Most crucially, by rejoicing freely in the music’s expressive profiling – the second movement Allegretto is revelatory in its multifaceted soundscaping and enhanced dynamic flexibility – the Symphony’s generic imaging appears to dissolve in front of our ears, to reveal pristine musical surfaces.’

Read our full review of this recording here

A guide to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7

Read more reviews of the latest Beethoven recordings here
Beethoven’s Symphonies: What did the 19th century think?

The Centre is Everywhere
Edmund Finnis: The Centre is Everywhere; Philip Glass: Company; Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night)
Manchester Collective
Bedroom Community HVALUR38   50:09 mins

‘Commissioned by the ensemble and scored for 12 string players, the piece has an ageless, ancient-yet-modern quality: like a shimmering ghost of Lawes’s viol consorts, a fine latticework of line and colour is viewed through a kaleidoscope of grainy harmonies and whistling white noise’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Schoenberg recordings
Read more reviews of the latest Philip Glass recordings

Pētēris Vasks
Cello Concerto No. 2 ‘Presence’; Musica Serena; Musica Dolorosa; Musica Appassionata
Uladzimir Sinkevich (cello), Anna-Maria Palii (soprano); Munich Radio Orchestra/Ivan Repušić
BR Klassik 900336   76:53 mins

‘The works here date from 1983 to 2015 and show no let-up in intensity or purpose into today’s newly challenging times. Three of Vasks’s cycle of four ‘musicae’ for string orchestra are given radiant performances by the Munich Radio Orchestra under conductor Ivan Repušić.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Vasks recordings

Tansy Davies
Dune of Footprints; Nature*; What Did We See? (Suite from the opera Between Worlds); Re-greening†
*Huw Watkins (piano); Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Karen Kamensek; *Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Oliver Knussen; †National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
NMC NMCD 260   68:26 mins

‘Shamanism and the human fascination with divine energy is a recurring theme in Tansy Davies’s work. The piano loosely represents a spiritual intermediary in Nature (2012), the single-movement concerto that gives its name to this latest NMC release. Davies characterises the solo part – performed here by Huw Watkins – as a maenad, a frenzied female follower of Dionysus’s. The composer’s considered use of colour is beautifully drawn out by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, led by Oliver Knussen.’

Read our full review of this recording here

CPE Bach – Beyond the Limits
Complete String Symphonies
Gli Incogniti/Amandine Beyer (violin)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 905321   67:02 mins

‘Gli Incogniti, under the stylistically assured direction of its violinist director Amandine Beyer, captures this music’s mercurial temperament with panache. Crisp articulation, eloquently shaped phrasing and a shared enthusiasm for Emanuel Bach’s elusive idiom enlivens the music at every turn. Among the highlights are the jauntily clad opening Allegretto of the B minor Symphony and the Largo ed innocentemente of the A major Symphony, whose pervasive melancholy is gently realised.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest CPE Bach recordings
Find out more about CPE Bach and his works

Brahms
Symphony No. 2; Academic Festival Overture
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Herbert Blomstedt
Pentatone PTC 5186 851   55:00 mins

‘No doubt, there are conductors who inject a stronger personality into this great symphony, and convey its ebb and flow a bit more compellingly (Wilhelm Furtwängler or George Szell, for instance), but with glowing playing throughout from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra it’s hard not to enjoy this affectionate and superbly recorded new version.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Brahms recordings
Find out more about Brahms and his works

Vaughan Williams
Symphony No. 4 in F minor; Symphony No. 6 in E minor
London Symphony Orchestra/Antonio Pappano
LSO Live LSO0867   68:06 mins

‘This is a terrible beauty, energetic, Satanic, utterly spellbinding, keeping enough in reserve to make the biggest climaxes truly shattering. And there’s a very special quality to the muted, divided strings as they head to the 14-part chord that ends the first movement. Special, too, are the wind solos – an unearthly oboe (performed by Juliana Koch) and a calm flute (performed by Gareth Davies) on the cusp of silence.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Vaughan Williams recordings
Find out more about Vaughan Williams and his works

