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Best Recordings of 2018 (New Releases)

Time for a review of classical CDs that were outstanding in 2018 again! This lists the new releases, the list with re-issues (on which I am still working) will be up before long.


It’s fair to say to say that such "Best-Of" lists are inherently daft if one clings too literally to the idea of "Best." Still, I have been making "Best of the Year" lists for classical music since 2004 (when working at Tower Records gave me a splendid oversight—occasionally insight—of the new releases and of the re-releases that hit the classical music market. Since then, I’ve kept tabs on the market as much as possible. Here are the links to the past iterations on ionarts and

2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2008—"Almost" | 2009 | 2009—"Almost" | 2010 | 2010—"Almost" | 2011 | 2011—"Almost" | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

Making these lists is a subjective affair, aided only by massive exposure and hopefully good ears and discriminating, if personal taste. But then "10 CDs that, all caveats duly noted, I consider to have been outstanding this year" does not make for a sexy headline. You get the point. The built-in hyperbole of the phrase is a tool to understand what this is about, not symbolic of illusions of grandeur on my part. As has been my tradition, there are two lists: One for new releases and one for re-issues.  And because there is a natural delay between the issuing date of a recording and my getting to listen to it, the cut-off date for inclusion in this list is roughly around September 2017. (In a way that’s good, because going back a little further softens the recency-bias that these lists can otherwise suffer from.) And here, without further ado, are "The 10 Best Classical Recordings Of 2018".

#morninglistening for #KlassikHeute to #Mendelssohn &...

#morninglistening for #KlassikHeute to #Mendelssohn & #Britten #ViolinConcertos on @sony_classical w/@sbviolin, @andrewLitton_ & @liverpoolPhil


violinist #SebastianBohren

#classicalmusic #classicalmusiccollection #concertos #surprisedbybeauty #classicalcdcollection #Germanclassicalmusic #EnglishClassicalMusic #20thcenturyclassical #20thCenturyMusic #noFilter #BenjaminBritten #ViolinConcerto #felixmendelssohn #felixmendelssohnbartholdy
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Johannes Maria Staud's Opera "Die Weiden" Premiered at the Vienna State Opera: A Commentary

Fremdschämen: Vienna World Premiere of Johannes Maria Staud’s New Opera “Die Weiden”

All pictures courtesy Wiener Staatsoper, © Michael Pöhn

Johannes Maria Staud is a local darling of the new music scene in Austria and when the Vienna State Opera commissioned a work to premiere on its stage (the first to do so in about a decade), they turned to him for the latest in music theater made in Austria.

Much was made of the content of Die Weiden, which was – so the eager press reported – the stuff political scandals are made of: A controversial, daring, unflinching look at Austria’s current government in which the traditional right-of-center ÖVP coalesces with the notorious populist ‘right-of-right-of-center’ FPÖ. The first time the latter party was part of the government, Austria was on the verge of being boycotted by numerous countries – at this point, some twenty years later,  the world (though not the world of opera composers!) has gotten used to the general momentum towards illiberalism and hardly anyone raised an eyebrow. Perhaps Johannes Maria Staud wanted to change that, god bless his heart. Alas, he failed abjectly:

Firstly, to challenge right-wing attitudes, it makes no sense to write a piece like this, well hidden from all those it purports to criticize in an opera house.  Secondly, in that politically homogenous environment of an opera house and the classical music world (at best going from traditional, mild conservatism to well left of the political spectrum), the topic wasn’t in the least controversial, daring, unflinching. It was preaching to the converted; reinforcing already held attitudes: an act of primitive self-celebration in one’s superiority. Worse: It was so clumsily, patronizingly, naïvely made, it made a thinking person’s toenails curl. Naturally, the German language has a word for the result: Fremdschämen.

Fremdschämen {/ˈfʀɛmtˌʃɛːmən/}  noun, reflexive, informal}: the feeling of shame on someone else's behalf; the feeling of shame for someone else who has done sth. Embarrassing.

