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Europadisc Top 10 2016Hello,

Today we announce our Top 10 Recordings of 2016 - the cream of the crop in our opinion! All have been picked from the discs featured in our weekly review since the beginning of the year. We have whittled down 51 superb releases to our 10 favourites, plus picked out the one recording that to be crowned as our Disc of the Year 2016. See below for the results!

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The Europadisc Team,

Europadisc Top 10 of 2016

2016 has been another good year for classical recordings, with smaller labels once again rivalling the big companies both in fostering new talent and adventurous repertoire, and breathing new life into more established repertoire. We have been continually impressed with the variety of fare on offer, and it has been a difficult task whittling down our choice to just a Top 10. These choices are a mixture of personal favourites and commercial successes: happily the two have often coincided.

click on the images to view any of these titles on our website

Ibert/Honegger - L'AiglonIt is some years now since the golden age of opera recordings on Decca, but in March this year they released a tantalising rarity: L’Aiglon, a five-act opera on the short life of the unfortunate Napoleon II. Based on Edmond Rostand’s drama (a vehicle for Sarah Bernhardt), it was jointly composed by Jacques Ibert and Arthur Honegger, and its mixture of period charm and Gallic tendresse immediately caught our attention. It also marked the return to the Decca fold of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal under Kent Nagano. Superbly recorded and with a dream cast, it’s a treat for opera lovers.

Scarlatti - Keyboard SonatasApril saw the keenly awaited return of pianist Yevgeny Sudbin to the music of Domenico Scarlatti: eighteen keyboard sonatas, ranging from familiar favourites to less frequently played items, brilliant showpieces to more relaxed pieces. Performed with a peerless mixture of flair and imagination, and with abundantly but tastefully decorated repeats, this is a dazzling collection that proved well worth the wait, full of colour, from a master of the Scarlattian genre.

Howells - Collegium RegaleThe same month also saw one of the year’s most striking choral releases: Herbert Howells’s complete Collegium Regale service music composed for King’s College, Cambridge. Performed by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge under Stephen Layton on the Hyperion label, it encompasses not just the familiar Te Deum and Jubilate, Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, but also the music for Holy Communion, plus a fine selection of other Howells pieces, all gloriously sung and (in the case of a solo organ Rhapsody) played.

Mozart/Gal - Piano ConcertosOne of 2016’s great discoveries has been the 1948 Piano Concerto by Hans Gál (1890-1987), a fascinating work from a name for many years more familiar as an academic and writer on music. Thanks to the championship of conductor Kenneth Woods, all that has changed in recent times, and Avie’s recording features the hugely persuasive playing of pianist Sarah Beth Briggs, deftly partnered by the Royal Northern Sinfonia under Woods. With Mozart’s late E flat Piano Concerto, K482, as a marvellously elegant coupling, this is a most attractive disc, and a valuable insight into one of the twentieth century’s more elusive but rewarding composers.

Feldman/Crumb - Piano WorksBringing us further into twentieth century, Steven Osborne made an unlikely coupling of piano works by American composers Morton Feldman and George Crumb on the Hyperion label. The main works are Feldman’s late, mesmeric masterpiece Palais de Mari (1986) and Crumb’s immaculately timbred Little Suite for Christmas, A.D. 1979, but miniatures by both composers fill out an unusually captivating recital, with every nuance brought out both by Osborne’s playing and an impressively detailed recording. Whether in Crumb’s brilliantly deployed eclecticism or Feldman’s highly individual slant on modernism, this is a piano recital that demands attention at every turn.

Dowland - Lachrimae, or Seven TearesFurther back along the chronological spectrum, the Linn label gave us one of the great masterpieces of English chamber music with a new recording of John Dowland’s Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares, a set of consort variations on the Lachrimae pavan with ‘divers other pavans, galiards and almands’ first published in 1604. The viol players of Phantasm, accompanied by lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, bring out new depths in this music, every phrase and ornament fastidiously considered and beautifully shaped. With the composer’s signature work, Semper Dowland semper dolens, given a performance of unrivalled intensity, this is a recording to savour time and again.

Sibelius - Symphonies 3, 6 & 7We haven’t entirely neglected more ‘mainstream’ fare this year! At the end of July, the final instalment of Osmo Vänskä’s second Sibelius cycle appeared on BIS: symphonies 3, 6 and 7, astonishingly well played by the Minnesota Orchestra in readings of added breadth and depth. The enigmatic Sixth Symphony in particular struck us as a landmark performance, its often fragile sonorities lavished with care but allowed to unfold with complete naturalness. The better known Third and Seventh symphonies build to climaxes of immense power, and by any standards these are exceptional performances, crowning a cycle that sets new standards and will surely be a benchmark for years to come.

Mahler - Symphony no.10Much the same could be said of another disc of ‘old world’ music from a ‘new world’ orchestra: Mahler’s Tenth Symphony in a devastatingly powerful recording from the Seattle Symphony and Thomas Dausgaard of Deryck Cooke’s ‘performing version of the draft’. This is a performance of huge conviction and outrageously good musicianship which makes a devastating impact, the antiphonally divided violins and carefully miked recording opening up new layers of textures in the score. The only danger (if danger it be) is that the listener entirely forgets the putative nature of Cooke’s achievement. Controversy will no doubt continue as to the ethics of this ‘completion’, but this is undoubtedly the finest recording the score has received in this form, which (given the quality of some of the competition) is saying much.

In War and Peace2016 has been an unusually turbulent year, and it was as a response to some of the more harrowing events of 2015 – the terrorist attacks in Paris – that star soprano Joyce DiDonato put together a recital of baroque operatic arias entitled In War & Peace. With music ranging from Monteverdi and Purcell to Handel and Jommelli, the disc poses the poignant question: ‘In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?’ If, like DiDonato, you find both challenge and solace in music, then this collection is sure to move you, as she is immaculately partnered by the musicians of Il Pomo d’Oro on a rollercoaster of an emotional ride.

Bach - Actus TragicusHere at Europadisc we make no secret of the fact that we like our Bach, and 2016 has seen some exceptionally fine releases, from CPE Bach Cello Concertos played by Nicolas Altstaedt to Johann Sebastian from Brecon Baroque and the Dunedin Consort. But it was a late entry from Vox Luminis – a tremendously illuminating disc of cantatas by the young Johann Sebastian – that really caught our ears. These small-scale performances (no more than two singers per part) demonstrate that less can most definitely mean more, placing the music in a line of succession from such figures as Schütz and Buxtehude.

Mahler - Symphony no.10Choosing these discs has been an enviable task (we get to listen to lots of great music!), and making a final choice for Disc of the Year has been the result of much consideration. In the end, we were so bowled over by one disc in particular that it had to be our top choice: Dausgaard’s Mahler 10 with the Seattle Symphony, on the orchestra’s own label. It’s an absolutely blistering performance that scales the heights and plumbs the depths of musical expression, and listening to it has been a truly transformative experience. Our congratulations to all at the Seattle Symphony on this stunning release!

Europadisc Top 10 of 2015click here to browse our Top 10 online

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