Schreker • Zemlinsky
Schreker: Der Geburtstag der Infantin; Zemlinsky: Die Seejungfrau
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Onyx ONYX 4197   78:20 mins

‘This warmly recorded version not only goes to the top of the tree as the most satisfying account of Zemlinsky’s score in the current catalogue, but also trumps its closest rivals in offering the most apposite and brilliantly performed coupling of Franz Schreker’s colourful ballet score Der Geburtstag der Infantin, an Oscar Wilde fairytale which coincidentally Zemlinsky fashioned into an opera in the early 1920s.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Zemlinsky recordings

Festmusik – A Legacy
Music for brass ensemble by Brahms, R Franz, A Rubinstein, R Schumann and R Strauss
Septura; Onyx Brass/John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5284 (CD/SACD)   67:25 mins

‘And the playing in the arrangements of the Two Songs is extraordinary. How do human lungs sustain the vast phrases and endless pedal-points of Der Abend (Evening) – a golden, ten-minute drift of Straussian serenity? And, in Chandos’s typically full recorded acoustic, the sheer glory of sonority in the climaxes of the more eventful Hymne is quite overwhelming.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Brahms recordings here

Read more reviews of the latest orchestral recordings here

The best concerto recordings

Silver Age
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16; Sarcasms, Op. 17; Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84; Gavotta, Op. 95 No. 2; Scriabin: Piano Concerto in F sharp minor, Op. 20; Stravinsky: Serenade in A; The Firebird Suite; Three Movements from Petrushka
Daniil Trifonov (piano); Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
DG 4835331   139:59 mins (2 discs)

‘A golden-age collection from Trifonov, and it’s admirable that these two discs are always more about the music than about him, when as a recording superstar he could have taken an easier option. If I were to choose a compendium of Russian (mostly) 20th-century works for solo piano and piano-with-orchestra, this would be close. I learned new things about every work here, but the way Trifonov makes every moment live is simply astonishing.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

Read more reviews of the latest Scriabin recordings here
Read more reviews of the latest Prokofiev recordings here
Read more reviews of the latest Stravinsky recordings here
Read more reviews of the latest concerto recordings here

Ammann • Bartók • Ravel
Ammann: The Piano Conceto ‘Gran Toccata’; Ravel: Concerto for the Left Hand; Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 3
Andreas Haefliger (piano); Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Susanna Mälkki
BIS BIS-2310 (CD/SACD)   75:30 mins

‘With a work of this complexity, it’s easy to become somewhat numbed by the sheer density of ideas. Yet thanks to the totally compelling partnership between Haefliger and Susanna Mälkki, the excitement is sustained from first bar to last, and BIS’s forensically detailed recording brings a welcome clarity to the scoring.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

Read more reviews of the latest Ammann recordings here
Read more reviews of the latest Ravel recordings here
Read more reviews of the latest Bartók recordings here

Bartók Martinů

Martinů: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Bartók: Sonata for Solo Violin
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin); Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša
BIS BIS-2457 (CD/SACD)   74:40 mins

‘The Bartók Solo Violin Sonata is a great bonus and beautifully played, but these landmark performances of the Martinů concertos are the headline items and both are unquestionably outstanding.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

Read more reviews of the latest Bartók recordings here
Read more reviews of the latest Martinů recordings here

Plaisirs illuminés
F Coll: Les plaisirs illuminés; Ginastera: Concerto for Strings; Veress: Musica concertante; plus works by Bartók, Kurtág and Ligeti
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Sol Gabetta (cello); Camerata Bern/Francisco Coll
Alpha Classics ALPHA580   75:26 mins

‘Two threads run through this adventurous disc – the spirit of Béla Bartók and the Camerata Bern’s prowess – but the force of personality at the centre of it all comes from the violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who since 2018 has been ‘artistic partner’ of the ensemble.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

Christian Lindberg
Liverpool Lullabies; Waves of Wollongong; 2017
Evelyn Glennie (percussion); New Trombone Collective; Antwerp Symphony Orchestra/Christian Lindberg (trombone)
BIS BIS-2418 (CD/SACD)   72:00 mins

‘In 1997, long fêted for his prodigious artistry as a trombonist, Christian Lindberg discovered an equal flair for composing. More recently, he has won accolades as a conductor. This ebullient album reveals him a force of nature in all three roles alongside superb collaborators including an ever-agile Antwerp Symphony Orchestra.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

Who are the best percussionists today?