The German Press Agency (dpa) concluded more or less: ‘If that’s all the left got, the right wing need fear nothing.’ And Vienna’s state owned Wiener Zeitung (the world’s oldest operating newspaper) commented dryly: “Is really voter of a populist also an extremist? What motivates people to vote for right-of-traditional-conservative parties? [Librettist] Durs Grünbein can’t be bothered with such questions; within his brown-and-white scheme, there are only humans (noble, left) and carps [the animal that right-wingers symbolically metamorphose into, in this faux-cautionary tale] – and he does not waste any time on depth of character.”

Part of the problem is that Staud doesn’t stand for liberalism in true opposition to the new populist right wing: As a sloganeering, focus-minded, and idealism-touting he is merely the educated feel-good illiberal (i.e. left) Ying to the great unwashed’s illiberal (i.e. right) Yang. Now if he had composed great music to this opera, all might have been forgiven. Except there, too, he came well short of any reasonably expected goal, with little to offer between banality and ham-handed burlesque irony, clumsily – hastily? – orchestrated at that. The staging and directly eagerly embraced the flat banality of it all.

Here’s my review for ClassicsToday: World-Premiere of Johannes Maria Staud’s Die Weiden: Opera from the Echo Chamber

More pictures below.

#morninglistening to #Berlioz’ #lamortdecleopatre &...

#morninglistening to #Berlioz’ #lamortdecleopatre & #Hermine w/@LondonSymphony, #JanetBaker et al on @deccaclassics under #ColinDavis.


Listening to these works I realize only now how much Berlioz owes to #Mozart (!)

#classicalmusic #classicalmusiccollection #classicalcdcollection #HectorBerlioz #choralworks #ChoralMusic #vocalmusic #frenchmusic #FrenchRomanticism #LondonSymphonyOrchestra #Decca/Philips #SirColinDavis
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#morninglistening and #HappyBirthday to @olivier_pianist...

#morninglistening and #HappyBirthday to @olivier_pianist performing another delectable #Haydn-plus- #Beethoven program on @alpha_classics




#classicalmusic #classicalmusiccollection
#classicalcdcollection #wienerklassik #PianoSonatas #solokeyboard #Ludwigvan #ludwigvanbeethoven
#BirthdayBoy #josephhaydn
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An Index of ionarts Discographies

I try to update all the links to all the discographies on all the pages, but it’s a time-consuming, cumbersome affair and prone to producing mistakes. Here’s an index, therefore, that I can keep easily updated and to which I can then link.













#morninglistening to #VaughanWilliams’ Sixth on...

#morninglistening to #VaughanWilliams’ Sixth on #orfeoclassics w/@BRSO under #SirJohnBarbirolli

Amazon: + #Brahms, #Symphonie No.2

An outlier in the RVW discography with a continental orchestra playing RVW

@SurprisedBeauty music!

#symphonies #classicalmusic #RalphVaughanWilliams #20thCenturyMusic #SirJohn

#JohnBarbirolli’s only recording of the #SixthSymphony 1970

Short but great liner notes from #KlausKalchschmid
#symphonieorchesterdesbayerischenrundfunks #orchestralmusic #classicalmusiccollection #classicalcdcollection #EnglishMusic #BritishMusic surprised by beauty #noFilter #Barbirolli
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#morninglistening to #VaughanWilliams’ Sixth on...

#morninglistening to #VaughanWilliams’ Sixth on @warnerClassics w/@BBCSO under #AndrewDavis
Amazon: + @TasminLittle in #LarkAscending*

@SurprisedBeauty music!

#symphonies #symphony
#classicalmusic #AndrewDavis #RalphVaughanWilliams #20thCenturyMusic #orchestralmusic #BBC #classicalmusiccollection #classicalcdcollection #EnglishMusic #BritishMusic surprised by beauty #noFilter

knocks the 🐄 right out of #Cowpat *The first of #TasminLittle’s two recordings; the other also with Davis but on @chandosrecords Re-issued on #WarnerClassics’ Apex line. Budget but great liner notes!
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