Read our reviews of the latest Christian Lindberg recordings here

Concertos for Mallet Instruments
Alexis Alrich: Marimba Concerto; Karl Jenkins: La Folia; Ned Rorem: Mallet Concerto
Evelyn Glennie (percussion); City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong/Jean Thorel
Naxos 8.574218   71:01 mins

‘Another engaging disc from the ever-compelling Evelyn Glennie with three attractive concertos that should win many friends. From its shimmering opening, Alexis Alrich’s substantial three-movement Marimba Concerto creates a distinctive lyrical world. The insistent rhythmic patterns of minimalism sit naturally alongside calmer, more impressionistic textures allied to hints of Glennie’s fascination with Asian music.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

The best recordings by percussionist Evelyn Glennie

Read our reviews of the latest Evelyn Glennie recordings here

Weinberg
Violin Concerto, Op. 67; Sonata for Two Violins, Op. 69
Gidon Kremer, Madara Pētersone (violin); Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Daniele Gatti
Accentus ACC 30518   51:04 mins

‘This performance, recorded live in Leipzig during February 2020, undoubtedly benefits from Kremer’s passionate commitment, but also offers a distinct advantage over rival recordings through its vivid recorded sound and the superbly compelling contribution from the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester under Daniele Gatti.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Weinberg recordings here
We named Gewandhausorchester Leipzig one of the best orchestras in the world

Paris
Chausson: Poème, Op. 25; Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1; Rautavaara: Deux sérénades
Hilary Hahn (violin); Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Mikko Franck
DG 483 9847   51:31 mins

‘Hahn is not afraid to play a true pianissimo when called for, with no loss of tone, nor is she fazed by Chausson’s stratospherics – the part spends much of its time way up above the treble stave.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Prokofiev recordings
Read more reviews of the latest Chausson recordings

Beethoven
Triple Concerto, Op. 56; Piano Trio, Op. 36 (after Symphony No. 2)
Isabelle Faust (violin), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Alexander Melnikov (piano); Freiburger Barockorchester/Pablo Heras-Casado
Harmonia Mundi HMM902419   64:52 mins

‘In the opening orchestral tutti, after the quiet start, the forward, vibrant sound and rhythmic unanimity give the impression of a far larger number of players than those named. There’s no question of a timid approach, and the clean timbre of the period instruments is echoed by the soloists, entering one by one.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Beethoven recordings
The greatest piano concertos of all time

Martin Suckling
This Departing Landscape**; Release; The White Road*; Piano Concerto
*Katherine Bryan (flute), Tamara Stefanovich (piano); **BBC Philharmonic; BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov
NMC D262   76:57 mins

‘Fast-moving, fragmentary melodies and shifting ideas signify the slipperiness of sound. Pattern plays a more prominent role in Release, where semi-regular instrumental outbursts represent the often-experienced urge to make a loud noise in a reverberant space.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Weber
Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Konzertstück
Ronald Brautigam (piano); Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
BIS BIS-2384 (CD/SACD)   56:18 mins

‘It’s the prototype of the Romantic concerto as practised by Liszt (who played the piece frequently) and others, and like Weber’s two full-blown piano concertos it was tailor-made for his own formidable keyboard prowess, not to mention his exceptionally large hands.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Weber recordings 

Vivaldi
Bassoon Concertos, Vol. 5: RV 467, 476, 479, 481, 486, 489 & 497
L’Onda Armonica/Sergio Azzolini (bassoon)
Naïve OP30573   73:32 mins

‘It’s hard to imagine a more passionate advocate for these works than Sergio Azzolini who brings fiendish agility to the fast movements and makes his instrument sigh and sing in the pathos-laden, operatic slow movements. He draws pert ensemble playing, too, from L’Onda Armonica who capture both the visceral and the delicate sides of Vivaldi’s musical personae.’

Read our full review of this recording here

The best recordings of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons
Read more reviews of the latest Vivaldi recordings

Lutosławski • R Schumann • Tchaikovsky
Lutosławski: Cello Concerto; R Schumann: Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129; Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
Andrzej Bauer (cello); Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jacek Kaspszyk
Frederick Chopin Institute NIFCCD 072   66:34 mins

‘Three contrasting cello concertos cast fresh light on each other in performances by Polish cellist Andrzej Bauer, whose cultivated, singing tone is a constant virtue.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Robert Schumann recordings
Read more reviews of the latest Tchaikovsky recordings

Mozart
Piano Concerto No. 11 in F, K413; Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K414; Piano Concerto No. 13 in C, K415 (arr. piano and string quartet)
Matyáš Novák (piano); Wihan Quartet
Nimbus NI6419   77:37 mins

‘The Wihan Quartet’s collective sound has a rounded fullness and mellow, tawny-brown colouring which, besides being handsome in itself, also means that they never have to force any kind of would-be orchestral effect. And on this form, Matyáš Novák is yet another of today’s wonderful vintage of young pianists; playing on a modern concert grand, he nonetheless judges the music’s interplay between keyboard and solo strings with poised precision.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Mozart recordings
Find out more about Mozart and his works

Read more reviews of the latest concerto recordings here

The best opera recordings

Vivaldi’s Argippo
Emőke Baráth, Marie Lys, Delphine Galou, Marianna Pizzolato, Luigi De Donato; Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
Naïve OP 7079   112:10 mins (2 discs)

‘The bass Luigi De Donato is a youthful Emperor and Emőke Baráth‘s Argippa sounds more satisfying as the plot curdles, with thrilling top notes, callisthenic coloratura and deep dives into the chest register. Of the women characters Delphine Galou’s Zanaida gets the pick of the arias in a recording that is bright and lets the singers lead, which is as it should be.’

Read full review of this recording here.

Read more reviews of the latest Vivaldi recordings here
Find out more about Vivaldi and his works here

Willem Jeths: Ritratto
Verity Wingate, Martin Mkhize, Frederik Bergman, Paride Cataldo, Dominic Kraemer, Lucas van Lierop, Cameron Shahbazi; Dutch National Opera; Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Geoffrey Paterson
Challenge CC 72849   88:24 mins

It’s invidious to single out individuals from the young cast, many of them members of the Dutch National Opera Studio, but Verity Wingate is compelling as Luisa, and Paride Cataldo’s posturing D’Annunzio all but steals the show.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

I Am Hera
Bellini: Arias from I Capuleti e i Montecchi; Gluck: Arias from Orfeo ed Euridice; Handel: Aria from Giulio Cesare; Mozart: Arias from Idomeneo, The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute; Puccini: Arias from La bohème and Gianni Schicchi; Rossini: Arias from The Barber of Seville and Il Turco in Italia; plus works by Joowon Kim, Pergolesi and Un-Yung La
Hera Hyesang Park (soprano), Johannes Maria Bogner (harpsichord); Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy
DG 483 9456   66:35 mins

‘Hera today, but hopefully not gone tomorrow. The young Korean soprano Hera Hyesang Park has recorded one of the most satisfying debuts for many a day.’

Read our full review of this recording here.


Read more reviews of the latest Mozart recordings here
Read more reviews of the latest Bellini recordings here

Margaret Catchpole: Two Worlds Apart
Kate Howden, William Wallace, Nicholas Morris, Richard Edgar-Wilson; Perpetuo/Julian Perkins
Naxos 8.660459-61   165:36 mins (3 discs)

‘Stephen Dodgson (1924-2013) – a distant relative of Charles, aka Lewis Carroll – left a notable body of work that, under the auspices of The Stephen Dodgson Charitable Trust, is edging towards the recognition it deserves. Margaret Catchpole: Two Worlds Apart (1979) is one of Dodgson’s three operas – this is its first recording.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Eccles: Semele
Anna Dennis (soprano), Richard Burkhard (baritone), Helen Charlston (mezzo-soprano), Héloïse Bernard (soprano), Graeme Broadbent (bass)  et al; Cambridge Early Opera; Academy of Ancient Music/Julian Perkins
AAM AAM012   121:27 mins

‘John Eccles’s sexy, sparkling opera bursts to life – finally! Shelved in 1706, Semele has never been professionally recorded, so this production was worth waiting for. Cast, band, director and sound are all top-notch, restoring Eccles’s score to its full glory.’

Read our full review of this recording here.

CD_AAM012_Eccles

Royal Handel
Handel: Arias from Flavio, Re De’ Longobardi; Admeto, Re Di Tessaglia; Siroe, Re Di Persia, etc; plus works by Arisoti and Bononcini
Eva Zaïcik (mezzo-soprano); Le Consort
Alpha Classics ALPHA 662   64:59 mins

‘In 2017, Eva Zaïcik dazzled BBC Proms audiences in Monteverdi’s Vespers. This project shows why. From her gut-punch climactic notes to the buttery evenness of her register, Zaïcik’s command is exhilarating.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Handel recordings here
Find out more about Handel and his works here

Verdi
Baritone Arias from La traviata, Il Trovotore, Rigoletto, Otello, Nabucco, Ernani, etc
Ludovic Tézier (baritone); Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Frédéric Chaslin
Sony Classical 19439753632   79:50 mins

‘With his richly burnished voice, Tézier gives a compelling account of all these diverse characters but is at his best in the arias that call for psychological nuance and contrasts in vocal shading. Particular highlights include the disc’s curtain-raiser, an authoritative ‘Morir! Tremenda cosa!’ from La forza del destino, and the dying Rodrigue/Rodrigo’s bittersweet aria from Don Carlos/Carlo – presented here in both its French and Italian versions and sufficiently attractive to merit including twice.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Six of the best… baritones

Read more reviews of the latest Verdi recordings here
Find out more about Verdi and his works

Rameau
Dardanus
Cyrille Dubois, Judith van Wanroij, Chantal Santon Jeffery; Purcell Choir; Orfeo Orchestra/György Vashegyi
Glossa GCD 924010   168:37 mins (3 discs)

‘This exciting and full-blooded account has more historic coherence than any so far of this great opera. György Vashegyi, who already has three Rameau opera recordings to his name, has mustered a uniformly strong cast with lively characterisation from Antenor and Teucer, alpha males pumped to the hilt with testosterone.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Rameau recordings here

Beethoven • Verdi • Wagner
Beethoven: Ah! Perfido, Op. 65; Fidelio – Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?; Cherubini: Medee – Dei tuoi figli la madre tu vedi; Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana – Voi lo sapete o mamma; Verdi: La forza del destino – Pace, pace mio Dio!; Otello – Ave Maria; Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder
Lise Davidsen (soprano); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Mark Elder
Decca 485 1507   63:28 mins

‘Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen is the most exciting new operatic presence for at least a decade and already, at 33, has a large repertoire of demanding roles. Her first solo recital album was greeted with universal praise, and I would be amazed if this one – much more demanding – isn’t given an even more ecstatic reception.’

Read our full review of this recording here

Read more reviews of the latest Wagner recordings
Read more reviews of the latest Verdi recordings

Handel
Rodelinda
Lucy Crowe, Iestyn Davies, Joshua Ellicott, Brandon Cedel, Jess Dandy, Tim Mead; The English Concert/Harry Bicket
Linn Records CKD 658  188:32 mins (3 discs)

‘Against the odds, director Harry Bicket has gifted us the best-ever recording of Rodelinda. The Covid pandemic having forced Carnegie Hall to cancel a planned concert production, Bicket arranged to record in London instead, with the same musicians, each two metres apart. Many would find it impossible to do justice to Handel’s score while keeping socially distanced: blend, ensemble, precision and spontaneous reactions all require proximity. But in extremis this company discovered superpowers within.’

Read our full review of this recording here